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What is Compost Fertilizer?

By R. Anacan
Updated May 16, 2024
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Compost fertilizer is a product that provides helpful nutrients to soil, plants, flowers and vegetables. This fertilizer is generally formed through the controlled decomposition of organic material such as plants, fruits, and vegetables. While all organic material eventually decomposes, composting speeds up the process and helps forms a nutrient-rich soil.

Compost fertilizer helps soil retain water, promotes the healthy development of root systems in plants, and provides an ecologically and environmentally friendly means of disposing of food waste and lawn clippings. It has been estimated that food and lawn waste account for approximately 30% of all waste in landfills. Converting waste to compost fertilizer helps to free up valuable and limited space in landfills.

Compost is generally made by collecting organic waste and material in a container, often called a compost bin. The compost fertilizer is most effective when there is a proper balance between green ingredients, such as green clippings, manure, vegetable and fruit waste and brown waste such as wood, dried leaves, sawdust, straw and paper. In the compost mix green components provide nitrogen, while the brown ingredients provide carbon.

Once the ingredients are combined in the compost bin, water is added and the ingredients are mixed together. At this point in the process, compost activator is often added, which is a liquid high in nitrogen, to speed up the decomposition process. When the compost pile is formed, microbes in the mix start to multiply and break down the organic components of the material, causing the compost pile to heat up.

When properly maintained, compost fertilizer should be ready for use in approximately two to four weeks. The completed compost should have a dark brown color and smell earthy and musty like fresh soil. If the pile has a bad smell like garbage, it is more than likely not ready and may need additional material added to it to correct the balance of the overall mixture.

Compost fertilizer has several different applications. It is often combined with existing soil, which allows the nutrients in the compost to slowly release into the soil. It can be used very similarly to mulch and applied around flowers and plants to reduce the growth of weeds and retain water around the plants. Compost fertilizer may also be used as part of a potting soil mix.

Compost can also be used to create what is known as compost tea. Compost tea is a liquid formed by steeping compost in water. The steeping process produces a liquid rich with the nutrients found in compost. Compost tea is typically applied to the soil directly or sprayed on plants. Many believe that the application of compost tea may increase the amount of nutrients that plants are able to absorb from the soil.

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Discussion Comments

By anacan — On Apr 21, 2010

While not all fertilizer is compost, compost is commonly used for fertilization purposes. Many people refer to compost as compost fertilizer, which is why the article is structured the way that it is.

Thank you for reading.

By anon74337 — On Apr 01, 2010

Compost and fertilizer are two different things!

Compost is composted, or broken down manure or plant material. Compost aids with water retention, soil structure, and feeds the microbes in the soil. The microbes then make the minerals and nutrition in the soil available to the plants.

Fertilizer is a concentrated plant feed, either organic in nature or synthetic. Fertilizer is usually made up of the minerals and trace elements required for plant growth.

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