Compost is an eco-friendly solution to numerous issues concerning plants and soil, and the more you read about it, the more you realize how beneficial it is.
If you’re looking to grow your herbs organically, then no matter how rich your soil is, at some point, you will be using compost in your garden.
Working with compost is much safer than working with synthetic fertilizers and other garden chemicals, so we don’t have to worry about the implications of using it indoors.
In all cases, I would say compost is the way to go!
Why Do Herbs Need Compost?
Why is compost good for herbs? Although there are many reasons, here are some major benefits of compost you should know about:
In soil, compost breaks down into humus, a dark, nutrient-rich substance present in most fertile soils.
Humus holds high amounts of nitrogen, which is a very remarkable characteristic because nitrogen cannot be easily trapped in the soil.
Herbs and nearly all other plants cannot take their nitrogen directly from the air, so the presence of humus in the soil is indispensable for their survival.
In fact, humus can be described as a “natural fertilizer.” All plants growing in nature depend on humus for food.
Compost = More Life = Fewer Pests:
Compost is not only rich in nutrients but also in living things. Millions of microbes work together to break down the organic material in compost.
Surprisingly, that microbial population can make your soil healthier. When you add compost to the soil, you create a more diverse ecosystem.
More diversity means pests and diseases are always kept in check. Harmful microbes cannot easily multiply when there are other predators that can feed on them.
Today, most organic gardeners use compost with their plants to replace the use of pesticides, and you should definitely do the same when growing your herbs.
Less Watering and More Aeration:
Both compost and humus enable the soil to hold more water. In fact, the ability to hold water is a common feature of most organic substances found in soil.
Farmers use compost when working with soil that doesn’t retain enough water, such as sandy soil.
On the other hand, farmers also add compost to clay soil that traps too much water and not enough air.
Kept as it is, clay soil can harbor a lot of toxic material beneath its surface. It can also kill the roots of many herbs grown in it.
Compost has the ability to “open up” clay soil, allowing air to enter and water to drain. Air allows roots to “breathe” and prevents the formation of harmful chemicals.
So, What is Compost Really?
To understand compost, you should first appreciate the idea that all living organisms will one day decompose.
Decomposition isn’t a law of physics, though. It doesn’t happen spontaneously just because it should.
Dead things decompose under some specific conditions. Most importantly, they do so in the presence of certain microbes.
Those microorganisms need water, oxygen, and warm temperatures to work.
Normally, all of those conditions are found in the environment, and that’s why creatures start decomposing as soon as they die.
When organic matter decomposes in a process called composting, we get compost.
Composting is simply a method that quickens the decomposition of matter. It uses a combination of materials that enables microbes to work faster.
Particularly, it involves a mix between “green” material that contains a lot of water and “brown” dry material that allows more air to enter.
The result is a dark brown substance that’s brimming with nutrients. The process usually takes from 4 to 12 months. It all depends on the ratio of green to brown material.
How to Use Compost for Herbs
Some of the benefits of compost were mentioned above. Now you should learn how to make use of it with your herbs.
As a skilled gardener, you should remember to apply compost to your soil in accordance with the situation you’re facing.
In the case of growing herbs, here’s how you can use compost:
Adding It to the Soil (Conditioning):
Compost can improve the condition of the soil in several ways. For that reason, compost is said to be a “soil conditioner.”
Such a natural conditioner can be extremely beneficial when you’re growing many different herbs that prefer different soils.
For instance, a fast-draining soil would be perfect for aloe vera, but you may need one that traps more water with mint.
Should you purchase different soil mixes in such a situation? Well, you don’t have to if you can use compost.
Mixing compost with well-drained premium soil helps it hold more water, which is excellent in case you want to grow moisture-loving herbs.
At the same time, mixing any soil with compost can make your herbs more resistant to diseases.
Covering the soil with organic or inorganic material is very popular among horticulturists mainly because it makes their gardens look very good, but that isn’t the reason we, herb gardeners, are interested in top-dressing.
Top-dressing with compost helps your soil maintain a balanced temperature when the air above it becomes too cold or too hot.
Most importantly, it enriches your soil with the most essential nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus.
Aside from how important that is for your herbs, it is also extremely beneficial for the complex ecosystem living in the soil.
When to Use Compost for Herbs
Start by looking at the herbs you’re growing and the soil you’re using:
- If you’re growing herbs that love moisture but your soil drains water too quickly, add 1/3 cup of compost to each cup of soil.
- You can also add the same amount of compost to clay soil to aerate it and allow water to drain smoothly.
- Add la little amount of compost to your herbs’ soil in case you just want to make them more immune to pests.
- If you’re growing your herbs without artificial light, top-dress them with compost at the beginning of their growing season.
- If you’re aiming to grow your indoor herbs year-round, keep them covered with a thin layer of compost all the time.
Healthy Herbs Cannot Grow Without Compost
As you now know, if you want to go organic, you need compost.
I really advise you to start producing your own compost from all the organic waste you have in your trash bin.
Even if you live in an apartment, there are many ways to compost indoors.
Fresh homemade compost is cheaper and better than ready-made compost. Above all, making compost from your own waste is a great step toward conserving the environment.
I'm Jad, a biologist, blogger, and experienced indoor gardener. I am knowledgeable in plant biology, particularly in plant cultivation and propagation. I founded HerbsWithin.com in 2019 to share my knowledge in indoor gardening with passionate home growers.