How To Use Your Compost:
How to use Compost in your garden:
There are two ways of using compost in your raised beds; you can either dig it into the soil or spread as a surface mulch, which will slowly be taken down into the soil by worms and other soil-living creatures. Both of these methods have their disadvantages and advantages. The choice dependens on what is being applied and in what circumstances.
Digging the Compost in:
If you go with digging the compost into the raised bed, you should mix it with the top 20 cm of soil only. The reason is that this is where most of the biological activity goes on.
This means that you should try not to dig too deep, remember that compost is not manure.
Your compost should be in such a state that it is ready to use by your plants right away; unlike animal manure which still needs to be broken down before your crops can use it.
The advantages of digging the compost in are:
- Digging mixes materials in with the soil; this gives a quicker overall improvement.
- Digging the compost into the soil puts any weed seeds that may be in your compost, below the level of germination. This helps if you sow your seeds into your soild bed.
- When you dig your bed, often this will increase the speed at which the organic materials decomposes. But remember that this can be counterproductive if you have light soil where this operation is fast enough already
The disadvantages of digging the compost in
- When you choose this method, you must wait until the soil conditions are suitable. This is not a good option in a wet winter or on heavy land.
- Digging can be hard work
- Digging is not suitable for materials that can causes nitrogen robbery.
The alternative to digging the compost in is to spread the materials in a layer over the surface. This is sometimes known as mulching. Mulch can have a very good insulating effect on your raised bed and with this in mind, it should be applied to your raised bed when it is warm and thoroughly wet. In other words late summer and give it a good soaking.
If you mulch a cold raised bed it will tend to stay that way. That being said, I find that you have to do what you do when you can.
I put compost onto my raised beds whenever they are empty whatever the time of year. However, I do make sure that the compost that I use is very fine and almost like soil. In the main, this is compost that is two or three years in the making.
I have been doing this for years and never had any trouble of any kind.
The advantages of laying the compost on top of the soil:
- A mulch of compost will keep the soil moist.
- Mulch will protect the soil surface structure from damage by rain and prevents it drying out.
- Mulch is really the only way to apply soil-building and feeding materials to your fruit and shrubs after you have planted them.
- Mulching is a very good method of applying materials that might otherwise cause nitrogen robbery of you soil.
- Mulching is also very helpful in control weeds.
The disadvantages of applying mulches are:
1. Compost that is full of weed seeds can be a nuisance where you sow your crop seeds. The way round this is to sow you crops in pots/blocks and let the weeds in the compost germinate. Then you hoe them before they get too big and plant you growing crop from the pots. This way you will be ahead of your weeds all the time.
2. Material applied as mulch will take a lot longer to mix through the soil, so its effects will be slower. The way round this is to apply the compost mulch every year; thus, last years compost will be feeding this year’s crop.