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It’s so rewarding when the soil mixture you poured yourself into is perfect for your garden. Usually, specific compost mixes are used for specific purposes, but what if you want to combine the benefits of two mixes, like an ericaceous and a regular compost? Is it possible or even a good idea to mix ericaceous compost with normal compost?
A gardener can mix ericaceous compost with another compost mix because they both consist of decomposing organic matter. However, the gardener has to make sure the organic ingredients produce the nutrients their plants need and the pH level of the mixture is what the plants want.
Keep reading if you would like to learn more about mixing composts, why it can be beneficial, and to learn some tips to help you make sure your mix is good.
Can Ericaceous Compost be Mixed with Normal Compost?
Yes, you can easily mix ericaceous compost with “normal” compost. All that compost is, is decomposed and decomposing organic matter. No matter which composts you use, this is what they all are by definition. The difference comes from what has been included in the compost mix to be decomposed.
But why mix composts if they’re basically the same? They’re actually all distinct, it’s only the decomposing process that’s the same. Based on the intended purpose of the compost, specific organic matter will be added, which has resulted in several different types of compost:
- Brown Compost
- Bark Compost
- Green Compost
- Ericaceous Compost
- Multi-purpose Compost
When you mix compost, all you’re doing is modifying the available nutrition and pH levels in the soil. Still, what’s the point? Why would you want to mix normal and ericaceous compost?
What Are the Benefits of Mixing Ericaceous and Normal Composts?
There are a few good reasons you might want to mix ericaceous and other composts together:
- You want to plant something different that requires a different soil mixture
- You want to add the benefits of the ericaceous compost
- You want to add the benefits of the normal compost
- You want to save money by using or reusing the soil you have but doctor it up a bit
You might mix composts to improve the general nutritional content and bring variety in your plants’ food. This is a risky thing because each ingredient will have an effect on pH and you need to make sure the plants you’re growing want the minerals that each organic matter will provide.
Another reason you might mix composts is that you’ve decided you want to grow acid-loving plants such as berry bushes, mushrooms, rhododendrons, and azaleas but your current mix is the wrong kind. If it’s too inconvenient to go to the store, all is not lost. You can add common ingredients of ericaceous compost that lower the pH, such as,
- Peat moss
- Coffee grounds
- Fresh pine needles
- Oak leaves
- Beech leaves
This is basically mixing two different composts.
Ultimately, the reason you would want to mix acidic and regular composts together is so that the mixture becomes more beneficial for the plants you want to use the mix for. Of course, in order to create a beneficial mix, you need to know what each type of compost is and what they’re usually used for.
What are Different Compost Mixtures Used For?
Brown compost is a high-carbon compost mix that is useful when you need a nutrient-rich mix that can help decrease the nitrate-nitrogen levels in your existing soil mixture. Nitrogen makes the soil acidic, so brown compost helps to neutralize the soil. Nitrogen can also block other essential nutrients from being absorbed into the plants if there’s too much, so brown compost might be used to fix that problem.
Bark compost is exactly what it sounds like. It’s shredded pieces of bark that’s more like a mulch. While it’s still food for your garden because it’s an organic material, bark compost is used less for nutritional benefits and more for benefits such as:
- Weed prevention
- Drought and cold protection
- Establish better water retention
Green compost is the opposite, it’s high in nitrogen. This mixture, as you can figure out, is used to increase the acidity (lower the pH level) in the soil. Nitrogen also helps with the photosynthesis process in the plant, which breaks down the chlorophyll in the plants
Ericaceous compost is really acidic compost at a pH level of either 4.0 or 5.0 on the 0-14 pH scale. For some plants, low pH levels allow them to more easily break down the organic matter and prevent excessive amounts of iron, magnesium, or aluminum from being absorbed into the plants, which can hurt certain kinds.
Finally, multipurpose compost is typically a mixture of bark compost, green compost, peat, fertilizer, and lime. It doesn’t have the properties of ericaceous and isn’t normally mixed together unless you wanted to change the pH.
The lime in the multipurpose mix makes the soil alkaline which makes it seem like you wouldn’t want to mix multipurpose and ericaceous composts, but if the M.P. compost is still nutritious, you might want to make use of it for acid-loving plants by mixing acidic compost into it.
How Should I Mix Ericaceous and Normal Compost?
The only major drawback to mixing composts, especially an acidic compost with a more alkaline or neutral one, is that it can be hard to figure out how much of each kind of compost to mix together. If the mixture is wrong, you’ll just hurt your garden or provide minimal sustenance, wasting your time, energy, and money.
In order to effectively mix an ericaceous compost and another compost together, there are some tips to help you:
- Find out the pH levels that your chosen plant(s) grow best in
- Determine the pH Level of Your Existing Soil
- Learn What Organic Ingredients will Help Your Chosen Plant(s) Grow
- Add the Appropriate Ingredients.
- If Using Premade Bags, Have a Dominant Mix
The first two are straightforward, so we’ll move on.
Use bags with the right ingredients
Each plant has minerals they like, such as
So, you should make sure your compost has organic matter that breaks down into the appropriate minerals. Your bag labels will show you the dominant nutrients.
Add the Appropriate Ingredients
Because not all organic ingredients found in compost mixes will benefit your plants, it can be better to make your own compost with the appropriate ingredients. You mix two different composts because you need to add or negate something in your original mixture. For example, ericaceous compost tends to be high in nitrogen, but maybe your plants need more carbon or are being choked by the current level of nitrogen, so you should add some brown compost.
If Using Premade Bags, Have a Dominant Mix
It can be easier to buy one bag of each and combine them, but you will be limited in what you can plant if you combine them in equal measure. Based on the preferred pH level of your plant, choose either the neutral/alkaline compost or the ericaceous compost. Then, based on the adjustments the pH level needs, mix only a little bit of the other compost at a time.
I know this sounds pretty complicated, but so long as you know what minerals your plants like, you can easily make customized compost mixtures for them, much like you’re doing by combining ericaceous and other standard composts. It can be done, you just have to carefully experiment.
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