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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
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
If you want to save money and have your hanging baskets and potted plants go crazy with growth – use compost! 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
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
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:
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