A healthy garden begins with healthy soil. Adding compost enriches soil and nourishes your vegetables, herbs and fruits as they grow. The best way to make your soil stronger and have a bountiful harvest of nutrient-rich vegetables and fruit is to add compost at the beginning of each growing season. Use only organic compost or compost that is labeled for vegetable garden use, and, if using containers, organic soil.
When to Compost:
Add compost to vegetable beds in early spring as soon as the ground can be worked, or up to 2 weeks before planting. How can you tell if your soil is workable? Grab a handful and squeeze; it should crumble, not form a ball. Composted manure can also be used in addition to compost, or in place of it.
How Much Compost to Use:
A good rule of thumb is to add 1” of compost to your veggie beds each year, but don’t worry – you can never add too much compost to your garden. To determine how much compost you will need, measure or estimate the square footage of your garden (length times width).
Compost comes in the following sizes and will cover the following square footage at 1” deep:
- 1 cubic foot bag Covers 12 sq. ft.
- 1.5 cubic foot bag Covers 18 sq. ft.
- 2 cubic foot bag Covers 26.5 sq. ft.
- 3 cubic foot bag Covers 36.5 sq. ft.
How to “Dress” New or Empty Garden Beds with Compost Before Planting:
- Dump and spread if it’s an existing veggie bed.
- Work it in. If it’s a new bed or your soil is compact and hard, work the compost into the soil with a rake or cultivator before planting.
How to “Side Dress” Berry Bushes, Fruit Trees and Plants that Winter Over in the Garden:
- Gently shake a shovelful of compost around the “drip” area of a plant, or where rain or moisture naturally drip from the plants’ leaves.
- Dress it and leave it. There is no need to work your side dressing into the soil.