Is Organic Compost A Fertilizer? + How To Use It Properly

Are you one of those who have started composting and wonder if organic compost is a fertilizer? 

To answer your question – YES! Organic compost is indeed a fertilizer! This is because conventional compost is essentially the decomposition of organic materials.

You have probably seen or heard people adding food scraps that act as compost to the topsoil of their plants and claiming it as a fertilizer source for their plants. 

Is it really so?

It can get quite confusing to try and find an answer amidst the overwhelming online information. 

If you are deciding which is best for your garden, be it organic compost or fertilizer, this article is here to help. 

This article will take you through the important things you should know about compost and fertilizer, and the types of compost out there.

It will also touch on the advantages and disadvantages of compost and fertilizer, and whether you should use them interchangeably. 

In addition to that I will be teaching you all about vermicompost fertilizer, and hopefully, this will ultimately help you decide which would cater best to your garden’s needs. 

A Summary

  • What is Compost?
  • What is Vermicompost?
  • Compost vs Vermicompost
  • What is Fertilizer?
  • Compost vs Fertilizer
  • When To Use Compost or Fertilizer?
Is organic compost a fertilizer

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What Is Compost?

Compost is essentially decaying plant material that is added to soil to improve its quality. 

The decaying processes include a combination of natural substances such as food waste, kitchen scraps, vegetables, fruits, leaves, eggshells, coffee grounds, and grasses. 

Let’s take a look at the different types of composting.

1. Aerobic Composting

Aerobic composting is a composting process that requires the presence of oxygen and bacteria in the process of breaking down organic materials. 

Heat is released through the breakdown of organic waste by bacteria and it contains high nitrogen content. This heat is the main source of higher temperature present that will encourage the decomposition of organic materials.

The good news is that aerobic composting requires only a short period of time. The bad news is it requires more effort and consistent observation of the moisture and temperature level. 

Aerobic composting requires aeration therefore the compost will need to be mixed well by ‘turning’ it on a regular basis. 

Is organic compost a fertilizer

2. Anaerobic Composting

Anaerobic composting is a composting method without oxygen with the presence of microorganisms. 

Through this process, methane is released. This leads to a very stinky smell and very little production of heat. 

As heat is essential in the decaying process of organic matter and with the absence or lack of heat, composting takes a very long time. 

Eventually, oxygen from aerobic composting will still be required to achieve the stabilization process. Anaerobic composting typically can be found in landfills.

Is organic compost a fertilizer

Uses of Compost

Compost is commonly known to be beneficial to the growth of plants through a direct application to the soil which is pretty similar to fertilizer. 

This may be the primary confusion that occurs between compost and fertilizer. 

Compost is better known as ‘soil amendment’. This means it contributes to the improvement of soil structure through:

  • stimulating aeration
  • encouraging drainage
  • retaining moisture

They also improve overall plant health and encourage growth.

Soil amendment is any addition to the soil for the purpose of improving its quality. A few examples of this include peat moss, grass clippings, straw, wood chips, vermiculite, and perlite

Is organic compost a fertilizer

However, there are times the amendment needed can only be gained from fertilizer. A fertilizer is anything that caters to plant growth and this includes compost. 

So that makes compost with properties of both fertilizer and soil amendment.

If you’ve ever wondered is compost an organic fertilizer? The answer is yes, as conventional compost is a decomposition process of organic materials. 

Is compost a natural fertilizer? 

Yes, it is as it is made up of a mixture of ingredients used to fertilize and improve the soil.

Is organic compost a fertilizer

What Is Vermicompost?

Vermicomposting is known as worm composting. This is a process that utilizes microorganisms and worms to break down organic materials. 

Organic materials such as kitchen waste are turned into rich, dark soil that smells like earth. 

It produces a final product that is humus-like material known as vermin-compost through the process of degradation and detoxification.

The species of earthworms present in vermicomposting will increase the conversion of organic waste and as a result of that, vermicompost tends to have better end-product. 

You may be surprised that this worm bin requires minimal attention and is low maintenance.

