How to Add Compost to Your Garden


Homemade compost is ready to use when it is dark brown and crumby or when the materials used to make it are unidentifiable. It is now a highly concentrated fertilizer that promotes garden growth. Compost provides plants with a steady and continuous supply of nutrients at the pace the plant dictates. Synthetic fertilizers "force feed" plants high levels of nitrogen that encourage immediate growth but provide no long-term benefit. Compost can be added to the garden at planting time or as the plant grows. Backyard composting has another benefit: It reduces the amount of waste going to landfills.

Before Planting

Step 1

Add one shovelful of compost to each square foot of garden soil as the seedbed is prepared. Mix thoroughly so the compost is incorporated into the soil, which helps soil bind together and retain water.

Step 2

Water thoroughly. Allow the mixture to settle for three or more days before planting seeds or setting out transplants.

Step 3

Plant seeds or young transplants into the improved soil.

After Planting

Step 1

Spread one handful of compost in a circle around each plant when it is 5 to 10 inches high.This is called "side dressing." Vegetables and flowers have different fertilizer needs, so check a gardening book or consult with a gardening professional for fertilizing schedules.

Step 2

Water thoroughly after the side dressing of compost is added. Water allows the nutrients in the compost to begin to seep into the root system.

Step 3

Continue to side dress plants in the garden with compost after their blooming or harvest time. The plants need a nutritional boost after they have used energy this way.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not add compost as a side dressing to tomatoes after they have set their blossoms because this causes excessive green growth at the expense of red fruit.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden gloves
  • Shovel


  • Los Angeles County Smart Gardening Program: Backyard Composting
  • Seattle Composting Program

Who Can Help

  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Composting, Environmental Benefits
Keywords: composting tips, compost fertilizer, backyard composting

About this Author

Joan Norton, M.A., is a licensed psychotherapist and professional writer in the field of women's spirituality. She blogs and has two published books on the subject of Mary Magdalene; "14 Steps To Awaken The Sacred Feminine:Women in the Circle of Mary Magdalene," and "The Mary Magdalene Within."