Fertiliser vs compost: what’s the difference?

Your customers all want to provide the optimum environment for their plants to grow. However, with so many tips and tricks out there, it’s difficult to know what advice they should follow. If they’re just starting out in a garden, they may be wondering what the difference between compost and fertiliser is — what are the benefits of each? Should they use them both?

In this article, compost and topsoil specialist Compost Direct explains more about the two essential items.

What is the difference between fertiliser and compost?

On the most basic level, fertilisers feed plants; compost feeds the soil. Of course, in reality, it’s a little more complex but this is a good general rule to follow, especially when working out what a garden requires. compost - an older man and younger child planting in the garden

Fertilisers are used to provide plants with the nutrients they need to grow. They are used especially with fast-growing plants that require high levels of nutrients to grow — essentially, they top-up the levels to ensure the plant can successfully develop.

It’s important that customers choose the right fertiliser for their plant. Using the wrong fertiliser can disrupt the soil’s natural chemistry, which can disturb or even prevent the growth of microbes. Over time, this can result in substantial damage to the soil, especially if customers choose a chemical fertiliser.

Where fertilisers work with plants, compost, on the other hand, works with the soil. Because of the high levels of organic matter within it, compost feeds the soil and promotes healthy microbe growth. Over time, this builds up nutrient levels in the soil and provides the optimum condition for plants to grow.

Through adding compost to soil, customers will also improve the soil’s ability to retain moisture. As water plays an intrinsic part in growth, this will also boost the vitality of plants.

Can fertiliser and compost be used together?

Despite their differences, fertiliser and compost can be used together. The organic matter in compost stores the nutrients from the fertiliser until the plant needs them.

Over time, persistent use of fertiliser can imbalance the soil and make it difficult to grow plants in the future. Customers should choose organic fertilisers over chemical ones, and try to use them on a short-term basis. Generally, they’ll see notable differences to plants through using a fertiliser/compost mix over a few months, and may be able to stop using fertiliser sooner than they may think.

See the Compost Direct website here for more advice.