Comparing Soil and Compost for Gardening

For those who want to begin gardening, it is important to know the basics of soil and compost. If you want to start a garden, learning how to use soil and compost can make a difference in the outcome. 

Let’s start with the basics…

What is Soil? 

While soil and compost may sometimes look a bit similar to each other, they are not. Soil refers to a mixture of water, air, organic matters, minerals and organisms. 

Soil contains It is at the surface of the land or at the top layer of the earth’s crust.  Since it is at the surface of the land, it is often referred to as the ‘skin of the earth.’  Soil supports plant and tree life. 

How do Soil form? 

The formation of soil occurs over a period of hundreds to thousands of years as many things happen to the earth. This can be disintegrated rock, air, water, plant and animal life, humus, organic, inorganic materials, and chemicals all interacting with each other. Soil is usually formed when rocks break up into their parts. Then different forces, like wind or water, act on these rocks causing it further to break into smaller pieces. This then creates new soil. Oxygen helps loosen the soil. 

Types of Soil

Soil is categorized into 4 types:

  • Sandy soil
  • Silt Soil
  • Clay Soil
  • Loamy Soil

Sandy Soil 

This consists of small particles of weathered rocks. This is often regarded as the poorest type of soil to grow plants. This is because it has low nutrients. It cannot also produce much water which makes it hard for plants to absorb water too. Because of this, if you have sandy soil in your garden, you need to water and fertilize it more frequently. That is not to say this does not have its applications and one should still consider sand vs soil on their project.

Silt Soil 

Silt is smaller than sand but is bigger than clay. It can hold water better than the sandy soil. Sil soil can easily be carried by water currents like those found in the rivers or lakes. Silt soil is more fertile versus other types of soil.

Clay Soil 

Clay soil are small particles that are tightly packed together. Because of this, it has very little to no airspace. This means this soil can hold water well but hard for moisture and air to sip into it. Clay is a heavy type of soil that is why it cannot drain so well, making it hard for plants to grow. 

Loam soil 

Loam soil is a combination of sand, silt, and clay, and organic matters. It can retain moisture and nutrients. It has higher calcium and pH levels. This is why this type of soil is good to use for farming. Loam soil is perfect to use as a topsoil in your garden because of its rich nutrients.

What is a Compost?

Compost is a mixture of rotted or decaying organic materials. To simplify, it can mean ‘decayed organic matter.’ It is naturally made with oxygen, water, bacteria, and organic matters. This can be food products or lawn clippings, twigs, or dry leaves. With this green and brown matter deteriorates, this then begins the composting process. Composting involves a natural process of recycling these organic brown and green matters, like twigs, leaves or vegetables scraps. Compost can help improve the quality of the soil. 

Types of Compost

There are 4 general types of compost: 

  • Composted Wood Waste
  • Composted Green Waste
  • Composted Manure
  • Sterilized Loam Compost 

Composted Wood Waste 

These are coming from wood chips and cuts from trees. 

Composted Green Waste

These are garden and kitchen food waste. 

Composted Manure 

These are the raw manure and contain some straw particles. 

Sterilized Loam Compost 

This is a mixture of sand, silt, and clay treated in a way that there are no unwanted chemicals or organisms in it. 

How do Soil and Compost differ? 

Soil and compost are different. Compost comes from recycled organic matters while soil is made from natural elements, like rocks and minerals that are weathered through hundreds or thousands of years.   

Soil is a natural element found on top of the earth’s layer whereas compost is made by people through a process called composting. 

Compost can be added to soil. If a compost has decomposed, it can be part of the soil and is called ‘humus.’

How do I use Soil and Compost in Gardening? 

If you are able to grow plants, flowers, vegetables in a soil through several seasons, it may be time to bring or add more nutrients. Compost can help and be added on top of the soil to help add nutrients. 

However, it is also better to amend the soil. Balanced soil is crucial in gardening. Balance your soil. Add topsoil to bring back nutrients. An advantage of this is that the nutrients in this new and fresh layer will get absorbed into the roots.  

You can even out the lawn through adding topsoil. This can even help improve the total quality of the soil.  Adding topsoil should be done as often as you can to further improve the quality of your soil. It can make your grass and your plants much healthier. It can even increase its resistance to drought. It can make the soil also less prone to infestations. 

Remember, the key to a healthy lawn and garden is not just about watering them regularly and having enough sunlight. Remember to check on the quality of soil once in a while to ensure that regular nutrients are added back.