When is the best time to add compost to your garden?

When is the best time to add compost to your garden?

After some months of aerating and adding materials to your pile, your compost will be finished and ready for use. In preparation for the planting season, this finished compost needs to be added to your garden. However, in order to ensure that your plants derive maximum benefits from your finished compost, it is important that it is added at the right time and in the right way. So when is the best time to add compost to your garden?

Late fall is the best time to add compost to your garden. This is because compost needs to be incorporated into the soil before it becomes available to plants. Compost can also be added to your garden in early spring. However, to enable it to settle in the soil, ensure you give two weeks before planting.

I like to do it on Halloween as its easy to remember! 

Now that you know the best time to add compost to your garden, how do you go about it adding it? In this article, we would look at composting in all four seasons, its benefits, and how to add your rich, crumbly compost to your new or existing garden.

 

Composting in each season

Contrary to popular belief, composting can be some all year long. While it is relatively easy to compost during the spring and summer each season offers its own special benefits.

 

Composting in summer 

Summer is all about maintaining the compost pile. As rains become frequent and temperatures rise, your pile will definitely warm up. Then there are all those grass clippings that will be highly beneficial to your compost.

The summer sun will speed up the composting process. However, be careful not to allow your pile to become too dry. To keep the process going, remember to keep the pile moist (not soggy or wet).

 

Composting in Fall

Fall is a very good season to compost. Think about how rich your compost will be with all those leaves and flowers. Rather than letting them go to the landfill, you can collect the leaves and use them in your pile. You can also compost dying or dead flowers provided they aren’t diseased. Make sure they are dying naturally. And if you have enough, you can save your leaves for a needed carbon-rich boost in the coming year.

 

Composting in Winter:

During winter, composting is expected to slow down. As temperature drops, the process of breaking down the material may stop. In some areas of the United States, particularly, the North East and North, the process may come to a halt completely, if temperatures drop below freezing for days or weeks in a row. This is because the microorganisms needed for the process cannot continue to create compost until temperatures rise.

In other areas of the United States, like the South West and the South, the composting process may slow down for some days, if there is a big storm. As long as the temperatures remain above freezing, the compost will continue to break down.

Either way, you do not have to stop composting. Keep adding materials as you do in other seasons. If your compost bin gets too full, consider starting another one. As soon as temperatures begin to rise, the microorganisms will start the composting process again.

 

Composting in Spring:

Spring is a great time for composting. If you have a compost bin that collected material over the winter, then you should expect it to begin to warm up. As temperatures rise, your compost bin will start to cook naturally and may create useable compost in 21 days. This means your compost may be ready for use when you begin your spring planting.

 

When is compost ready for use?

Ideally, compost is ready for use when it looks crumbly and smells like earth. Finished compost must have broken down completely and must not emanate putrid odor.

However, newer compost may need more time to break down. Adding it directly to your plant will tie up nitrogen that the plants need, making it unavailable for use immediately. Older compost, on the other hand, is one that has been thoroughly broken down. This compost contains readily available nutrients that are essential to the soil. They can be used immediately on your plant.

Regardless, all compost once applied will continue its natural process of decomposition and breaking down into rich soil.

 

How to add compost to your garden

 Knowing how to add compost to your garden is very important. We’ve established how beneficial compost is to the growth of a plant but all that effort that was put into composting may go to waste if you are not adding it the right way.

 

New lawn:

Before starting a garden bed, it is equally important to determine whether your soil (around your garden) is organically rich or not. Relax, this isn’t rocket science. It’s fairly easy. Black or dark brown soil contains more organic matter than light-colored soil. I told you it is easy. Now that you know this, you need to follow the following guidelines:

 

  • Soil with limited organic matter:If the soil doesn’t contain sufficient organic matter, add 10-15 centimeters (4-6 inches) of fresh compost before planting season begins.

 

  • Soil with plentiful organic matter:For organically rich soil, add 3-7 centimeters(1-3) inches of compost before each planting season.

 

Existing Garden

Adding compost to an existing garden may be a bit tricky. It is easier to add compost when starting a compost season. Amending, however, is another ball game entirely. You have to take care not to destroy the stems and roots of the plant. However, if you are patient and attentive, you will find that it’s not too difficult. There are several ways to upgrade the soil in your garden. Some of them are:

 

Side dressing:

If your compost is not enough to adequately cover your garden, you need to consider side-dressing. Generally, side dressing involves using compost sparingly by placing it in strategic positions along certain rows or around certain plants. Side dressing is also an effective way of maintaining the quality of the soil post-planting.

To do this, add compost sparingly and work it into the soil around the plant. Start about an inch from the stem and slowly make your way to the drip line. If your plant is shallow-rooted, leave the compost on the soil surface and take care not to disturb the root and delicate plant stem.

To allow nutrients to reach the deeper layers of your plant, water your garden after side-dressing.

 

Compost tea: 

You can also enrich your soil by spraying compost tea. Compost tea will act as a fertilizer for your plants and prevent some insects and pests. To make compost tea, use an old pillowcase or a compost tea brew bag. Submerge the bag into a bucket full of water. Shake for a few minutes to allow water to penetrate the inside of the compost. Leave for three days to enable valuable nutrients to leach into the water. As soon as it is ready, your compost tea will become dark brown.

Now fill a spray bottle with this dark brown tea and spray or pour it on your plants. Depending on your compost, this process can be repeated thrice or four times.

If your plants are grown in a container, adding compost can be a bit tricky. You may take advantage of this method.

 

When is the best time to add compost to your garden?

Late fall is the best time to add compost to your garden. This is because compost breaks down slowly and needs to be worked on by the Soil Food Web before it becomes available to plants. Contrary to popular belief, compost is not very soluble so you don’t have to be worried about the nutrients going to waste. If compost is applied in the fall, the soil food web will work on incorporating the compost in the soil, making it available for your plant when growth begins in the spring.

You can add compost to your pile in spring as well. You only need to make sure that it is applied at least 2 weeks before you begin to plant. This will ensure that it breaks down considerably before the plant growing season.

 

Why you should add compost to your garden

Adding compost to your garden before planting is pivotal to how well your plant will fare. They are many benefits to this process. Firstly, compost can help bolster the soil pH level, making it less dependent on the pH of the soil itself.

Secondly, compost contains nutrients like potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus, as well as micronutrients like manganese, zinc, cobalt, iodine, molybdenum, iron, copper, and boron. These nutrients are highly beneficial to the growth of your plants. Adding compost to your soil will enrich your plant with the necessary elements needed for optimum growth.

Thirdly, compost increases the water retention capacity of the soil.

Finally, adding compost to your soil will add earthworms, insects, and microorganisms that are highly beneficial for your plants. Compost will also neutralize harmful metals and toxins and keep them from destroying your plants.