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what's the difference between compost and fertilizer?

John Lee
May 24, 2019

I was thinking enough compost should act as fertilizer and I don't need to fertilize my plants as I have given them enough compost to start with. But it seems this is not the case after I realized my plants show signs of lack of nutrition. A bit google search says that compost and fertilizer are different and I am willing to accept this fact. For example, home made compost has N-P-K of 3-0.5-1.7 and the black cow manure compost got from Lowes has N-P-K of 0.5-0.5-0.5, while inorganic fertilizer can have N-P-K of say 20-20-20. So the idea I got is that fertilizer is always very high in N-P-K ratio while compost has a much smaller value. Is this really the case? Besides the N-P-K ratio difference, what else might differ for compost and fertilizer?


One confusion I have towards compost and fertilizer is that it is said compost is for soil while fertilizer is for plants, thus they are different. But don't plants get nutrition from soil? Adding compost to soil is then feeding nutrition indirectly to plants. So, to me no much difference, except that maybe plants are capable of absorbing nutrients from fertilizer faster than from compost. Is this the real difference between compost and fertilizer?


Another confusion came up to be by a link to a homemade fertilizer, which mentions making fertilizer by soaking grass clippers into water for 72 hours and then distill out the solution, which becomes fertilizer high in N. What makes it more like a fertilizer is it needs to be mixed with equal amount of water to dilute to use for plants. But grass clipper is also used for compost purpose. If a simple soak turns grass clipper into fertilizer, why isn't the whole grass clipper in compost turned into fertilizer as well?

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