How to Prepare Your Garden With Compost


Home composting turns grass clippings, leaves and other organic waste from the yard and kitchen into a rich soil amendment that improves your garden beds. Compost is ready to use once it is a rich dark brown or black, crumbles easily in your hand, and no longer has any recognizable decomposing materials in it. Use your own home-made compost or purchase compost from a nursery or garden center to improve your planting beds before spring planting or to renovate the beds in the fall.

Step 1

Loosen the top 6 inches of soil in the garden bed with an automatic tiller or garden hoe. Loosen the soil before planting in the spring or in autumn before the ground freezes for new beds.

Step 2

Lay a 2-inch layer of compost on top the tilled bed. Use an extra inch of compost for clay soils.

Step 3

Work the compost 6 inches into the soil with the tiller or hoe. Turn the soil so the compost penetrates evenly.

Step 4

Lay a 1-inch layer of fresh compost on existing perennial beds in autumn before the first freeze. Push the compost under the plants and around the stems, effectively raising the bed level by 1 inch. Repeat in the spring once fresh growth begins.

Step 5

Use unfinished compost that still has visible twigs and bark in it as a mulch on vegetable beds in spring. Apply a 2-inch layer on top the bed after direct seeding in the bed or before planting vegetable seedlings.

Tips and Warnings

  • Nitrogen quickly leaches out of unused compost. Mix in a nitrogen fertilizer when composting if your soil has low nitrogen levels. Never use unfinished compost that still has recognizable food waste in it, as it will attract pests to your garden.

Things You'll Need

  • Hoe
  • Tiller


  • University of Minnesota Extension
  • University of Missouri Extension
Keywords: using compost, soil amendments, improving garden beds

About this Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. 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.