How To Properly Apply Compost To Your Garden Beds

Compost can be a miracle worker in the garden. Not only does it replenish lost nutrients in the soil, but it also helps retain soil moisture and improves the overall structure and quality of the soil. You can use compost to prevent overly quick drainage in sandy soils or to break up and aid in drainage in heavy clay soils. How you apply the compost depends in part on what is in the garden bed. The following guide will help you apply the compost properly.

Annual Beds

Annual beds contain flowers or vegetables that only live for a year and then need to be replaced. Many accent flower beds and vegetable gardens consist of only annual plants. These plants grow quickly and often produce seeds or fruits prolifically, which means they pull a lot of nutrition from the soil. They are also the easiest beds to improve with compost. In later winter or spring, before you replant the bed, remove any remaining dead plant material or weeds. Follow it up with a three-to-six-inch deep layer of compost. Use the lower amount for relatively healthy soil, and the larger amount if you are dealing with sandy or clay soil. Finally, use a hoe or a power tiller to mix the compost into the top 6 to 10 inches of the soil. Your bed is now ready to plant.

Perennial Beds

Perennial beds are those with only herbaceous perennials, or a mixture of perennials and annuals. These beds are more challenging to add compost to simply because the plants aren't removed from the beds each year. Instead, you have to use a method called top dressing. To do this, rake up any debris around the plants, such as fallen leaves or old mulch, so the bare soil is exposed. Then, spread a 1- to 2-inch layer of compost around and between the plants. Use a handheld cultivator or a trowel to carefully turn the compost into the top few inches of soil without disturbing the plant roots.

Trees and Shrubs

Applying compost around trees and shrubs is very similar to applying it to perennial beds, but with one major caveat. When covering the soil with the compost, make sure it doesn't rest against the trunks of these woody plants. If it does, it can trap moisture against the wood and cause rot. It can also be difficult to turn it into the soil, since woody plants may have lots of surface roots. If this is the case, water deeply to help the nutrients leach out of the compost and deeper into the soil.

For more help, contact a compost supply company in your area.

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