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Can I Grow Plants in Pure Compost?

By: Jessie Keith

“I have some large compost bins, which produce a lot of compost. Can I plant things in pure compost, or do I need some “dirt” with inorganic materials for the best results?  How much inorganic material do I need?” Question from Naomi or Oakdale, California

Answer: Congratulations on your composting success! Compost is one of the best garden amendments available. You can plant in straight compost, but I suggest incorporating it into your sandy garden soil or mixing it with other additives if you want to use it for container plantings.

Compost as a Garden Amendment

When using compost to fortify gardens, incorporate it evenly into your natural soil. Add it liberally if your soil is of very poor quality–especially if you want to grow crops that need fertile soil, like fruits and vegetables. You might also consider building raised beds to make the most of your compost bounty.

Compost as a Potting Mix Additive

If you plan to use your compost for container plantings, include other additives to encourage better root growth in the long term. These include Black Gold Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss, perlite, and vermiculite.  The peat moss with lighten the mix and give it more structure and porosity, while the perlite will help increase drainage. Vermiculite holds water, adds porosity, and holds and distributes nutrients. A well-rounded potting mix would include 40% compost, 30% peat moss, 20% perlite, and 10% vermiculite.

I hope that this helps, and keep composting!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

About Jessie Keith


Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

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