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Will Compost Burn Plants? Tips for Using Compost on Plants

As you are growing a garden, you may notice lots of gardening blogs discuss adding compost to the plants to help these plants grow better. You diligently put the compost onto the plants and get excited to have some great produce at the end of it. But one day you take a look at the plants and you notice that they look burnt. Is the compost to blame.

Compost can burn your plants when it is not used properly. If the gardener uses too much compost on each plant or they choose to use the compost before it is ready, it can potentially burn your plants. When compost is used well, it can help your plants grow and thrive instead.

Let’s take a closer look learning about how compost works and how we can make sure the compost is beneficial, rather than harmful, to your plants.

Will Compost Burn Plants?

Compost is generally seen as safe for your plants. It can provide a lot of the nutrients that you need to the plants without any harmful chemicals. This can make it a much better option compared to some of the other nutrient options out there.

However, there are times when compost could actually burn the plants that you are growing. This can be quite shocking to many people who had tried to do the right thing by their plants and then find these same plants are burnt.

Some of the instances where compost will burn your plants includes:

  1. You use too much compost in the space you have.
  2. The compost you use is not completely decomposed.
  3. You use plant-based compost and manure in the same way.

Learning how to property use the compost that you have will make a big difference in how well it is going to provide nutrients to your plants or if it will burn your plants.

Can You Put Compost Around Plants?

Every gardener wants to make sure that they can get the most out of their plants. Growing your own garden takes a lot of time and effort and you want to get some delicious produce when it is all done. There are many options that you can use, but compost may be one of the most effective for your needs.

You can use compost around your plants. Adding a two to four inch layer around the plants by hand will help provide the plant with some of the nutrients it needs without causing harm to the roots of the plant. Almost all types of plants will grow well in compost include:

  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Squash

Fruits can sometimes be more delicate when it comes to the type of compost that you use, though they can benefit as well. Finding the right compost with the right amount of nutrients can make the difference.

Is Unfinished Compost Bad for Plants?

The right type of compost will make a difference in how well your plants will grow. It is always best to use compost that is fully decayed and has had the time to form properly. But is unfinished compost bad for your plants?

Unfinished compost can be bad for plants. When this compost is put on plants, it may not be ready to use and can suck the nutrients out of the soil while it finishes decaying. Waiting a little bit longer can help the compost be perfect for your plants.

Some of the issues that happen when you use unfinished compost includes:

  • The decaying compost can damage the roots of your plant.
  • The nutrients are not ready to share, leaving the plants without that added help.
  • Can take up valuable resources to finish decaying, strangling the plant.

If possible, let the compost finish decaying before you add it to the garden. It is fine to start the garden and have the plants work through the soil first. You can add the compost on later once it is ready.

Here’s a quick video about the do’s and dont’s of using compost, with more info below:

How to Use Compost on Plants the Right Way

Learning how to use compost on your plants in the right way will help you to get the exact results out of your garden. Some of the steps you can use for this include:

Add the Right Amount

Your compost is not supposed to fill up the whole pot around your plant. This will starve the plant of some of the other nutrients that it needs. Some of the rules to help you add the right amount of compost to the plant includes:

  • Add just two to four inches at most to the plant.
  • Put on the top layer and not the bottom

A little bit of compost can go a long way. You do not need that much to see your produce grow like crazy. Start with a little bit and add more when the plants need it.

Know When the Compost is Ready

One reason that your plants may burn when they are around compost is because the compost is not ready. This means you need to know all the signs that tell you the compost is ready for use. A few signs to look for include:

  • The pile is half its original size.
  • The pile will give off steam until it is ready. At this time it will cool down.
  • The finished compost is dark in color.
  • You will notice an earthy and pleasant aroma

Only when all of these signs are present is the compost ready for you to utilize in your new garden.

Incorporate It at the Right Time

When you are ready to plant, you can just add a few inches of the compost to the whole garden bed. This will help retain some of the nutrients in the garden and keeps the plants healthy. The two best times to lay down this fresh compost include:

  • Early on in spring once the ground has defrosted.
  • In fall when the garden is done

These two times will help prepare the ground and can make your plants more disease resistant to all of your garden plants.


Compost is an important part of helping your plants to grow. While some gardeners with green thumbs can make beautiful gardens without any compost, the compost can give your garden a head start by giving each plant the added nutrients they need. Using the compost in the proper way (source) will help keep the plants safe while they grow!

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