Have you ever asked the question: “How do I use finished compost?” Using finished compost is a great way to improve the health and fertility of your garden. Whether you’re an experienced gardener or just starting out, knowing how to effectively use finished compost can make a significant difference in the success of your plants. In this article, we will explore various methods for utilizing finished compost in your garden, from soil enrichment to mulching and compost tea. With these simple techniques, you’ll be able to maximize the benefits of your compost and create a thriving and sustainable garden.
1.1 What is finished compost?
Finished compost is the end result of the composting process, where organic materials such as kitchen scraps, yard waste, and other biodegradable materials are decomposed by microorganisms. It is a dark, crumbly, and nutrient-rich substance that can be used to enhance the health and fertility of your soil, promote plant growth, and improve overall garden productivity.
1.2 Benefits of using finished compost
Using finished compost offers numerous benefits for your garden. Firstly, it enriches the soil by providing essential nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which are vital for plant growth. Compost also improves soil structure by enhancing its ability to retain moisture and nutrients while promoting aeration and drainage.
By incorporating finished compost into your garden beds or potting mixes, you enhance the soil’s microbial activity, which aids in breaking down organic matter and releasing nutrients. Additionally, compost helps suppress the growth of weeds, reduces erosion, and promotes healthy root development. Overall, using finished compost is an environmentally friendly and sustainable way to nourish your plants and create a thriving garden.
2. Types of Finished Compost
2.1 Traditional compost
Traditional compost is created by layering a mix of green (nitrogen-rich) and brown (carbon-rich) organic materials. This can include items such as kitchen scraps, leaves, grass clippings, and wood chips. The pile is then turned periodically to allow for proper aeration and decomposition to occur. Traditional composting can take several months to a year before it becomes finished compost.
Vermicompost is produced using earthworms, such as red wigglers, to aid in the decomposition process. These worms consume organic waste and excrete nutrient-rich castings, resulting in a high-quality organic fertilizer. Vermicompost is typically faster to produce than traditional compost and offers excellent nutrient content and microbial activity.
2.3 Leaf mold
Leaf mold is a type of compost that is solely composed of decomposed leaves. It is created by piling up leaves and allowing them to decompose over an extended period, usually around one to three years. Leaf mold adds valuable organic matter to the soil, improves soil structure, and enhances moisture retention.
2.4 Mushroom compost
Mushroom compost, also known as spent mushroom substrate, is the byproduct of the mushroom-growing industry. It consists of a mixture of materials like straw, corn cobs, gypsum, and poultry litter, which have been used as the growing medium for mushrooms. Mushroom compost is typically high in organic matter and can provide great fertility to your soil.
2.5 Manure compost
Manure compost is produced by combining animal manure, such as cow, horse, or chicken manure, with other organic materials like straw or wood chips. The composting process helps break down the manure and eliminate pathogens, resulting in a nutrient-rich soil amendment. However, it’s important to ensure that manure compost has undergone proper composting to avoid any potential risks associated with fresh manure.
3. Adding Finished Compost to Soil
Topdressing involves spreading a layer of finished compost over the surface of your garden beds or lawns. This method helps enrich the soil by gradually breaking down and releasing nutrients into the root zone of plants. It also acts as a protective mulch layer, helping to retain moisture and suppress weed growth.
3.2 Soil amendment
When incorporating finished compost as a soil amendment, it is best to thoroughly mix it into the existing soil. This ensures that the compost is evenly distributed and properly integrated. Amending the soil with compost improves its structure, enhances fertility, and provides long-term benefits for plant growth.
Mulching with finished compost involves spreading a layer of compost around the base of plants or over garden beds. This helps retain soil moisture, suppress weed growth, regulate soil temperature, and gradually release nutrients to the underlying soil. Mulching also protects plant roots from extreme temperatures and erosion.
3.4 Incorporating into planting holes
When planting new trees, shrubs, or flowers, you can incorporate finished compost into the planting holes. Mix some compost with the backfill soil before placing the plant in the hole. This provides an immediate nutrient boost to young plants and helps establish strong root systems.
4. Using Finished Compost in Potting Mixes
4.1 Proportion of compost in potting mix
When creating potting mixes, a general guideline is to use 20-30% finished compost by volume. This proportion provides a good balance of organic matter and nutrients without overloading the plants with excessive nutrients. However, this ratio can be adjusted based on the specific needs of the plants you are growing.
4.2 Benefits of using compost in potting mix
Incorporating finished compost into potting mixes improves soil structure, enhances moisture retention, and increases nutrient availability. The organic matter in compost helps create a well-draining yet moisture-retentive medium, which is essential for potted plants to thrive. Compost also introduces a diverse microbial community that contributes to overall soil health and plant vigor.
4.3 Homemade compost vs. commercial compost
Using homemade compost allows you to control the quality and ingredients, ensuring that no harmful chemicals or pesticides are present. However, homemade compost may not offer consistent nutrient levels and may take longer to produce. Commercial compost, on the other hand, is convenient and offers a standardized nutrient profile. Look for reputable brands that prioritize organic and sustainable practices.
