While everyone knows that you can use compost on outdoor plants, there’s some hesitancy when it comes to applying it to your beloved indoor botanical buddies.
Is it safe?
Will my houseplants still be healthy after it is used?
Can I use compost without much mess or fuss?
The answer to all of these questions is a resounding “yes!”
Should I Use Compost On House Plants?
When it comes to compost, its benefits are universal. Regardless of whether you’re growing an apple tree or maintaining an ornamental indoor garden. High-quality compost can help your plants thrive. The additional nutrients in compost provide every plant with the energy it needs to flourish, while the texture helps the potting soil retain moisture.
However, it may actually be more important to use compost on your indoor plants! Outdoor plants are constantly subjected to natural fertilization. Fallen autumn leaves, critter waste, decomposing bugs, and decaying organic matter all contribute to the richness of outdoor soil. Plants kept indoors do not receive these additional boosts.
Many house plants remain in the same soil for the majority of their life. No matter how high quality that soil may be, it will eventually run out of enough nutrients to support healthy growth.
This is when you should add some fertilizer or your own compost into your indoor plants potting soil. In addition to rejuvenating the plant, a bit of compost can also bring life and health back into otherwise dried-out soil.
How To Use Compost Indoors
If you’ve ever used compost outdoors, then you already know how to add compost to your indoor garden plants. If not, then we’re here to help!
The most important thing to remember about compost is that too much can harm both your outdoor and indoor plants, but too little will have no effect.
We can’t tell you the perfect amount of compost to add to your garden soil. The correct measurement is determined by the size of your plant, the condition of its soil, and the strength of the compost.
However, a general rule is to add one inch of compost to your plant twice per year.
When adding compost, you shouldn’t just let it sit. You’ll need to get a bit dirty! With your fingers, gently mix the nutrient-packed material into the top 3–5 inches of soil.
Though it may seem logical to try and get the compost as close to the roots as possible, this is unnecessary and risky. Digging too deeply disrupts the earth’s natural state and poses the risk of damaging the plant’s roots.
Depending on the type of plant you’re growing, you may need to adjust the compost a bit. For succulents, such as the Christmas Cactus, adding compost that is pure may make the soil too dense to properly drain. In these cases, you can lighten up the mixture by adding some perlite, gravel, or clay drainage balls to the compost.
How To Avoid Compost Related Problems
While we have already mentioned this, it cannot be stressed enough that you should carefully measure your compost. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask a gardener!
Too much compost can cause a condition known as root burn, where the roots of your plant become sick and frail due to excessive phosphorus build up in the soil.
Signs of root burn include:
- Browning roots
- Withering, dull leaves
- Brown leaves
- Slow growth
If you see these signs and suspect your plant is suffering from root burn, then you should act quickly!
To solve the problem, carefully uproot the plant and repot it in fresh, balanced earth. Do not add any additional fertilizer or compost to the plant until it has regained its usual health and appearance.
If you’re ever in doubt, a good rule to follow is to play it safe and repot the plant. A mixture of 70% soil and 30% compost is perfect for almost any plant.
Where to Get Compost
Considering its benefits for your plants, you’re likely wondering where to get your hands on some of this earthy gold. There are a few routes for you to choose from such as purchasing compost from a local garden center, making your own with a compost bin, vermicomposting or an outdoor compost pile.
The simplest way to obtain specialized and regular compost is to purchase it. Both compost and fertilizer can be found at any hardware or gardening store. A variety of brands and types are available to choose from, and the material is packaged in variously sized bags according to your needs.
This option is convenient, but it’s not necessarily the best. Store bought compost can eventually end up being more expensive than a plant is worth. This is especially true if you have many plants or one rather large plant in your home.
Many commercially produced composts also have a strong and unpleasant smell. Regardless of where the odor may sit on the scale of “earthy” to “literal cow manure”, it’s likely that you don’t want that stench permeating your home.
