Compost is created from organic waste such as fallen leaves and grass clippings. It adds nutrients to the soil that plants need to flourish. Commercial compost is strictly watched and maintained during the composting process to ensure it is sterile and ready to use. This organic matter is balanced in both carbon and nitrogen, lessening and in some cases eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers. Compost has to be worked into the soil in order to beneficial. This poses a challenge to perennial beds as the plant's roots could be damaged. Careful compost additions avoid damage and aid the health of the plants.
Purchase either leaf mold compost or quality hot-process compost. Check that there are no large pieces of uncomposted material in the bag and that the compost is a dark brown color and earthy smelling. If it smells of ammonia, do not use and return it to the place of purchase as it isn't mature.
Remove mulch from the perennial bed so the soil surface is easily reachable. Discard any stones, twigs or other garden debris that has worked into the soil surface.
Lay a 2-inch layer of compost over the bed and around the plants. Place it under the foliage but do not bury the leaves in the compost.
Work the compost into the soil using a hand cultivator. Work it into the top 3 to 4 inches of soil between plants and lightly rake it in under plants to avoid damaging the roots near the surface.
Water the bed well so the nutrients from the compost begin immediately leaching into the soil. Replace any bark or organic mulches with a fresh layer if desired.