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Coaxing the Highest Amount of Nutrients From Compost

by Paula Hall

I am a commercial wheatgrass grower who grows in compost. Can you help me to enhance my learning and focus as to what is the best way to coax the highest amount of nutrients from this mysterious and wonderful substance. Perhaps by comparing it with the standard media of peat moss and vermiculite we can get a better grip on this subject. Thank you.

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Apr 25, 2010
Compost Nutrient Coaxing Tips – Part 1 of 2
by: Compost Junkie Dave

Thanks for your question Paula.

Let’s start by looking at why peat moss and vermiculite are typically used in standard potting soil mixes.

Peat moss is a capable of holding large amounts of water (between 15-20x its own weight), has a decent cation-exchange capacity (ability to hold nutrients if applied from an outside source, like a liquid fertilizer), and adds organic matter to soils. However, peat moss is almost devoid of all nutrients and microbial life. More often than not, the peat moss you buy from your local garden center has been sterilized (Yikes! That’s microbial massacre). If you’re able to get peat straight from a bog/marsh, it will be teaming with microbes, but they are more of an anaerobic type (you’re in need of aerobic types).

Vermiculite, on the other hand, is a typically added to your standard growing media to increase pore space, leading to better drainage and oxygenation of the soil. This drainage feature is one of the main reasons, why vermiculite (and perlite) is used in potting soils. Again, vermiculite offers only a small amount of nutrients (mainly potassium), and is devoid of all microbial life.

All in all, the standard media of peat moss and vermiculite, would be fine if you were growing plain old flowers. BUT (and that’s a big but), you’re not talking about growing just any ordinary plant here, you’re concerned about getting the highest amount of nutrients into your wheatgrass plant, and that’s where compost comes in.

Not only does compost offer you all of the benefits of your standard media, it has a huge storehouse nutrients, including humus, one of your plant’s most favorite foods. Also, as I’m sure you know, compost is literally overflowing with microbes. In coaxing the most out of your compost, these microbes are going to play a huge part. To learn more about the wonderful benefits of compost, please visit the page listed here.

So to answer your question, in order to coax the highest amount of nutrients out of your compost you’ll want to ensure 3 things…(please see my next post, since I have reached the word limit to this post).

Apr 25, 2010
Compost Nutrient Coaxing Tips – Part 2 of 2
by: Compost Junkie Dave

…continued from part 1 above.

1. Make sure the nutrients are actually present in the compost to begin with.

This means you’ll probably want to add a remineralizing fertilizer to your compost. Although high quality compost is high in humus, it may be lacking various minerals. For instance, if the original compost ingredients lacked calcium, than the finished compost will also lack calcium. So you’ll want to add this back into the mix. I recommend having your compost tested to be sure you find out where these imbalances lie; however, you may just want to start by amending your compost with a trace mineral fertilizer such as kelp, and a macro-mineral fertilizer such as our ReCharge product.

2. Make sure your compost is produced from a reputable supplier.

This is probably going to be one of the more difficult steps to control, unless you’re producing your own compost. If you’re buying your compost from an outside supplier, please make sure they are able to produce written documentation about the original compost ingredients, the heating cycles, and the curing periods. If you’re in need of a high quality compost supplier in your area, we can help. Just fill out our Buy Compost Form to get started.

3. Make sure your compost maintains extremely high levels of microbial activity while you’re growing in it.

The higher your microbial levels in your compost, the more readily your wheatgrass will be able to access the nutrients from it. There is a positive relationship between the availability of nutrients in one’s soil, and the microbial life within that soil.

There are several ways to ensure your compost maintains extremely high levels of microbes while growing your wheatgrass.

– Keep your compost moist. Just like humans, the microbes in your compost need water to thrive. Avoid using chlorinated water at all costs.

– Inoculate your compost using such things as compost tea, and a product called Effective Micro-organisms.

– Foliar spray your wheatgrass plants using a lactobacillus, or lactic-acid bacteria. These bacteria will help to increase the nutrition of your wheatgrass plants, as well as prevent many foliar diseases.

– Amend the compost in each of your wheatgrass trays with some worm castings. Not only will this add to your microbial populations, it also adds valuable nutrients.

I hope this information helps in coaxing the most nutrients out of your compost.

If any other members of the compost junkie tribe have anything to add, please do so. We’d love to hear from you.

May 18, 2012
using peat moss
by: Anonymous


I was wondering what you thought about actually using the comercial peatmoss/perlite medium but then simply watering with a compost tea. I dont know how large of an oppersation the poster is mantaining. But in a larger grow wouldnt it be cheaper and easier to use peatmoss/perlite. If you had a tea brewer that was large enough, you could fine tune your brew and your wheatgrass would be great. I guess im thinking it is easier to fine tune large amounts of compost tea vs large amounts of compost. The peatmoss could be reused where as the compost medium would need to be replaced if one wished to maintiain the super nutrient level. Plus it is difficult to water wheatgrass without foiler feeding it also.

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