Vermicompost consists of the feces of earthworms, also known as worm castings. These worm castings are rich in nutrients and are known to enhance soil properties. 

If you have been wondering is worm castings better than compost, then yes, it definitely is. 

Vermicompost is also readily available for purchase if the idea of having worm bins in your house grosses you out.

Is organic compost a fertilizer

Compost vs Vermicompost

Compost and vermicompost are great methods to dispose of food scraps while being environmentally conscious. 

But which is better compost or vermicompost? Which has more benefits? Let’s take a look. 


  • A result of biodegradation of organic matters
  • Produced by utilizing all types of wates
  • Has lesser nutrients
  • Require more space
  • Is time-consuming
  • Produce less fine structure
  • Decomposition of organic remains by microbes 
  • Thermophilic bacteria
  • Absence of plant growth regulators


  • Result of the degradation of organic matter
  • Produced from organic wastes
  • Has more nutrients
  • Consume lesser space
  • Creates compost faster
  • Produce fine structure
  • Decomposition of organic remains by earthworms
  • Mesophilic bacteria
  • Plant growth regulators

One of the main differences is that earthworms and microorganisms are present in vermicompost and play a vital part in the decomposition process. 

Vermicompost is known to have more benefits compared to compost. Vermicompost has more nutrients in terms of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). 

Less space is required by vermicompost and this can be done indoors as compared to conventional compost. 

Vermicompost decreases the need for chemical fertilizer and reduces the amount of trash going to landfills which is a huge advantage to the environment. If vermicomposting is managed well, it is completely odor-free.

You may also wonder is vermicompost a fertilizer and is vermicompost good for all plants. Just like how we learn is compost fertilizer (yes it is!), vermicompost is an organic fertilizer

With the high level of NPK and richer nutrients, vermicompost is great for plants.

Is organic compost a fertilizer

What Is Fertilizer?

While compost is known to benefit the soil, fertilizer provides nutrients directly to your plants. 

Fertilizers are divided into organic and chemical forms. A few examples of organic fertilizer include compost, manure, agricultural waste, and municipal sludge. 

Chemical fertilizers are derived from minerals, gasses, and inorganic waste materials.

All fertilizers are known to utilize the NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) ratio system. 

For example, if a fertilizer has a label that reads 12-12-12, this means it has a balanced ratio amount of nutrients for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. 

If you identified your garden requires a higher need in nitrogen, then you should choose a fertilizer with a higher nitrogen ratio.

Compost vs Fertilizer

1. Compost: Pros and Cons

Compost is known for its many benefits for soil. The following summarizes the benefits and disadvantages of compost.

Benefits of Compost:

  • Functions as good nutrients for the soil
  • Encourages the growth of beneficial microbes
  • Good moisture retention
  • Improves soil structure
  • Is an organic fertilizer 
  • Easy to produce
  • Great for the environment

Disadvantages of Compost:

  • Initial investment is required
  • Requires organic waste 
  • Unpleasant smell
  • Potential pests magnet
  • Requires constant monitoring
  • Time and space consuming
  • Need to ensure no soil-borne pathogens are present in the garden

Compost contributes to the improvement of soil quality and tilth. They are known to encourage the growth of beneficial microbes that exist in the soil.

The result of this is nutrient-rich soil which in turn enables the plant to feed themselves. 

Compost is also great when it comes to soil aeration and moisture retention. Another bonus of using compost is that it controls the population of weeds. This then helps increase resistance to plant disease.

One of the main disadvantages of compost is the length of duration it takes to be produced. 

You can solve this by purchasing a bulk of high-quality compost from any local landscape material supplier.

Compost also requires more care, effort, and physical labor compared to fertilizers. More space for storage and processing is needed for compost. 

It is also important to check your garden plants and ensure they do not have soil-borne pathogens. It can cause infestations to healthy plants.

Is organic compost a fertilizer

2. Fertilizer: Pros and Cons

Just like compost, fertilizer also has its own benefits and disadvantages for plants. 

