Humus vs Compost: What’s the Difference?

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Many people out there believe that humus and compost are one and the same thing just with two different names to it. But is it really the case? And how can we determine whether humus and compost are different things?

In this short post, we investigate whether there is a difference between compost and humus and how you can tell them apart. So without further ado, let us jump in and see what the similarities and the differences are, and get the right answer once and for all.



Compost is, in essence, decayed or decomposed organic matter and has been broken down in a natural process creating the compost. This mostly consists of waste materials that are disposed of by humans as well as animals.

Garden waste, leftover food, and fruits and vegetables are mostly the main ingredients that can be found in compost. This might also include green and brown matter, which makes up the solid parts of compost.

Compost might also be anything from dry to wet ingredients and creates a balance together with air and water. So compost is, in a few words, decayed organic matter that has rotted in the process of decomposing.

Value of Compost

Compost is filled with nutrients that can be used in the garden to make the soil better and more fertile. That is why compost is sometimes also called a fertilizer, because of all the organic materials that are present in it.

It also helps to enrich and improve the soil’s moisture retention to balance the moisture content. Compost will also suppress plant diseases to keep the soil healthy and safe for plants.

Compost will also help to encourage larger production of good bacteria to help break down the organic matter. This will then also help in the process of creating humus in the soil for a healthier top layer.

In nature, the compost that you put into the soil will provide a good basis and starting point for humus to form in the soil. And if you cover the top layer of the soil, it will prevent the sun from penetrating too deep in the soil.



Humus is the dark material that is found in the soil that has not been disturbed for a long time. This is basically the final product if you should leave the compost pile to decay further and lose most of the nutrients.

What you are left with then is a carbon-rich and spongy soil that will retain a lot of moisture and is free of chemicals. So, in essence, humus is a form of finished compost that reaches the final stage of decay with very little left to break down.

If you take a look at humus, you will find that it is a byproduct of compost that consists mostly of carbon. This is when the organic material has reached the final product broken down completely by microbes and used up in the material.

Value of Humus

Humus will provide a good structure to make it porous so the fungi and bacteria can work much better. This will also help to make your soil retain more moisture and make the soil much healthier for natural processes.

If you have a quite sandy type of soil, you can add humus to it to make the soil more compound and structural. And the opposite will happen with a clay type of soil, as the humus will loosen it up and make it more breathable.

The humus is also very good at holding onto the nutrients that are present in the soil. It will also help prevent calcium from sinking deeper into the soil and keep it steady.

Humus is also very good at holding many times its own weight in water and keeping soil from drying out. The humus in the soil will also help to prevent any toxins from getting to the plants and basically protects the plants.

Furthermore, it assists in aerating the soil to provide better airflow in the ground for microorganisms to survive. And as already mentioned, it provides a solid structure for the soil to stabilize the balance of air and water.


As you can see, compost and humus are not the same things, but they do come from the same origin. And sometimes, they have the same function or do the same work to protect different stages in the soil.

The other conclusion we come to is that compost is a process that is started and finished by a human. While on the other hand, humus is an entirely natural process that is started and finished by microorganisms in the soil.

Hopefully, this simple “Humus Vs Compost: What’s The Difference?” guide has provided you with a better understanding of the differences as well as the similarities between humus and compost. We hope that you will enjoy your time composting in your yard!

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