Compost vs Soil: What is the Difference?

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Many people will not be able to tell you the difference between compost and soil. In their defense, the two are very similar, so it can be easy to confuse them. However, you will achieve different results when adding a layer of compost to your garden as opposed to a layer of soil.

There are various advantages and disadvantages to compost and soil. In this article, we will define both types of gardening materials. We will also mention the differences between soil and compost, making it easier for you to decide which material is best suited for your garden.

What Is Compost?


Compost is a mixture of nutrient-rich soil that is made using water, oxygen, bacteria, and organic matter. Green and brown materials are combined in order to create the perfect balance for your garden.

These materials break down during the composting process to form a very rich type of soil. Compost is mainly used to refresh soil before planting new crops and plants.

What Is Soil?


Soil is a mixture of organic matter, gases, liquids, minerals, and organisms, and it makes up the top layer of earth.

There are various types of soil out there, and it can take up to one thousand years for it to form. Air, water, decaying matter, chemicals, and many other substances all assist in aerating and loosening the soil.

However, after many years of using the same soil, you will need to add nutrients to it in order to revive it. This is where compost comes in handy.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Compost

As we have mentioned, there are various advantages to using compost in your garden:


  • Boosts the nutrient levels of soil
  • Maintains high natural health of the soil
  • Helps prevent soil from contracting diseases
  • Assists in retaining moisture
  • Helps to limit and control weed growth
  • Can feed your soil directly
  • Promotes the growth of plants and crops
  • Compost is cheaper than organic and non-organic fertilizers
  • Provides your soil with sufficient minerals and nutrients

Keeping all of these pros in mind, there are also a few cons when it comes to using compost:


  • Compost takes longer to improve your soil than other additives
  • Composting is a very long and challenging process
  • A lot of storage space is required in order to make compost
  • Compost has an unpleasant smell

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Soil

You can use topsoil in your garden to boost the quality of the soil. There are a few advantages that you can expect during this process:


  • Nutrients from the topsoil will be absorbed into the root system of your plants
  • Topsoil can be used as a replacement for fertilizer
  • Using topsoil will encourage the thatch in your garden to decompose
  • Topsoil can be used to even out your garden, while simultaneously improving the soil
  • Topsoil can be used as a base to create new lawns

As with compost, there are also various disadvantages to using topsoil as a fertilizer replacement in your garden:


  • Topsoil can’t be used alone when growing potted plants
  • Topsoil often contains many contaminants

When Should I Use Compost?

If you are happy with the grade of your land but would like to improve the soil quality, compost is the best choice. As we have discussed, using the same soil for many years can leave it in poor shape. Compost is the perfect supplement for bringing your soil back to life.

When Should I Use Soil?

Topsoil is usually taken from building sites or fields and contains some organic matter in order to give it nutrients. While this organic matter will decay with time, the sand and clay in the soil will not. For this reason, topsoil is perfect for anybody that wishes to build up the grade of their garden.

For example, if you have just removed a large tree from your property, topsoil is the perfect choice for filling up the hole. You could also add compost in order to create a first-rate garden soil.

It is important to note that topsoil contains weeds. This means that you will notice weeds growing in your soil and you should be prepared to remove them when they do.

Compost vs Soil: What is the Difference?

Contrary to popular belief, soil and compost are not the same things. The two are often confused because compost can be added to soil in order to boost the quality and nutritious value.

The main difference between compost and soil is that compost is made solely of organic materials. On the other hand, soil contains inorganic matter, such as rocks and minerals.

As we have mentioned, soil is used to describe the top layer of the earth’s surface. In other words, it is a completely natural material. Compost is made by humans using decaying plants, vegetable peelings, grass clippings, and much more.


Many people do not know the difference between soil and compost. Even though the two are similar, there are a few differences that we will summarize below.

Compost is a mixture of nutrient-rich soil that is made using water, oxygen, bacteria, and other organic matter. On the other hand, soil is a mixture of organic matter, gases, liquids, minerals, rocks, and organisms. This means that compost is made solely out of organic materials, while soil contains inorganic matter.

There are a few advantages and disadvantages to using compost and soil in your garden. Compost can be used to boost the nutrient levels and maintain the high natural health of your soil. However, a lot of work goes into the composting process. The nutrients that are found in the soil will be absorbed and used by the roots of your plants. However, topsoil can’t be used with potted plants, and it often contains contaminants.

If you are looking to improve the quality of your soil, compost is the best choice for you. If your goal is to change the grade of your garden, while still somewhat improving its quality, topsoil is the better option.

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