“Growing” Your Knowledge – Compost VS Fertilizer

May 8, 2019

Whether you have a large backyard garden or indoor potted herbs, the goal as a farmer or gardener is to have our plants flourish. But, this can only occur if we have the right soil. Seedlings depend on nutrition from the soil to grow big and strong. Certain processes deplete the soil of nutrients, hence why we rely on enrichment products to add key nutrients and vitamins back into the soil for our growing plants. There are pros and cons of using compost and fertilizer and Loraas is here to help you “grow” your knowledge and choose the best option. A common question is, “What’s better – Compost or Fertilizer?”

Compost

Whether you’ve created your own in the past or simply purchased it from a store, most of us are familiar with composting. Composting is the decomposition of organic waste into a soil-like organic matter. Compostable organic waste includes items from our yard like raked leaves, twigs, and rotten vegetables, but it can also include kitchen scraps like orange peels, coffee grounds, egg shells, and ripped up food-stained pizza box tops.  With the right mixture of dry, “brown” and wet, “green” organic waste in the right quantities, you can create a nutrient-rich mixture that can add key ingredients back into the soil. There are many ways to create compost, ranging from do-it-yourself home composting systems, up to toss and walk away commercial subscription green bin programs that collect and process organic waste for you.

The Benefits of Compost

The biggest benefit of compost is that it’s a natural process and is nature’s way of recycling. In general, composting our organic waste is super easy and doesn’t require eco-harming additives or chemicals during the breakdown process. This means you can rest assured that everything you’re putting on your flora should be 100% natural so it’s safe for fauna too. Also, creating compost is inexpensive and relatively cheap to purchase. Composting can be started at any time of the year and even if you don’t have a backyard or the space there are many options available to assist your needs.

The Disadvantages of Compost

Although there are different styles of composting systems, waiting to get the first properly rotted batch of compost may take multiple weeks, months, or even years (depending on your climate) to break down your organic waste into a usable form for your plants.  However, advanced thinking companies, like Loraas, have stepped up to the plate and are using advanced technologies that will turn your organic waste into usable compost in as little as 8 weeks! All you have to do is call and subscribe to get a green bin.

It can also be a challenging task to make sure your compost heap is properly mixed and in-balance. Adding too much of one organic waste can easily throw the balance off within your mixture and alter the pH levels. Because compost is basically rotting waste, what this means for you is that the heap you create may begin to have a foul odour or could attract unwanted critters.

The greatest downside of compost is the spread of disease. Without high-temperatures, like in the Loraas Organics system, you may inadvertently include plant waste with transmittable diseases. When you spread this compost onto new plants or into a new area, it could transfer disease which is harmful to new foliage.

Fertilizer

Fertilizers are a blend of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, and iron that are man-made or natural using animal excrement. They are used to boost nutrients to plants and assist in overall growth at routine times. There are different fertilizers created for different types of plants as well.


The Benefits of Fertilizer

Using fertilizer allows farmers or gardeners an accurate method of giving your plants what they need at precise times during their lifecycles. This means you know exactly how much and how strong the level of nutrients you are adding is. Fertilizers can be watered down or used at full concentration depending on the level of nutrients you require. If used properly, it can greatly increase the amount of foliage or edible product produced.

The Disadvantages of Fertilizer

Fertilizers are a manufactured product or chemical; meaning they have both negative and positive impacts on the environment. Overuse or accidental leaching of fertilizers into surrounding waterbodies or soils can be detrimental. For example the leaching of fertilizers into water systems, like ponds or rivers, causes eutrophication. Eutrophication occurs when a body of water becomes enriched with excess minerals and nutrients; inducing excessive growth of plants and algae. This process depletes oxygen and sunlight levels within the water which is vital for the flora and fauna that require those features to survive. Chemical fertilizers are created by using acids and alkalis. This can drastically alter the pH balance of the soil if added to areas that do not require assistance.

So what’s better – compost or fertilizer? The answer depends on your application of the nutrient enrichment and potential for adverse effects to the surrounding area. While compost is a natural and inexpensive way to enrich your soil, if time and space are not in your favour then composting is not a viable solution. However, this can be simply resolved by opting for a commercial program or asking for composting help from specialists like the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Composting Coaches. Fertilizers are an accurate and disease-free way to enrich the soil. But, they are manufactured and may have adverse effects on other plants or wildlife in the area. The decision is up to you on whether compost or fertilizer is the best solution. Whatever you decide, we recommend you ask an expert before you begin to ensure you choose wisely and responsibly. Happy planting!

Sources

Gardening Wizards. 2017. Compost vs fertilizer. Accessed at: https://gardeningwizards.com/compost-vs-fertiliser/. Accessed on: 23 April 2019.

Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council. 2018. Making Compost. Accessed at: https://www.saskwastereduction.ca/recycle/resources/composting/. Accessed on 24 April 2019.

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