What nutrients are in compost? -David

Compost contains the full spectrum of plant nutrients, although the exact amounts vary from sample to sample. Well rotted compost is rich in all of the three main fertilizer nutrients:

  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium

In addition, compost contains micronutrients and trace minerals that are often missing from commercial fertilizer, such as:

Red rose blooming in garden

  • Sulfur
  • Carbon
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Boron
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Iodine
  • Zinc
  • Manganese

If that weren’t enough, compost also:

  • Regulates soil pH.
  • Improves soil texture.
  • Regulates moisture.
  • Encourages microbes critical in transferring nutrients to plant roots.

So not only does compost contain nutrients in slow release organic form, but it makes those nutrients more available to your plants. Compost is nature’s ultimate organic fertilizer and soil conditioner, and it’s gentle enough to use generously on your plants.

The most nutritious compost is made from a wide variety of waste materials from the yard and kitchen, with a mixture of brown (carbon-rich) and green (nitrogen-rich) waste. The greater the variety of compost ingredients, the richer the compost.

Holding composted soil in hand

For example, shredded leaves are higher in carbon and trace minerals while composted manure is higher in nitrogen. Well-rotted and thoroughly mixed compost should have a good balance of everything your garden needs.

As you practice with composting, you may want to send samples of the finished product for compost testing (similar to a soil test) to learn how your compost measures up. Compost testing will tell you the carbon/nitrogen ratio, pH, and nutrient analysis, along with particle size and moisture content. You can find information about compost testing at your local agricultural extension office.

Further Information

Editorial Contributors
Danny Lipford

Danny Lipford


Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio, TodaysHomeowner.com, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

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