Tips for Composting Your Garden in Spring

Now that spring is here, we can finally break out the yard tools and start working on landscaping projects around our home. This also means that we can start diving into garden projects, which generally should start with getting soil ready. That means it’s time to start composting! Composting is a great way to make sure you have healthy and happy plants. Learn more about composting and getting your garden ready for the warmer months down below...

What Is Compost

Compost is organic material such as leaves, lawn clippings, fruit, vegetables, twigs, kitchen scraps (plants only) and paper that is heaped and left to decompose. With enough time and patience, the organic matter turns into very rich soil. Adding compost to clay soils makes them easier to work and plant. In sandy soils, the addition of compost improves the water holding capacity of the soil. Adding organic matter to the soil, such as compost, can help improve plant growth and health.

How You Can Make Compost

Compost requires four main components. Organic matter, oxygen, moisture, and bacteria. Too little or too much of any of these components will significantly slow down, or even stop, the composting process. Organic matter should also be a mixture of 1 part brown and 1 part green matter. Brown organic matter is dead leaves, twigs, manure, etc. Green matter would be lawn clippings, fruit scraps, etc. 

Your pile should be turned every 2-4 weeks to encourage oxygen and bacteria growth. During the dry months, either add water, or more green waste. The length of time that it takes for organic material to turn into compost varies. Under ideal situations, compost can take as little as 3 months, but the average timeframe is likely to take 4-6 months.

What to Do Next

The best time to apply the compost is early in the spring, perhaps as early as March, as soon as the ground dries out enough to walk on and not get all muddy. Ideally, you would spread 3-4 inches of compost over the top of your garden area then till it into the top six inches of soil. Some gardeners prefer to do this in the late fall as well, so that they can get a head start in the spring. 

Add compost to soil in vegetable gardens, annual flower beds, and around new perennials as they are planted. You may also use compost as mulch around flower beds, vegetable gardens, or around trees or shrubs in landscape beds. Apply a 3-inch layer. Be careful not to apply mulch close to the main stem or trunk of the plant.

Why You Need Compost

Compost will improve the condition of almost any soil. Compost improves the structure and texture of the soil enabling it to better retain nutrients, moisture, and air for the betterment of plants. A garden with sandy soil doesn’t hold on to the water, leading to plants drying out too quickly. Compost helps the soil retain moisture levels. Clay soil gets too hard and is sticky when wet. When compost is mixed with the clay soil it helps to separate the clay soil and allows water and air to penetrate better. Compost contains a variety of nutrients for your garden. In addition to Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium found in typical fertilizers, compost also has many micronutrients such as manganese, copper, iron, and zinc.

Another big benefit of a good layer of compost is that it is going to attract the right kinds of insects to your garden. By that, we mostly mean specific types of beetles, such as ladybugs, but also praying mantises and other predatory insects. These bugs will eat harmful pests that can ruin your garden.