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How to Plant With Compost

By Jenny Harrington ; Updated September 21, 2017

Compost is a nearly free soil amendment that improves the soil quality for potted plants and in garden beds. Compost is either purchased at garden centers or created at home from yard waste and organic kitchen scraps. It adds nutrients to the soil, as well as improving the moisture retention in beds and pots. Using compost is even simpler than making it and creates a better soil than most other soil amendments can produce. Only use well matured compost with your plants—if it still has visible organic matter in it, it isn't ready to use.

Composting Potted Plants

Mix one part matured compost that is fine in texture with one part peat moss and one part coarse sand. Moisten the mixture well.

Add a slow-release, balanced fertilizer to the compost mixture. Follow the label instructions for the exact application amount for the fertilizer brand.

Fill pots with the compost mixture. Plant established plants or seedlings into the pots at the same soil depth they were growing before. They will not require additional fertilization for two months.

Apply a one-inch layer of compost over the surface of the soil and around the plant to help retain soil moisture. Nutrients from the compost will also leach into the soil over time.

Composting Garden Beds

Apply a three-inch layer of compost over a well tilled garden bed. Use an extra inch or two in heavy clay soils to help break them up and add aeration to the clay.

Till the compost into the soil to a six-inch depth. Use a power tiller on large beds or a hoe for smaller bedding areas.

Plant seeds or seedlings into the newly composted bed as usual. Apply an additional one-inch layer around the base of each newly planted seedling to help it to retain soil moisture.

Work compost into existing perennial beds when you divide plants. Remove the plant to be divided. then work in three inches of compost to the new planting area using a hand cultivator before replanting.


Things You Will Need

  • Compost
  • Peat moss
  • Sand
  • Fertilizer
  • Hoe
  • Power tiller


  • Prepare brand new beds the fall before planting with a heavy application of compost so they are ready to plant in the spring.
  • Vermicomposting uses compost made from worms. It is suitable for supplying compost to apartment dwellers or to those who only require a small amount of compost.


  • If the compost is still heating up in the pile it is not ready. The microbes in the compost will rob nutrients from the plants at this point.

About the 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.