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Compost: How to use compost

Happy impatiens with their compost home.
Even if growing space is tight, a compost bin can make a big difference to a garden. It is well worth setting up, whether homemade or a snazzy purchased one, for the benefits it offers. It means less garbage to the landfill, which also means fewer purchased garbage bags. It means less potting soil, and it definitely eliminates the need for inorganic fertilizers. (These are made from petroleum products, which are not healthy or delicious for the soil or the grower.)

Compost can be used in containers as well as in the garden as a mulch, as a soil additive, and as a tea. It brings life giving microbes and other creatures to plants and places in the garden that may be in dire need. It provides hearty nutrition for plants, which in turn makes them healthier and disease-resistant.

Spread a layer of compost around established garden plants for a nutrition boost. Top it with standard mulch (straw, grass clippings, or weeds with their roots turned up to the sun) for weed suppression that also feeds the soil, retains moisture, and helps regulate temperature. A good fall practice is to spread a layer of it on the garden and top it off with leaves, straw, and a bit of manure. The compost will import microbes, fungi, and other critters who will help break down the layers into beautiful soil that will be ready for the spring.

Mix it in with soil before planting in the garden or in containers. The nutrition and life it brings will help support the plants throughout the coming season and beyond. Containers with a bit of compost added regularly will maintain a heathy level of nutrition throughout the season. It can also be added to old potting soil to rejuvenate it for the next growing season.

Compost tea is made by simply adding compost to water. Aerobic (oxygen-added) and anaerobic (non-oxygen) varieties exist. The latter requires a bit of effort and equipment, but makes a lovely beverage for plants who can absorb nutrients through their leaves.

Next: Composting and the urban gardener
Previous: Compost defined; How to make compost


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