Using Compost to Rejuvenate Your Soil
As your plants grow, they use the nutrients in the soil to grow. This depletes the nutrients in the soil, and those nutrients don’t come back on their own. That means there are fewer nutrients for your next planting, which will make it more difficult for your next batch of plants to grow.
Sure, you could use fertilizer to replenish those nutrients, but compost works better, is natural, and is earth friendly since it’s made by breaking down organic material – such as food waste, grass clippings, weeds, and leaves – that would otherwise wind up in a landfill.
If you’re new to using compost, you might not know the best way to apply it for maximum benefit. We’re here to help! Here’s what you need to know about using compost to rejuvenate your soil.
What are the benefits of using compost?
Adding compost loosens and aerates the soil, which helps it to absorb water and other nutrients. It attracts worms and hosts fungi and beneficial bacteria, which all help your plants grow. It also adds nutrients to the soil more naturally than using a fertilizer that may be full of chemicals.
Compost is also eco-friendly since you are returning organic matter back to the earth in a useful way rather than adding waste to a landfill.
One very important piece of information to make note of is that compost should always be used in combination with soil for the best results.
What type of compost should I use?
There are a lot of different ways to make your own compost, which we don’t have time to touch on here. If you use a hot composting method, you will want to wait until the composting process is completed and has had an opportunity to cool down before using it. Most compost needs about 12-18 months to fully decompose and be ready to add to your soil.
Alternatively, you can buy your own compost – just make sure you know what’s in it first. It should be very fine without any sticks or large pieces sticking out, and it should range in color from dark brown to black.
Any compost that includes animal waste will contain even more nutrients than compost that doesn’t, so that’s something to keep in mind as you make or buy compost.
When should I add compost to my soil?
While it’s never too late to add compost to an existing garden, it’s best to mix it into the soil 2-3 weeks before planting so that the nutrients really have time to leach into the soil. The more frequently you add compost to your soil, the healthier it will be. The only caution is that you need to be careful not to disturb seedlings when adding compost.
Compost may also be added to your soil in the fall so that the soil food web really has time to get activated before spring.
How do I mix compost into the soil?
While compost may be added on top of existing soil if there are already plants in the ground, mixing it into the soil in the spring or fall when there aren’t any plants to work around is best.
You’ll want to dig up the top 6 to 8 inches of soil first. Break up large clods and remove any old roots. Add 2 inches of compost, then mix the compost thoroughly with the 6-8 inches of soil that you had turned up.
Optionally, you can add fertilizer to this mix also at a rate of 1 1/2 pounds of 5-10-10 fertilizer for every 50 square feet of soil.
When using compost as moisture hold mulch, you apply it as you would any other kind of mulch. Spread it around your plants, vegetables, trees and shrubs. Compost used as mulch will break down over time so make certain to add new layers once or twice a year in layers 2-3 inches deep. Over time the compost will naturally increase the fertility of the soil.
Even if you are new to the world of compost, it can be a relatively simple way to help rejuvenate your soil and keep your plants happy for many years to come!
Should you have any additional questions, please call your local, friendly landscape and gardening experts at local Big Earth Landscape Supply store!