Compost is one of those topics that can be a little confusing, can’t it? There is a wide range of compost options, there are various different types, and all kinds of advice about using compost in your garden - it’s no wonder a lot of gardeners struggle to understand how to use it effectively.
The fact is that compost can be an exceedingly useful gardening tool, it’s just a case of understanding when it should be used, how it should be applied, and why it’s necessary and beneficial for different areas of your garden.
Keen to learn everything that you need to know about adding compost to your garden? Below is a handy guide to compost for gardeners - read on for all the ins and outs to compost use!
What is compost and what are its uses?
Let us start with the basics: what is compost and what is it used for? Compost is a mixture of decayed organic matter - leaves, compostable materials such as cardboard and paper, food leftovers, twigs, grass, and more can be broken down over time and turned into compost. When these materials begin to decay, they turn into a type of brown mulch which is called compost. The actual process of decaying is called thermal decay.
What’s great about compost is that it can act as a natural and organic fertiliser for gardeners; it’s home to billions of microorganisms that are able to break down organic matter - leaves, old food, grass, etc - and turn them into nutrients for plants and shrubs. It is an amazing process.
Once the compost is ready to use, it can then be added around plants and shrubs as a food for them, helping to encourage their growth and ensure that they remain healthy as they grow.
Compost condition is key
The fact is that no two compost heaps are the same, and every compost is designed to be unique. That is why, if you opt to buy garden compost via a compost delivery service, you need to think carefully about the quality and integrity of the compost. Most compost bags clearly state the type and quality of the compost, such as what it has made up or and whether or not it’s made up of certified organic matter - for an organic gardener this is crucial information.
Obviously, should you opt to make your own compost pile, you can decide what you put into it and will be able to determine the integrity and quality of the compost that you create. Of course, when creating your own compost heap, it is important to remember that newer compost heaps take longer to break materials down - the older the compost is, the more nutrients it tends to contain.
Creating a compost heap
When it comes to creating a compost heap in your garden, it is not as simple as piling debris, old food, and compostable matter up, you need to actually think things through carefully. You can either opt to create a heap of compost or you could invest in a compost bin and use that instead - for smaller gardens, a compact compost heap is ideal.
In terms of where to position your compost heap, it is important to pick a level spot that has good drainage as you need to ensure that any excess water drains easily away. Picking a spot like this also makes it easier for worms to access the compost heap to help aid the breakdown of the materials within it.
When it comes to what you put in your compost heap, be mindful of what should and should not go in. We have discussed above what you can put in, but what shouldn’t you put into your compost heap? No meat or dairy items should be added, no plants that have diseases, no animal or human waste, it is also a good idea to avoid composting weeds with seed heads. Plastic, glass, and metal items are also not compostable and should be recycled in a separate way.
When should you add compost to your garden?
When you are able to add compost to your garden depends on a range of different factors - such as whether the compost is homemade or whether its shop brought. With homemade compost, it can usually be used whenever and added to newly planted flower beds. Whereas shop brought compost tends to be better when added during the spring months and should be added a week or two before seeds or plants are planted.
The only thing to note about using homemade compost is that if the compost is thick with lots of green matter, then it should be added to plants during autumn. The matter should have decomposed further and should be ready for planting come spring.
Ideally, you should aim to add more compost to each flowerbed once a year - aim to get into the habit of doing so every autumn, so that you are consistently topping your flowerbeds up with new compost.