5. Applying Finished Compost to Lawns
5.1 Topdressing for lawns
Topdressing lawns with finished compost involves spreading a thin layer of compost over the grass. This helps improve the soil’s structure, enhance nutrient content, and promote healthier, greener lawns. Choose compost with fine particles to ensure easy application and even distribution.
5.2 Overseeding with compost
Overseeding with compost involves spreading a mix of grass seed and finished compost over bald patches or thin areas in the lawn. The compost provides an ideal environment for seed germination, increases moisture retention, and offers initial nutrients for young grass seedlings. This method helps promote a lush, dense lawn with improved resilience.
5.3 Spot treatment for bare patches
For smaller bare patches in lawns, you can apply finished compost directly to the affected area. Spread a thin layer of compost and gently rake it into the soil. This helps improve soil structure, provides essential nutrients, and encourages healthy grass growth. Regular watering will aid in the establishment of new grass in the treated area.
6. Compost Tea
6.1 What is compost tea?
Compost tea is a liquid fertilizer made by steeping finished compost in water. The process allows beneficial microorganisms and nutrients to be extracted from the compost, resulting in a nutrient-rich liquid that can be sprayed directly onto plants. Compost tea acts as a natural plant booster, providing additional nutrition while improving soil health.
6.2 Using compost tea on plants
Compost tea can be used as a foliar spray or soil drench. As a foliar spray, it can be applied directly to the leaves, providing nutrients that are readily absorbed. As a soil drench, it promotes healthy root development and enhances microbial activity in the soil. Compost tea can be used on various plants, including vegetables, flowers, and trees, to stimulate growth and improve overall plant vitality.
6.3 Making compost tea at home
To make compost tea at home, fill a container with water and add a generous amount of finished compost. Allow the compost to steep in the water for 24-48 hours, stirring occasionally. Strain the liquid using cheesecloth or a fine mesh sieve, and then dilute the tea with water at a ratio of 1:10 (compost tea to water) before use. Apply the compost tea to your plants as needed.
7. Compost as Fertilizer
7.1 Nutrient content of compost
The nutrient content of compost varies depending on the feedstock used and the composting process. However, finished compost generally contains a balanced mix of essential plant nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Additionally, compost provides a host of micronutrients, organic matter, and beneficial microorganisms that are beneficial for plant growth.
7.2 Applying compost as a fertilizer
Compost can be applied as a slow-release fertilizer by incorporating it into the soil or topdressing around plants. This allows the nutrients in the compost to gradually become available to plants over an extended period. It’s important to avoid piling compost directly against the stems or trunks of plants to prevent rot or disease.
7.3 Timing and frequency of compost application
For established plants, apply compost once or twice a year, preferably in early spring or fall. This timing allows the compost to slowly release nutrients when plants need them the most. However, when starting new gardens or planting new beds, incorporate compost into the soil before planting to provide immediate benefits to the young plants.
8. Using Finished Compost in Vegetable Gardens
8.1 Preparing beds with compost
Preparing vegetable beds with finished compost is essential for creating nutrient-rich soil. Spread a layer of compost over the bed and incorporate it into the top few inches of soil using a garden fork or tiller. This ensures that the compost is mixed thoroughly and evenly throughout the bed, providing an optimal environment for vegetables to grow.
8.2 Mulching around vegetable plants
Mulching around vegetable plants with finished compost helps conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature. Apply a layer of compost around the base of plants, leaving a few inches of space around the stem to prevent potential stem rot. As the compost breaks down, it enriches the soil, providing a continuous source of nutrients for healthy vegetable growth.
8.3 Compost for container gardening
When container gardening, mix finished compost with potting soil to create a nutrient-rich blend. Incorporating compost into the potting soil enhances its water-holding capacity, improves fertility, and promotes beneficial microbial activity. For established container plants, periodically topdress with a thin layer of compost to provide ongoing nourishment.
9. Composting Cooked Food Scraps
9.1 Using composted cooked food scraps safely
Composting cooked food scraps is a great way to divert organic waste from landfills and create valuable compost. However, it’s important to compost these scraps safely to avoid attracting pests or producing unpleasant odors. Add cooked food scraps to a sealed compost bin or incorporate them into a traditional compost pile, ensuring a balanced mix of carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich materials.
9.2 Tips for composting cooked food scraps
To successfully compost cooked food scraps, bury them within the compost pile to discourage pests. Chop or shred larger food items into smaller pieces to accelerate decomposition. It’s also beneficial to balance the addition of cooked food scraps with dry materials like leaves or paper to maintain the proper moisture levels. Turning the compost pile regularly will aid in the breakdown of these materials.
Maximizing the benefits of finished compost
By using finished compost, you can maximize the benefits for your garden. Whether it’s enriching your soil, improving plant growth, or creating nutrient-rich potting mixes, compost offers a natural and sustainable solution. Utilizing various types of finished compost, such as traditional compost, vermicompost, or leaf mold, allows you to tailor your gardening practices to meet specific needs.
Sustainable gardening with compost
Using finished compost aligns with sustainable gardening principles, as it reduces waste, promotes natural soil processes, and minimizes the need for synthetic fertilizers. By incorporating compost into your gardening practices, you contribute to healthy ecosystems, conserve resources, and create a thriving and sustainable garden. Embrace the power of finished compost and watch your plants flourish in a naturally enriched environment.