Compost is one of the best things you can have in your garden. I knew that it works great for an in-ground garden but wanted to know how it works for potted plants.
Compost is good for potted plants because it adds nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, sodium to the potting soil. It also introduces beneficial organisms to the potting soil that help improve texture and keep helping add nutrients.
You should understand how you can use the compost and maybe even try to create some in your own home. So keep reading.
Benefits of using compost in potted plants
Adds nutrients to the potting soil
The organic compost helps add macronutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium and micronutrients like calcium, magnesium, sodium to the potting soil.
The compost helps to break down the organic matter in a pile of leaves, grass clippings, and other plant material into nutrients that plants can use for growth as well as decomposition by microbes which creates humus or natural fertilizer from these materials.
Improves texture of the potting soil
The organic matter in compost helps improve the texture of the potting soil. This helps get better aeration in the potting soil.
The compost also improves the soil’s ability to hold nutrients and water, which is essential for plant growth in a potting mix that does not contain any fertilizer or organic matter in it.
Improves pH level of the soil
The compost will help to balance the pH level in potting mix that does not contain any fertilizer or organic matter in it.
This is important for plant growth because plants do best when they have a neutral environment with an acidic range of about six and seven on average (pH).
Introduces beneficial organisms
The compost will introduce beneficial microorganisms to the potting soil that will help to break down the organic matter in it.
Beneficial microorganisms are organisms that will decompose and release nutrients for plant growth, such as nitrogen-fixing bacteria or fungi that can convert a wide range of substances into usable forms by breaking them apart with their enzymes.
They also produce antibiotics that inhibit harmful microbes from growing on plants’ roots so they won’t be able to create any diseases like root rot.
It helps reduce the need for fertilizers
If you add compost to your potting soil you don’t need to add fertilizers because the compost will provide all of those nutrients.
The cost for fertilizer can be expensive, so if you’re looking to save money then using a little bit more time and effort in making your own compost is worth it.
You’ll also know exactly what’s going into that composts which means less risk when planting new plants or seeds.
Helps recycle your kitchen and garden waste
Composting your kitchen and garden waste is an easy way to reduce the amount of garbage that you produce. The waste won’t end up in a landfill which helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions from them.
Compost bins are also available for purchase if compost piles aren’t feasible or desirable. These can be placed on balconies (or even indoors) so there’s no need to worry about space constraints when it comes time to make some compost with old food scraps.
How to use compost in potted plants
Add the compost to the potting soil
Add the compost to potting soil when preparing it. Mix 25% compost with 75% potting soil.
Add some sand or perlite if you want more drainage so water does not get trapped and rot roots, which can lead to plants dying from a lack of oxygen (phytotoxicity).
Add compost on top of potting soil
Every two months, add 1-inch of compost to the top of the potting soil. This will help your plants get a constant supply of nutrients from the compost.
You can mix the compost into the potting soil using your fingers or a fork. Give a good watering after you have added the compost to make sure it is mixed in well.
Can too much compost hurt potted plants?
You need to use compost in moderation in the potting soil. Too little of the compost will not benefit the potting soil. Too much of the compost can cause over-fertilization as the nitrogen, potassium, or phosphorus increases in the soil.
Too much compost will not give the right stability for the plant to grow. And it will drain out water faster than potting soil causing a lack of moisture for the plant.
The compost will also compact over time which can cause problems that air and moisture are not reaching the roots.
Which compost is best for potted plants?
I recommend that you make your own compost if you want the best one for your plants. You know the ingredients that will go into your compost and make it good.
But I can understand if you don’t have space or the time to do this. You can check with your local garden center or nursery for the good compost they sell.
Or you can try to find local farms nearby that make their compost and would be willing to sell some to you.
There may also be local community compost piles in your area that you can try to find out. You give them your kitchen and garden waste and they give you some compost in exchange.
The final option is to buy compost from some of the online stores. Here are some options that I found on Amazon.
How to make compost for potted plants
The idea way to make compost is to create a compost pile outdoors that has sufficient size to make compost fast.
The next best option is to have a compost bin outdoors that you keep adding organic matter to. This is smaller than a compost pile but suitable if you just need to make compost for some potted plants.
If you don’t have outdoor space, you’ll need to make compost in your apartment or house. You can do this with a bin that contains organic matter. The size of the bin depends on how much compost you want to make. An 18-gallon bin can make compost for several medium-sized potted plants.
Choose a bin to make the compost
A large plastic container with a lid (e.g., Rubbermaid) or an old garbage can will work well for this purpose, but you’ll need to drill holes in the bottom and sides of it so that air circulates freely inside as composting happens below ground level where there is no oxygen available from above.
Add green materials to the bin
Add materials like vegetable scraps, grass clippings, coffee grounds to the bin. The green materials add nitrogen to the pile, which is a key ingredient for compost.
Make sure the materials are chopped up or shredded to provide more surface area for the bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter.
The green materials will also help balance out any brown material you add, which is high in carbon content but low on nitrogen.
You should add 1 part of green materials to 3 parts of the carbon materials. This will help prevent the compost pile get too soggy. It will prevent anaerobic decomposition that will cause a bad smell in the compost pile.
Add brown materials to the bin
Brown materials will help add carbon to the compost pile. You can use materials like dried leaves, twigs, branches, wood chips, coffee grounds, straw, or hay.
It’s best to chop the materials up before adding them to the compost pile as it will help them decompose faster.
It’s best to add more brown material than green to the compost pile. The ideal ratio as mentioned is 1 part green material to 3 parts brown material.
Add some potting soil to the bin
Add some potting soil to your mixture in a bin because it helps with heating and decomposition of organic material, which is what you want for creating compost fast.
You can add an inch of potting soil to the mixture every week when you open up the bin for turning it in for aeration.
Turn the material every week for aeration
Keep adding the green and brown materials till they fill up the bin. You should turn in the material every week because it helps with aeration and the decomposition process.
Make sure there is no smell coming from the bin otherwise you need to add more brown materials. You should check that the bin is getting sufficient aeration because if it’s not, the decomposition process will be slower.
You should also make sure that there is no liquid coming from your bin because this means you need to add more brown materials or turn over material in order for water and airflow through them better.
Add moisture if the mix turns dry
The mix in the bin needs moisture so if you notice that it’s turning dry you need to wet it. You can spray some water on the mix and turn it so it gets the required moisture.
You can also add some more green materials like leaves and grass clippings that will help it get back some moisture.
You want the mixture to become moist but not soggy as that will slow down the decomposition and make it smell bad due to anaerobic bacteria.