The most economical way to get some compost is to make it yourself. In addition to its economic benefits such as finding another use for those vegetable scraps, home composting is a great way to give back to the environment. Any organic matter you compost is less material rotting in a landfill.
There’s no packaging to throw away, and there are no carbon emissions from the product being shipped to the store.
Outdoor Composting Piles
The most commonly thought of composting method is the classic outdoor compost pile. The process for this is simple: after creating a designated space (often a section of the yard or a large, enclosed bin), you pile up your organic matter and turn it regularly. This can be done using a physical composting bin or a less contained compost pile.
Some common composting items are:
- Grass Clippings
- Coffee Grounds
- Fallen Leaves
- Plastic-Free Tea Bags
- Food Scraps
- Shredded Newspaper
- Plant Matter - such as pulled weeds and end-of-life annuals
When done outdoors, this method often ends up blending with vermicomposting, which we’ll get to in a second.
While traditional outdoor composting is rewarding and backed by generations of proven results, it’s definitely not for everyone.
Some of the unique drawbacks of traditional composting include:
- Risk of attracting pests, such as rats, raccoons, and other critters
- Potentially dangerous in small yards with young children
- Seasonal maintenance, which may be labor intensive for particularly large piles
- Neighbors may not appreciate the smell (uh-oh!)
Indoor Composting Bins
For folks with a small yard or no yard, another solution is an indoor compost bin. This approach is essentially a repackaged and condensed form of the traditional outdoor compost pile that requires absolutely no outdoor space.
This method is essentially a small to large sized compost bin filled with your kitchen scraps and compostable organic waste.
To speed up the process, some people choose to purchase inexpensive starter kits, which are packed with microorganisms and nutrients for their compost to thrive.
There are a few different types of bins available, from simple DIY solutions to costly turnable rigs. All of these have roughly the same efficiency. Because they are indoors, they eliminate the need for seasonal maintenance.
A more lively form of indoor composting is vermicomposting. Using a bin composter, vermicomposting speeds up the process by adding natural organisms to eat and break down the material you put in.
In most cases, this means that you’ll be adding a few worms as roommates. Springtails and isopods may also be used in lieu of or to supplement these worms.
Stacking onto the benefits of a protected indoor bin, vermicomposting adds its own perks. The worms inside help break down the material quickly, so turnaround time is lower. (Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that it’ll still be a few months before you see results.)
Nonetheless, vermicomposting comes with a few drawbacks, many of which are shared with other forms of composting.
- Having worms wriggling around in your composting bin
- Possibility of attracting unwanted pests and critters
Countertop Composting with Pela
While the previous composting options may be beneficial to your wallet and the environment, they’re not necessarily a viable option for everyone. Both traditional composting and indoor vermicomposting carry many of the same drawbacks, including:
- Foul smell and possible fungal growth when maintained improperly
- High space requirements for bins, composting rigs, and/or piles
- Moderate to high maintenance requirements
- Slow processing time
A solution that can solve all of these issues is Lomi, the modern countertop composter from Pela.
With the push of a button, Lomi’s powerful sensors blend, heat, and incubate your table scraps and bioplastics, turning your trash into powerful organic compost within 3–20 hours.
While similar units may promise these results, the truth is that they merely dehydrate your food scraps. Lomi does more; the unique inner workings of Lomi combine with its reusable filters to create the perfect environment for rapid nutrient cycling.
At the end of your 3–20 hour cycle, you won’t just have a dehydrated husk of old spaghetti, you’ll have rich, nutritious compost for your garden and indoor potted plants.
For the best results, mix the compost from your Lomi into your potting soil. The best ratio is 1:10—one part compost to ten parts soil. Apply this as directed to any outdoor or indoor plants and you’ll soon see a massive difference in its appearance and health!
If you’re ready to join the next generation of high-tech gardners, then don’t hesitate! You can reserve a Lomi today for $49; when units begin to ship in January 2022, you’ll pay the rest of the $450 balance. Soon thereafter, you’ll be happy to say that you were one of the first pioneers of composting’s technological leap!