Compost is the key to healthy, beautiful and productive plants and flowers.
Compost is the key to healthy, beautiful and productive plants and flowers – like this knockout rose at the farm.

Almost everyone has heard about the incredible benefits of compost. In fact – everyday – more and more people are starting backyard compost piles and bins to create their own “black gold”.

Compost is THE key in adding healthy nutrients to your soil naturally! It’s full of life and teeming with beneficial bacteria and organisms that can help keep your soil productive.

But what is the best way to use it once you have it?  Here are 5 ways we use compost to keep our plants growing strong and healthy – and keep our soil fertile:

1. When You Plant

Using compost in your planting holes can get your vegetable plants off to a great start
Using compost in your planting holes can get your vegetable plants off to a great start.

This is number 1 on the list – and for good reason!  There is simply no better way to get your plants off to a great start than working in compost at the time of planting.  No matter what we are planting –  flowers, annuals, perennials, shrubs or vegetables in the garden – we mix in generous amounts of compost to the hole!

For our tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and other vegetable plants – we fill each hole with a good shovel-full of compost before we drop in the plants.  With our apple trees and grapes – we use a 50 / 50 mix of soil and compost to go back in the hole.  It is the single best way to give added nutrients to your new plants. The compost helps hold in moisture, and gives valuable nutrients to the to roots of developing plants.

2. To Make Your Own Incredible Potting Soil

 Use Compost effectively
Make your own incredible potting soil from your compost!

If you want to save money and have your hanging baskets and potted plants go crazy with growth – learning hot to use compost effectively is a must!  We make all of our own potting soil with a mix of 4 parts compost, 4 parts topsoil and 1 part sand.  It becomes the perfect medium for growing all of your potted planters, hanging baskets. and containers. The best part of all – it can save you loads of money!

What about those commercial bags that contain slow release fertilizers to help?  You simply don’t need them with good soil. With the added nutrients of the compost in the mix – your plants will grow strong.  And when you do want to give a little boost of all natural fertilizer – try the next tip!

3. To Make Compost Tea – The Amazing All-Natural Liquid Fertilizer

You can make your own organic fertilizer "compost tea" - simply by steeping water in fresh compost!
You can make your own organic fertilizer “compost tea” – simply by steeping water in fresh compost.

Compost tea or “black liquid gold” is an all organic “miracle-growing” solution to fertilizing the garden – minus the chemicals and high salt content that commercial fertilizers add to your soil. It works its magic in two ways – feeding your plants through the roots (soil zones around plants) and the leaves (foliar zones). Unlike synthetic fertilizers, it won’t build up chemicals and salt levels that can slowly destroy your soil structure.  Instead, adding nutrients that build it!  You can see how we make our’s here :  Making Compost Tea.

We apply with a watering can or a simple garden sprayer – soaking the area around the root base and the leaves of each plant with the solution.  The minerals and nutrients are then absorbed through the leaves (foliar absorption) as well as through the root zone – doubling the effect.  As with watering, it is best to apply early in the day before the sun is too hot and the tea can burn the leaves of plants.

4. As A Mulch

a 1 to 2" mulching around your garden plants can pay huge dividends
1 to 2″ of compost as a much around your garden plants can pay huge dividends.

Compost is simply incredible to use as a mulch around your plantings!

We mulch all of our annual plantings with an inch or two layer of compost about 6″ in diameter around each and every plant.  Not only does the compost act as the perfect mulch, keeping moisture in and weeds out – but it also adds valuable nutrients as it breaks down in the soil.

Another benefit – every time it rains or you water – those nutrients are leached out of the compost and into the soil around your plants – feeding them even more.  It’s the ultimate win-win of composting and mulching.

5. As A Fall Or Spring Top Dressing:

We incorporate 3" of compost into each bed in late fall or early spring each season - keeping our beds productive.
We incorporate 3″ of compost into each bed in late fall or early spring each season – keeping our beds productive.

If you make enough compost – you can use it as an excellent top-dressing for your garden beds each year.  Every fall or spring, (or both if you have enough) we like to add a 2 to 3″ top-dressing of compost to all of our raised row beds.  We then will work it in easily with  a pitchfork or shovel and incorporate it into the top 6 inches of soil.  Each and every year, our soil becomes easier to work and more fertile with the added compost.  Even if you can only make enough to put an inch or so on top of your beds to work in – it will pay huge dividends over time to increase your soil’s fertility and vitality.

There you have it – 5 ways to use compost in your garden and landscape this year!  Time to get composting!  You can find more tips on how to compost here – Composting 101

Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary

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6 thoughts on “5 Ways To Use Compost Effectively In Your Garden and Landscape

  • April 25, 2013 at 10:12 am

    You are the best. I learn so much from your posts and my gardening has come a long way because of it. Thanks for another great one – potting soil -of course!! How did I not think of that?!

  • April 24, 2013 at 9:40 am

    I made our own compost barrel out of a trash can last year and it worked pretty good. However, when we sifted the good stuff out for use in the garden this year, I now all of a sudden have unknown things sprouting. Is this due to it not getting hot enough? What can I do to rectify this?

    • April 24, 2013 at 1:05 pm

      It sounds like the compost probably didn’t get hot enough to kill the weed seeds. Was your pile ever hot when you turned it during composting? Did you ever feel warmth from it or did it steam when you turned it?

      Everything will eventually turn to compost – no matter if it “hot” composts or not – but only the hot composting will kill of most of the weed seeds. The good news is that what you added to your garden, even though it has some weeds, is still really beneficial and healthy.

      • May 3, 2013 at 10:22 am

        Compost did have steam when we would turn it throughout the winter. LOL I think some of the seeds are a type of squash seed that I thought was not germinating. Planted a few in a couple of pots to see what I end up with. Really appreciate your blog, it has helped me tremendously with me being a newby.

  • April 23, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Great tips! I usually use the little we make as a top dressing or in the hole with our new transplants. It feels awesome to “make” your own soil too. We are so land starved that it’s difficult to compost in large spaces. We have a plastic composter for food scraps and a pile for garden debris and we trench compost in the rows in the garden any sod from edging as well as perennial garden waste. We’ve built up our soil from heavy clay to a beautiful loam from years of doing this. Thanks for a great article…will try to use compost in some our containers!

    • April 24, 2013 at 1:11 pm

      That is a great point Nancy about the trench composting – it is another great way to add nutrients to the soil! Sounds like your soil is really healthy !!!


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