How to Use Your Compost

Once you've made your compost, what to do with it? It’s a beautiful transformation when those old, fungus-ridden vegetable peels, leaves, and grass clippings become a dark, nutritious, earthy compost. The beauty is in compost’s function. Here are some simple ways to use your compost. Enjoy!


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    Know when your compost is ready. As long as you maintain the pile weekly, it should be clear when it’s ready. It's ready when it is:
    • dark brown or black
    • soft
    • crumbly
    • mostly smooth (you can throw that stubborn corncob back in the pile)
    • earthy-smelling
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    Plant seeds. Make a potting mixture of 1 part compost to 3 parts soil and put in pots, about an inch / 2.5 centimeter (1.0 in) short of the brim. Plant your seeds in these pots just as you would any other soil.
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    Plant seedlings. Plants that already have roots can handle more compost, so your potting mixture for seedlings or transplanting plants can be 1 part compost to 2 parts soil.
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    Nourish established houseplants. If your potted plants (or flowers, herbs, vegetables) are already growing, use the compost with nothing added and sprinkle on the surface of the dirt. (If you don’t have room, you can shovel out a layer of the dirt that’s already in the pot and replace it with the compost).
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    Spread it on your garden. Use finished compost in a layer on top of your soil to nourish the plants underneath. Water will carry nutrients down, into the soil. This is called top-dressing. You can top-dress a garden, a tree, even a lawn (just sprinkle it in).
    • Compost also makes an excellent layer in any no-dig garden. In this kind of a use, especially in a raised bed, you can make the layer as thick as you like.
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    Dig it into garden beds. As you dig garden beds, add as much compost as you like and mix it with the soil as you put it back. It's a great amendment for both sandy and clay soils.
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    Plant directly in it. If you have ever had a tomato or pumpkin seed volunteer in a compost pile, you will know that some plants don't mind growing directly in compost. It can be a little strong for others, and carbon (brown stuff) that is still decomposing can rob plants of nitrogen, but if you have a few extra vegetable seeds, see if any of them would be happy directly in your finished compost pile. You can spread the compost out a bit first or move it to another spot, if you prefer.


  • Give fresh compost a little time to age before planting in it if you are adding a lot. Spread it on soil a month or so before you intend to plant.
  • If your soil tends to have too much sand or too much clay, compost is a great thing to add.
  • You can't add too much compost, but you may want to add it as part of a mixture, especially if it is fresh. Mixing in at least a little of whatever soil you have in your yard will add a different set of nutrients than is present in compost, and it will help with water retention.

Things You'll Need

  • Compost
  • Plants

Article Info

Categories: Compost Mulch and Soil Preparation