Homemade compost is an inexpensive way to recycle your yard waste. Compost is created by the natural decomposition process of dead leaves, grass clippings and other organic materials. These materials break down over time into a soil-like substance. This decomposed material is rich in nutrients and helps improve the quality of garden soils and potting mixes. Use your homemade compost in both your beds and containers and improve the health of your soil and plants.
Compost in Beds
Spread a 1- to 3-inch layer of compost over a garden bed prior to planting. Use 1 inch of compost for established, healthy beds, and use 3 inches or more for heavy clay, sand or new garden beds to improve drainage and to add organic matter.
Work the compost into the top 3 to 6 inches of soil with a hoe or power tiller. If you are applying fertilizer to the bed prior to planting, apply the fertilizer and compost and till it into the soil at the same time.
Spread a 1-inch layer of compost over established perennial beds in the spring, laying the compost around the plants. Nutrients from the compost leech into the soil over time, while the compost also acts as a mulch and preserves moisture in the soil over the summer months.
Compost in Potting Mixes
Sterilize compost prior to use, as weed seeds and disease organisms may survive the home composting process. Spread a 4-inch layer of compost into a disposable foil roasting pan then cover the top of the pan with foil. Insert a thermometer through the foil and into the compost. Bake at 200 degrees Fahrenheit until the the compost temperature reaches 180 F. Maintain this temperature for 30 minutes, then remove the compost from the oven and allow it to cool to room temperature.
Mix the compost with equal parts peat moss and coarse sand. Use perlite or vermiculite instead of sand, if desired. Remove any large chunks of non-decomposed material from the compost prior to mixing.
Mix a slow-release fertilizer into the compost potting mix before planting, following the fertilizer rate recommended on the label. While compost is rich in many nutrients, it does not have enough on its own to meet the needs of most plants.
About this Author
Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications, including the "Dollar Stretcher." Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.