Skip to Content

What is Compost Used For?

A woman holding a handful of healthy soil.

You may have heard the term ‘compost’ before, but do you really know what it is? Essentially, compost is used heavily in agriculture to provide nutrients to the soil; helping crops grow.

This soil-like substance is a result of controlled aerobic degradation of organic material. There are a variety of composting products out there, including vermicompost, terra preta, put hummus, and basic compost. All of these products derive from raw organic matter, which comes from either animal/human excrement or biodegradable solid waste.

In composting, pit humus refers to the material that has been removed from a double pit technology — such as a fossa Alterna, double ventilated improved pit, or twin pits for pour-flush toilets, composting toilets, terra preta toilets, or arbor loss — because it’s produced underground passively and is made up slightly differently than standard compost.

Each composting product (especially pit humus) contains a high volume of nutrients and organic matter. They both also provide food to facilitate the beneficial microbial activity, improve the nutrient and water holding capacity of the soil, and moderate the temperature of the soil

You can use composting products in large or small scale agriculture. They can be used as a conditioner for soil that can be applied before you plant your crops to provide significant yield increases. Let’s take a closer look at compost to gain a better understanding of what it is and why it’s essential for planting crops.

Related: Composting | Types of Composting Bins | Symbiotic Gardening | Vegetables and Herbs for Symbiotic Gardening | Permaculture Principles

Why is Compost Used?

The 4 most common uses for compost include:

1. lawn top dressing.

2. soil amendment.

3. compost tea.

4. lawn top dressing.

5. moisture-holding mulch

When it comes to composting products, fertilizing and conditioning soil by adding nutrients, humus, and other beneficial soil bacteria is their basic function. This helps boost the chemical and physical properties of the soil and enhances its capacity to store water and air.

You can use compost around your home, for you:

..and more. Compost can be used as starter mixes or as mulch. It’s important to note that compost should be incorporated properly into the soil and to water to ensure it can disperse the proper amount of nutrients and to protect it from the sun.

How you will apply compost will depend heavily on where and what it is being used for. For example, if you’re applying compost in a garden, this can be done annually. Preferably before planting, in spring or early summer. The soil should be tilled to a depth of 15-25 centimeters.

You can then apply 10 centimeters of compost on top of the soil. Be sure to till it once more to mix it properly. If your soil is very poor, adding additional compost is always a good idea. You don’t need to worry about adding too much, as compost releases nutrients in a slow manner continuously and won’t damage your plants.

You can always sprinkle on a bit of compost that has been mixed with soil throughout the growing season as a top dressing. For potted plants, the soil can be made with ¼ – ⅓ compost mixed with sterile sand or soil. A thin layer of compost can also be sprinkled over the house plant soil in order to add additional nutrients.

This helps correct any drainage issues in soils that have pulled away from the pot or container or cracked. Just remember, never put plants in pure compost as they need coarser particles like soil and sand to be able to properly root.

Rows od tomato seedlings being transplanted.

Using Compost

1. Amending Soil

Compost can be used as additional soil. If you plan to go this route, you’ll need to use a shovel and dig 2-4 inches down into the ground before throwing your compost in. It should then be mixed with the remainder of the soil during planting time. Your plants, flowers, or whatever foliage you decide to plant should thrive with compost as a soil amendment.

2. compost tea

When we say ‘compost tea’ we’re referring to the liquid matter that is released by the compost itself. Compost can naturally produce this ‘tea’, however, you might choose to create your own by steeping a shovel full of compost in a 5-gallon bucket for 2-5 days and then pouring it on the plants/flowers you want to use it on once it’s ready. You can keep the liquid separated from the compost as well by placing the compost inside a burlap sack as its being dipped into the water.

3. Lawn Top Dressing

Corona GT 3050 Extendable Handle Rake

We promise this isn’t referring to a tasty addition to your salad. Lawn top dressing is quite literally a top layer of compost added to your grass. Once you’ve added lawn top dressing, it will work its way into the soil as the grass begins to grow. You should apply 1-3 inches worth of compost to the lawn and then water and rake it in for optimal results.

While it may appear as though you have a pile of dirt on your lawn for the first few weeks, the layer of compost will settle into the soil and disappear eventually. What you will be left with is healthier soil that will keep your grass vibrant and green, and will hold water much better. If you want it to disappear quicker, you can continue to rake it into your lawn regularly.

Scotts Turf Builder WinterGuard Fall Weed and Feed 3, 15,000 sq. ft.

Lawn top dressing should be added during the spring or at the end of the growing season. When you add this to your lawn, you won’t need as much fertilizer (sometimes you won’t need any) for at least another year.

4. Mulch

For those who are using compost as a mulch alternative that can hold moisture, you should do the same thing you would do with any other mulch. It should be spread around trees, shrubs, and plants.

Similar to regular mulches made of organic materials, compost mulch will break down over time. With this in mind, it’s important to continue to add it once or twice annually. If you do this, you’ll surely have the healthiest lawn on the block, as the compost will be regularly boosting the soil’s fertility.

Young green seedlings growing on a compost soil.


Composting doesn’t need to be a complex process; it’s pretty simple to understand how it works to expedite the natural decay of organic material by providing perfect conditions for detritus-eating organisms to thrive in. If you want healthier plants, crops, or lawns, we recommend using compost today!