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How to Put Down Compost in Your Garden and Flowerbeds
Compost is a rich source of nutrients for all plants. Applying it to your vegetable garden and flowerbeds during the spring can lead to a bountiful harvest and beautiful yard. Follow this step-by-step process for spring composting and you’ll get the best results.
Removing all weeds is an essential first step because compost doesn’t kill off invasive, harmful plants. In fact, even if putting down a layer of compost initially slows their growth, weeds push through quickly and begin growing with greater vigor. Dig down with a hoe or shovel to make sure you remove weed roots.
You can make your own compost or buy bags of predigested yard and food waste. You can also try worm castings, which are created when earthworms do their business. Homemade compost is probably best because it forms from plants you’ve already successfully grown in the soil you’re treating; essentially, you’re recycling nutrients you know your plants can use. Just be sure that you remove all weed seeds from the yard waste before putting it into your composter.
Determine how much compost you need
Most gardens and flowerbeds need a 3- to 4-inch layer of compost, but the exact amount depends on the fertility of the soil and how hard the beds were worked the prior season. Put down more compost if you planted intensively last season. Don’t sweat the depth too much, though. Composting isn’t an exact science, so you can eyeball the thickness.
Sprinkle the compost over each bed instead of just shoveling it on, then mix the layer of compost into the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Make sure to turn the earth until the native soil and compost are well mixed.
Add fertilizer if necessary
Some compost mixtures are high in carbon, meaning they steal nitrogen from the soil when decomposing. You can ensure that the soil doesn’t become deficient by adding an organic fertilizer high in nitrogen, such as blood meal, chicken manure or guano. Don’t use extra fertilizer if you put down bagged compost that already contains manure, though.
Water the composted bed well. Soaking the top 2 to 3 inches of soil allows the microorganisms in the compost to begin working to create healthy, biologically active soil that can sustain your plants throughout the growing season.
Wait to plant
Wait a few weeks before putting new plants into a composted bed. Planting in fresh compost can smother seedlings, burn tender roots and not give the compost enough time to break down and release nutrients.