Is organic compost a fertilizer

Benefits of Fertilizer:

  • Accelerates plant growth
  • Improves nutritional elements in soil
  • Spot and eliminate soil deficiencies
  • Caters to a wide range of plants
  • Supplies both macro and micronutrients
  • Provides essential nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium

Disadvantages of fertilizer:

  • May run a risk of adding too much fertilizer to the soil
  • Harmful to the environment that may risk human health
  • May disrupt the symbiotic relationship of microbes in the soil
  • May disrupt the microbial balance in the soil
  • More expensive

Fertilizer is engineered to be able to provide for any plant’s specific needs and boost plant growth. 

It is quick in filling in any specific insufficient nutrients in garden soil. Nutrients that are drained away due to watering can be replenished using fertilizer. 

Chemical fertilizer is known for its convenience where it can be purchased off the shelf. It is often produced to meet the quantity of the particular nutrients needed by plants. 

This helps meets the specific needs of a wide range of plants.

Some of the drawbacks of fertilizers include the risk of adding too much fertilizer into the soil. 

This may cause an imbalance of nutrients which disrupts the symbiotic relationship of microbes in the soil and may burn the plant. 

Chemical fertilizer comes with the risk of polluting the environment and groundwater. This is a risk to any living being’s health. 

Fertilizers are also generally pricier compared to compost as compost is made of food trash, kitchen scraps, and environmental waste.

Is organic compost a fertilizer

When To Use Compost or Fertilizer?

It is important to note that compost and fertilizer cannot be used in replacement for one another. 

Both compost and fertilizer should be used as each has strengths that complement the other. 

When to use compost? 

  • To improve soil structure and tilth
  • To aerates the soil and retain moisture

When to use fertilizer?

  • To feed plants that is lacking specific nutrients
  • Help to compensate for the loss of nutrients through the water drainage

Both compost and fertilizer can be combined whether in the process of soil preparation before plants or crops are added.

The following two factors will determine the type of fertilizer to be added:

  • the type of plants; and
  • the soil condition.

For example, it is known that flowering and fruiting plants need noil with rich phosphorus and leafy plants tend to favor nitrogen-rich soil.

Ideally, a gardener should analyze the needs of their plants and determine whether to use compost or fertilizer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Organic Compost A Fertilizer?

Yes, organic compost is a fertilizer. It benefits plants by adding nutrients to the soil. Legally speaking and although the majority of gardening information sources cite that it is not a fertilizer, this is an exception where a small white myth is acceptable.

What’s The Difference Between Organic Fertilizer And Compost?

Is organic compost a fertilizer

Curious as to what’s the difference between organic fertilizer and compost? The difference between organic fertilizer and compost is compost feeds the soil and fertilizer feed the plants. Nutrients in fertilizers cater directly to the needs of plants by contributing to the soil’s nutrient supply.

Is Compost Fertilizer An Organic Fertilizer?

YES, compost fertilizer is an organic fertilizer! Compost is an all-natural organic material used to enhance the quality and tilth of the soil. Natural or inorganic fertilizer has specific elements in specific ratios needed for plant growth. 

Is Compost An Alternative To Fertilizer?

Is compost an alternative to fertlizer? The use of composted organic wastes as crop fertilizers can therefore be a good alternative to inorganic fertilization for sustainable agriculture making compost an alternative to fertilizer. Organic fertilizers continue to enhance soil despite all the nutrients that have been taken up by plants.


What is used to be added to your garden soil to improve its quality and tilth is known as a soil amendment. 

These include (but are not limited to) organic compost, wood chips, manure, peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite. 

These addition improves aeration, encourages better drainage, and retain moisture.. 

Is compost the same as fertilizer? Anything that contributes nutrients to plant growth and helps the plant thrive is known as fertilizer, including organic compost. 

Between compost and vermicompost, the latter is better for plants as it is nutrient-rich and the process of vermicomposting is simple and fuss-free. 

Organic compost is a great soil amendment that also provides nutrients to your plant growth which makes it a form of fertilizer. 

Whether it is organic compost or fertilizer, they should be used to your garden’s advantage as every plant has different needs and requirements. 

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