How to Add Compost to Existing Plants: 5 Best Methods

How to Add Compost to Existing Plants

We all know that “black gold” is good for our garden. But when it comes right down to it, there’s a lot more to know about how to add compost to existing plants.

Not to mention, when do we add compost to our existing garden? How much should we add? And what ways can we add it?

This guide explains everything you need to know about adding compost to your garden to help your plants flourish.

How to Add Compost to Existing Plants: 5 Methods

Compost is a beneficial additive to incorporate into your garden. Compost is decayed organic matter that acts as a fertilizer when applied to soil.

This decomposed matter enriches soil, reduces the need for chemical fertilizers, and produces beneficial bacteria and fungi to help break down organic matter in soils.

Here are 5 ways to add compost to existing plants to gain the greatest nutritional benefit to your garden. 

1. Amend soil with compost

Adding Compost to Existing Plants

Compost can work as a soil amender by improving the soil’s physical properties—such as water retention, permeability, drainage, and aeration. When compost is slowly added to the garden it can act as a social amender.

Spread a 2-4″ layer of compost around your plants, by hand, as to ensure you do not harm the roots. Make sure you leave a foot of space around all your stems and trunks to prevent the roots from rotting.

2. Dig compost holes

Digging compost holes in a garden can help enrich a garden bed’s soil.

Dig 12-inch-deep holes throughout your garden to fill with compost. Dig as many holes as you need to accommodate the amount of finished compost you have on hand.

Fill the holes with 2 quarts of compost and then finish filling the hole with regular soil.

3. Make Compost Tea

 Compost tea is another way to use compost to feed all of your plants and ensure they get essential nutrients and minerals.

Compost tea is easy to make at home. Take a pillowcase and fill it with a ready-made compost. Dip it into a bucket of water, and let it sit for two to three days. After a few days, the compost tea should be ready for usage.

Compost tea is ready when it is dark brown in color. Take all of your compost tea, fill a spray bottle, and apply it to your plants’ leaves and roots.

4. Use Compost as Mulch

Compost as Mulch

Compost can be applied throughout your garden as a mulch. Prior to laying compost down as a mulch, clear away all the grass and weeds. If you don’t they will compete for the compost’s nutrients.

Once you have weeded the area, sift the compost through a screen or mesh to remove larger pieces. To avoid wasting compost, put the screen or mesh over a wheelbarrow. Spread it along the surface of the soil and avoid direct contact with any stems or roots. 

5. Lawn top dressing

Compost can be applied as a lawn top dressing on your grass. Use a rake to spread 1 to 3 inches of compost throughout the yard and then immediately water.

The best time to use top-dressing on your lawn is at the start of spring or end of fall. For a few weeks it will look like you have dirt spread over your grass, but if you keep raking it, it will disappear quickly.

As the compost is absorbed into the ground, your grass will become rich and green.


When should compost be added to the garden?

The best time to add compost to your garden is at the end of fall or beginning of spring. 

If you add compost throughout your garden at the end of fall, cover it with a  winter mulch, such as leaf clippings. By letting the compost sit all winter, all of the soil organisms will be well worked into the soil by the spring planting season.

A second option is to add compost a few weeks before the spring planting season. There isn’t a “wrong” time to add it and both application periods will be beneficial.

How do you add compost to an existing tree?

It is extremely beneficial to use compost around an existing tree as a fertilizer or mulch. Mulch can harbor artillery fungi that is found on regional wood chips. Whereas, compost does not.

Compost breaks down quicker than bark chips and other shredded wood chips, which means that the tree will more quickly absorb key nutrients.

Keep in mind when adding compost mulch around a tree to always keep it away from the stem or trunk. Apply a thick layer of compost mulch around the tree depending on the season and soil conditions.

Can too much compost hurt plants?

 Yes, too much compost can hurt your plants, especially manure-based compost.

While compost is an organic substance, too much compost can add high levels of phosphorus back into the plants.

High-levels of phosphorus make it difficult for plants to absorb iron and magnesium, which can lead to chlorophyll imbalances in the plant, which can kill it.

Final Thoughts

Compost can be added throughout your garden and in several different ways. It is a great addition to your gardening regime and one that will give you great results.

We hope that you’re now ready to add nutrient-rich compost to your existing garden beds and landscaping.

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