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Is it Possible to Grow Plants in Just Compost?

Compost is the life force of plants. It is meant to improve the soil’s physical, chemical, and biological properties. However, is it possible to grow plants in just compost without a potting medium?

Aarushi Chadha

Compost is a mixture of manure, recyclable organic material, food waste, and decomposing plants that are used as a fertilizer to improve soil’s biological, chemical, and physical properties. It is considered an environmentally sustainable practice as no organic material is going to waste instead garbage and another organic material that is of no use to us is being used to benefit the soil.

Mixing compost into the soil improves the soil quality. It not only enriches the soil with essential nutrients but also improves water retention. Crops and plants grown on soil that is regularly fed compost are better at surviving drought-like conditions. Composting is also cheaper than purchasing chemical fertilizers.

So, is it possible to grow plants without a potting medium, in just compost?

It is possible to grow plants in just compost, however, it is not exactly great for the plant’s health. The purpose of compost is to add nutrients to the soil which are essential for the growth and development of a plant. Growing a plant in just compost without a potting medium can cause the plant to have a nutrient overload which will hinder the growth of its flowers and fruits.

Poor water retention

When mixed with the topsoil, compost increases the water retention of plants. It aerates the soil and makes it well-draining, especially when the soil is heavy. However, on its own, the compost drains the water very quickly and becomes dry. Compost is also lighter than most soils and is unable to provide plant stability in order to grow a strong root system.

Nutrient imbalance in compost

The nutrient makeup of compost depends on the organic material used to make it. For instance, composts that are made with mostly animal manure has high a high sodium content, which is not suitable for planting. While composts have an abundance of essential macro and micronutrients, it also contains harmfully high levels of chemicals like boron which can be toxic to plants. However, when mixed with soil, the effects of the compost are diluted rather than concentrated.

Composting is an expensive practice

In order to produce compost that can be applied to a garden, there is a requirement to invest in composting equipment which is expensive. A lot of compost needs to be produced in order to grow plants in just compost without a potting medium will. Composting in a small garden can be bothersome also because it omits an unpleasant smell. You also need to pay a lot of attention to the compost bin because if it is not cleaned or used properly, it can become a breeding ground for bacteria which can lead to disease in the plants. Plus, it also attracts pests to your garden.

Compost compacts easily

Compost is lighter, softer, and crumblier in texture than soil. When water is poured from the top, compost tends to compact and shrink. Watering the plants can lead to a reduction in the pores. Compact soil with no aeration is not an ideal situation for the roots as water will collect in the container, thereby, drowning the roots. Without proper drainage and lack of air, the roots will start to rot and even increase their risk of developing a fungal disease.


While compost plays a vital role in enhancing the quality of soil and providing it with essential nutrients. However, growing a plant without a potting medium and straight in compost is not at all beneficial for the plant. It is expensive, will lead to poor water retention, and increases the risk of developing fungal diseases.

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