Growing in Compost (AKA Soil)
Growing in compost is an extremely popular way to grow. It’s easy to use and low maintenance, as well as being a relatively inexpensive way to grow. This brief guide details what compost is and how you can achieve excellent results using it.
WHAT IS COMPOST?
Compost is a naturally occurring deposited and decomposing matter on the earth surface i.e. earth/decayed vegetation/garden soil. Most pre-mixed composts available in grow shops contain mainly peat, which has good water and nutrient holding abilities, making it a good growing media for plants. Peat is a natural, partially decayed vegetative matter that forms naturally in wetlands or ‘bogs’. You should always make sure that the peat in your compost has been pre-treated in order that it does not contain pests and disease. Most of the compost sold in hydroponic retail outlets tends to be of a good quality, but the quality of compost sold in garden centres and discount stores can vary.
WHY SHOULD I GROW IN COMPOST?
Growing in compost offers you the following benefits:
• Achieves good plant results
• Inexpensive to set up
GETTING THE MOST FROM YOUR COMPOST
• Growing in pots
Most growers tend to grow in pots and water by hand when growing in compost. This offers a very practical way to grow. However, you should always make sure the pots that you are growing in allow your plants’ roots plenty of space to grow.
• How to water
When growing in compost, you should only water your plants if they need it. Below we provide a few tips on watering:
1. Water from the top until water runs out of the bottom and collects in a saucer.
2. Your plant should stand in this water for 5-10 minutes. If the water has soaked back into the pot, repeat step 1.
3. Lift your plant out of the saucer and allow water to drain from the pot.
4. Empty and discard the water in the saucer.
5. Your plant and compost is now fully watered (note how heavy the pot feels).
Repeat steps one to four when the pot feels about half the weight of a fully watered pot, this can take up to 3 days in early vegetative growth and as little as 1 day for fully grown flowering plants. It is important to not allow the soil to dry and shrink in from the sides of the pot.
The process above gets the whole root zone working throughout the entire pot. It is important to allow the soil to dry slightly between watering as keeping it too wet will damage the plants’ roots and overall health.
Your compost will need fertilising at some point during the growth cycle. For best results, use a good quality compost nutrient, such as VitaLink Earth. You should be aware that there are composts on the market with very little nutrient and some with much more nutrient. Generally, if you are using a compost with very little nutrient, start adding nutrient after 7-10 days, whereas if you are using a nutrient-rich compost, start adding nutrient after 21-28 days. However, it is important to note some plants need more nutrients than others and so looking at your plants and getting a feel for them is very important.
• Compost and pH
In order for nutrients to be absorbed by your plants’ roots, the optimum pH is between 6.5-6.8. Compost is forgiving and has a good buffering capability, but if you constantly water it with tap water higher than a pH of 7.5, you will slowly alter the compost pH and make some nutrients unavailable.
If you do need to lower the pH of your water, make sure you don’t go any lower than 6.5 as this can damage the essential bacteria, fungi and enzymes in the compost. To alter the pH of your tap water, use pH down (phosphoric or nitric acid). Adding nutrient to the water will lower the pH, so always check and adjust the pH.
For more information on VitaLink Professional Plant Nutrition, please go to www.vitalink.eu
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VitaLink has taken all reasonable care in preparation of this information, but make no guarantees as to the accuracy or completeness of the information and cannot be held responsible for any resultant effects of using this information on any person or thing, including plants or equipment. Use of these instructions is solely at the customer's discretion and risk.