At Green Thumbs, we stock many products that fall under the ‘soil conditioner’ or ‘compost’ category.  While both products have the aim of improving soil, there are a few differences that should be noted so that the gardener can make the best choice of what they should add to their soil.


Soil conditioners are products that are added to the soil to improve its physical properties such as improved ability to retain moisture, reduction of compaction and pH remediation.  Examples of soil conditioners include gypsum, lime, peat moss, composted forest products, humic acids and even earthworm castings.  Soil conditioners typically do not supply plants with NPK but they do improve the soil’s ability to retain and release nutrients.  


On the other hand, compost is a mixture of decomposed organic matter such as food waste, leaves/yard waste and manure.  Composting is the process of breaking down the organic matter into a potentially nutrient rich soil amendment.  Commercially produced composts are made by piling the waste into mounds and letting them “cook” until their internal temperature reaches 150 degrees F.  Generally, commercially produced compost targets a carbon to nitrogen ratio of 30:1.  Compost helps to improve the soil’s fertility, water holding capacity and texture.  Compost is rich in beneficial microorganisms and it can improve the soil structure by increasing porosity and water infiltration.  


In the simplest terms, soil conditioners are used primarily to improve soil structure while compost is used to improve soil fertility.

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