How to Use Compost As Fertilizer


Composted material provides a great natural advantage when it comes to growing all kinds of things, including plants, trees and grasses. Though it may take a little more work than buying an organic or synthetic fertilizer at the store, it can also yield equally good results at a much cheaper price. The environmental benefits are also significant. Compost does not add any harsh chemicals to the environment and prevents some materials from going the landfill. In order for compost to be effective, gardeners must first understand how to produce it, and then how to apply it.

Using Compost

Step 1

Select a suitable place for a composting area. This should be away from the house so that any foul odors or pests are not a problem. Choose a shady area if you are planning to use compost worms. Otherwise, a sunny area is fine.

Step 2

Turn the compost ingredients every week or two. Some compost bins make this easy with a hand crank that rotates the bin. If you are using a pile rather than a bin, use a pitchfork or a shovel to turn it.

Step 3

Wait until the compost is ready. It should have decomposed to the point where you no longer can identify the ingredients you threw into the pile. This typically takes a month or two, but depending on the location and conditions, it could take longer.

Step 4

Remove the most cured compost first and apply it using a pitchfork or shovel. A spreader may also be used if the compost is fine enough.

Step 5

Spread 1 to 2 inches of compost on top of your planting bed. If you are planting a tree, use compost for a third of the backfilled soil. If you are putting compost in a potted plant, use about one-fourth compost and three-fourths potting soil.

Things You'll Need

  • Pitchfork or shovel
  • Rake


  • Earth Day Tip
  • Yardwise
  • Montana State University Extension

Who Can Help

  • Compost Fundamentals
  • Compost Benefits
  • Compost and the Environment
Keywords: composting area, composted material, compost in potting soil

About this Author

Ken Black is a freelance writer and a staff writer for The Times Republican in Central Iowa. He has written extensively on a variety of topics, including business, politics, family life and travel.