How Long Does Compost Last?

Using compost in one's garden is the secret to healthy and productive plants. After dressing your garden soil in the fall with a thick layer of the rich stuff, you might find that you have extra leftover, leaving you wondering how long compost will last? We have researched this essential gardening question for you!

Both commercial and homemade compost can last for more than one year when sealed, but the volume of compost and microbiological activity may diminish significantly after the first year. 

How long does compost last?, Composting kitchen waste that will last for a year

It's time to get your hands dirty, reduce waste, and give your plants the beneficial organic nutrients they need to thrive. Whether you choose a commercial compost from a trusted brand using animal manure and salvaged food waste, or you create your own complex mix of various organic components from home, compost is a great adventure! Keep reading to learn more about this fantastic substance.

Understanding the Nature of Compost

Applying a layer of homemade compost to raised garden beds, garden plots, and fruit trees can quickly transform the health and results of your flora and fauna. Whether you use homemade or commercial compost, it is vital to control its exposure to light, air, moisture, and anaerobic digestion. Homemade compost may have a lighter color than store-bought compost and allows you more control over the nutrients and processing. It is critical to select a compost that meets or exceeds regulatory standards. Additions of synthetic nitrogen can prove harmful to soil and crops.

Soil may need to be treated with a commercial compost to balance out the pH levels so that plants are more conducive to growth and production. Plants that are placed in soil that is overly acidic or alkaline may have difficulty absorbing critical nutrients, or the earth may be robbed of the elements to support plant growth.

If your compost smells sour, it is most likely because it doesn't have enough oxygen, and there is too much moisture present. Preserve your compost as long as possible by keeping it in a cool, dry environment. A hot and humid climate will help degrade compost very quickly. Keep your garden looking lovely, and make an effort to add a fresh layer of compost each year to nourish the soil.

Commercial compost may have significantly less microbiological activity over time because of added soil and less organic elements. Homegrown compost should be used within a year. Compost doesn't necessarily go bad over time, but it may need additional processing before use or will lose volume.

Do you have concerns about storing compost outdoors versus indoors? If you are keeping commercial compost outdoors, it is vital to keep it out of direct sunlight because of UV rays, encourage moisture development, and keep weeds and contaminants out. When you discover your soil is low in organic nutrients, microbes, and elements that help your plants thrive, it's time to amend your soil with commercial compost. Ideally, both commercial and homemade compost should be used within a year. Older compost can be repurposed or added to new compost piles.

Let Your Garden Grow Beautifully with Compost

Wheelbarrow full of compost soil in a garden

Any green thumb or gardener worth their salt understands the value and power of using compost to nurture plants. It is best to avoid compost with synthetic fertilizers, and use compost containing natural essential micro and macronutrients, which slowly releases nutrients to plants, and helps enrichen the soil. Homemade compost lasts up to a year after it is made, and after that time, unused portions can be added to new compost. Commercially bought compost lasts longer than a year if sealed, helps gardeners short on time, and also nurtures plants.

Homemade Compost

If you are interested in investing in making homemade compost using kitchen waste, paper scraps, and other organic material, you need to choose the right container for the job. If you plan on developing your compost outdoors, you need to have ample space, keep critters out, and protect against contaminants. It is possible to make compost indoors, but you must take even more care to control moisture, noxious odors, and consider the size of your compost bin or container.

Gardeners have a host of options available for compost containers, as it may be more prudent to use a wooden crate, a plastic bin, or a customized enclosed box. Whether you choose to include worms to your compost depends on your container's limitations and personal preference. When you have a pile of mixed trash, specific components may break down faster than others, leading to bad odors. If you include worms in your compost, you help speed up the process of transforming decaying organic materials, and you also reduce smells escaping from composted materials.

Commercial Compost

Making your own compost is a time-consuming process and a commitment. If you feel like you are short on time, space, and not up for the process of making organic fertilizer for your garden, consider purchasing a commercial compost. There is nothing wrong with using commercial compost on your garden bed, to nourish your lawn, or feed indoor plants. Be aware; there is typically less organic material and less microbial activity in commercial compost versus homemade mixes.

Does Compost Expire?

Most homemade compost doesn't necessarily expire per se, but it will reduce in volume over time if not used within a year. Compost is made up of various organic components that undergo a rich chemical process of transformation. If the compost smells rank, it is often a sign that something is wrong, anaerobic digestion, or the compost needs more time and to be turned over.

Until you are ready to use your compost, it should remain inside a container where moisture, exposure to light, temperature, and aeration are under control. Compost shouldn't be hermetically sealed, as it needs adequate oxygen and moisture to encourage the growth of microbes and essential nutrients. Most fertilizer should last a few years and still be viable, but it will become denser and lose mass over time.

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Check out this quality organic compost on Amazon.

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Check out this countertop compost bin on Amazon.

Does Potting Compost Go Off? Can You Use Last Year's Potting Compost?

Woman gardener turning compost, putting the undecomposed food waste back into a composting bin

Compost is a boon for plants and soil because it improves aeration, drainage, and anchors nutrients. If you are tending to potted plants, you may be interested in applying potting compost, which is not a soil improver. Compost for gardens is much bulkier than compost for potted plants, and you will want something that is peat-free. Most potted plants will be treated with compost that is multi-purpose or a loam mix.

Potting compost will not go bad unless it is stored poorly, so choose methods to preserve your compost. You can use last year's potting compost to nurture your plants, but feel free to give it a boost with fertilizers or other elements as you see fit.

Does Compost Turn Into Soil?

Soil is a mix of broken down minerals and organic components like that found in compost. Even if you include worms in your compost pile, a blend of compost does not transform into soil over time. Homegrown compost may include helpful microbes and micronutrients to plants, but it must be added to the soil. Commercial compost often is a mix of mostly soil to organic compounds, but it is not actual soil.

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Check out this durable composting tumbler on Amazon.

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Check out this heavy-duty compost bin on Amazon.

Before you head out to the garden, read more on the right time for using compost here. Too much compost can be bad and yes, compost can even kill your plants if you're not using it the right way. Use it wisely and you'll enjoy a wonderful garden year around!

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