“How long does compost feed plants? And if you have compost in the ground, do the plants still need fertilizer? I use plant-based food scraps, grass clippings, and shredded paper for trench composting. It breaks down very quickly here in the Sonoran Desert.” Question from Jacqueline of Casa Grande, Arizona
Answer: The value of compost to plants depends on how long it takes to break down. Compost adds needed structure, water-holding capacity, aeration, and microorganisms to garden soil. Overall, it feeds and enriches soil, but its nutrient profile depends on what you feed into your compost pile. For example, if you add lots of eggshells your compost will have higher calcium content. With that said, you should also add balanced fertilizer to your garden beds–especially where soils are nutrient-poor. As your compost breaks down and disappears, it is no longer working its magic, so keep it replenished. And, if you run out you can always supplement further with products that are high in organic matter, such as Black Gold Garden Compost Blend, Just Coir, or Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss.
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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