How To Use Compost For Your Lawn And Garden

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So you’ve taken the time to make your own compost at home, and now you have piles of compost ready to fertilize your lawn and garden.

But, how exactly do you go about adding compost to garden soil?

Home composting is a great way to recycle kitchen scraps and yard waste, promote healthy plant growth, and even benefit the environment by keeping trash out of the landfill.

However, many beginner gardeners wonder how to mix compost into their soil, and best utilize their freshly made compost on their yard.

Uses Of Compost

Thankfully, the answer is very simple! Compost is incredibly versatile and can benefit almost every part of your yard.

Here are some of the most common ways to use compost:

  1. As a moisture-holding mulch
  2. As a soil amendment
  3. As compost tea for your plants
  4. As a top dressing for lawns

No matter how you choose to use your compost, it will greatly improve the quality of your soil and support the growth of all your plants and lawn grass.

Best of all, by using your own homemade compost, you’ll know exactly where all the nutrition for your garden is coming from and won’t have to worry about accidentally adding dangerous chemicals or sewage sludge on the yard where your family plays.

Related | How To Compost Grass Clippings

How Much Compost Do I Need For My Garden?

Adding compost to your garden beds not only improves the nutritional density of your soil, but it also helps dry soils to retain more moisture and soggy soils to drain better.

How much compost you add to your garden beds will depend on whether you’re preparing a new planting area or simply want to add compost to a bed with plants already growing on it.

Compost Mulch

If you’re adding compost to the top of your pre-planted garden bed, just apply 1/4 to 1/2 inch of compost to the surface of the soil.

The nutrients in the compost will drain into the soil and down to the roots of your plants whenever you water, or it rains.

Mulching with compost this way also helps the soil to retain more moisture than it would if you left the ground bare.

Soil Amendment

If you’re preparing a new garden bed or amending the soil of an existing garden bed between planting seasons, add 1 to 3 inches of compost and till or mix it into your soil to a depth of 4 to 8 inches.

When you plant your seeds or transplants into this amended soil, they’ll have an ample supply of nutrients and moisture readily available for them to use.

Amending your garden soil with compost in this way helps to reintroduce the nutrients and minerals that the last harvest took from the soil.

Compost Coverage Formula

There’s a simple formula you can use to help you determine how many cubic yards of compost you’ll need for your project:

square feet x inches of compost x 0.0031 = # of cubic yards needed

So if you’re preparing a garden bed that has a total area of 9 square feet and you want to mix in 3 inches of compost, you’ll need a total of 0.08, or less than a tenth, of a cubic yard (9 x 3 x 0.0031 = 0.08).

How To Add Compost To Existing Plants

If you want to add compost directly to an existing plant, you have a couple of options.

For one, you can simply mulch an individual plant by adding 1/4 to 1/2 inch of compost around the base of each plant. This method works for both plants growing in the ground or in a pot.

For existing plants, there’s no need to till the compost into the soil, as you may accidentally hurt the plant’s roots by doing this. As you water, the nutrients in the compost will drain downward towards the roots.

Compost Tea

Another way to use compost on existing plants is to make compost tea.

Compost tea is simply a nutrient-rich liquid supplement for your plants that is made by steeping compost in water. Making it is really easy too.

  1. Simply add about a shovel of compost to a 5-gallon bucket and fill with water. Stir well and allow the mixture to sit for a few days, stirring daily.
  2. Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth or burlap sack into another bucket and add the remaining solids back to your compost bin or spread over your garden.
  3. Dilute the liquid with water to a concentration of 10:1 (ten parts water to one part compost tea) and use to water your in-ground or potted plants.

For trees, shrubs, and large established in-ground plants, there’s no need to dilute the mixture. Simply apply the finished compost tea directly around the roots and allow to soak into the soil

How To Add Compost To Your Lawn

Adding compost to your lawn is very simple too. So simple, in fact, that there’s no reason ever to use synthetic chemical fertilizers on your lawn.

It’s entirely possible to have a healthy, vibrant lawn by simply applying compost a couple of times a year.

On New Lawns

Add 1 to 2 inches of compost to the area where you want to establish your lawn.

Till or mix into a depth of around 5 to 6 inches and seed the area.

On Seeded Lawns

You can also mulch an area with compost after you’ve added your grass seeds. This will help to retain moisture and help promote seed germination and keep seedlings healthy until they establish themselves.

Apply a thin layer of compost, about 1/4 inch, on top of the seeded area. This method of top dressing is particularly useful in arid areas where a freshly-seeded lawn can dry out quickly, killing seedlings.

On Established Lawns

Sprinkle 1/4 to 1/2 inch of compost to the top of the lawn and rake it evenly across the grass. If there is a bare spot on your lawn, apply 1/4 to 1/2 inch of compost, rake in and reseed.

In Summary

Using compost around your home is actually quite simple. You can use compost on your lawn and garden in a variety of ways, depending on the needs of your plants.

Even if you’re not currently growing anything, amending your existing garden beds with compost in the fall will help to promote nutritious soil for the next garden season.

And adding some compost to your lawn will keep it greener for longer, even during the hot summer months.

About Justin Micheal

Justin has always loved gardening and caring for the outdoor spaces in his grandmother's backyard. He believes everyone can enjoy the space available to them, no matter how big or small. On Backyard Digs, he shares everything he's learned about growing a successful garden and maintaining and improving the landscape of a backyard.