There are so many reasons why you want compost in your garden. We've broken this article down into the main benefits of (and ways to use) compost in your patch!
It's all about the soil
The quality of the soil in your garden influences the health and success of your plants. If you've got rich soil that's teeming with organic life (micro-organisms and fungi), then your plants are going to have an easy time growing.
But most suburban areas are cursed with soil as stubborn and lifeless as cheap toupé. And that's where compost comes in.
First up, what is compost?
Compost is just a term used to describe decayed organic materials. When food scraps, old plants, meat, bones and anything else that was once alive breaks down, it eventually turns into a substance that looks a lot like soil.
That process can happen naturally over a long period, or you can speed it up by composting those materials.
Compost is a secret weapon against poor soils
Whether you've got poor soil to begin with or start out with great soil that loses its 'oomph' over time, compost is our #1 remedy.
Synthetic fertilisers are often bad for the environment and are quick-fix solutions. They release their nutrients rapidly in a short burst. So they might solve your problem today, but ten years from now? Well, that's a lot of money spent on fertiliser.
Compost, on the other hand, releases its nutrients into the soil slowly over time. It's jam-packed with micro-organisms that are great for your garden, so when you add it to your garden, you're inoculating your soil with organic life! Organic life = fertile soil = happy plants.
Here's just some of the things compost does for your soil:
- It helps sandy soil retain water and nutrients
- It loosens tightly bound clay or silt soil so roots can spread, water can drain & air can circulate
- It makes your soil less likely to erode, preventing spattering on plants (which spreads disease)
- Compost holds nutrients tight enough to prevent them from washing away but loose enough that plants can access them as needed
- Compost generally makes any soil lighter and easier to work with
- Compost fosters a diverse range of bacteria, fungi, insects, worms and more in the soil which supports healthy plant growth.
- Bacteria in compost breaks down minerals and nitrogen into plant-available nutrients
- Compost enriched soils have lots of beneficial insects, worms and other organisms that keep the soil well aerated by burrowing through it
And guess what? You can make compost for free right at home — take that, expensive synthetic fertilisers.
How to use compost in your garden
Hopefully, we've sold you on the total awesomeness that is compost, and now it's time to get into action.
First, you're going to need to make your own compost. We recommend composting with Subpod — our in-garden worm farm and compost system. It's simple, efficient and sits directly in your garden bed! Here's how to make compost at home from kitchen scraps.
Once you've got compost ready, here are our favourite ways to use it in the garden:
1. Prepare a garden bed with it
If you're getting ready to till your gardens' soil after winter or start a new garden bed, that's a perfect time to add compost. Add a good pile of compost in with your soil, and mix it in the bed thoroughly. It's almost impossible to overdose on compost, so be generous!
Once it's all mixed through, leave it to sit for a week or so and then get planting. You'll be shocked at the results.
2. Use it as mulch
Yep, that's right. You can use compost as a substitute for mulch! Just spread it around your plants, applying it up to 40mm deep if you like. We suggest spot-mulching at the base of your plants for an extra kick of nutrients because to cover a whole garden bed, you'll need a lot of compost.
3. Make a liquid compost fertiliser
You can make a simple liquid fertiliser from compost or worm castings quite easily! Add one part compost to three parts water, plop in a dollop of molasses to feed the micro-organisms, give it a good stir, and then leave it for 3 - 5 days. Stir the mixture a few times a day for best results.
Once it's had time to sit, feed the liquid to plants as a gentle, nourishing drink of goodness!
4. Turn it into a seedling or potting mix
Compost can be combined with other ingredients to make excellent homemade potting mixes. Watch our video tutorial!
5. Restore life to your dried-out soil
Digging compost into extremely dry soil helps to get it soaking up water again. When soil dries out, every grain becomes coated with a waxy substance that forms a 'water resistant' barrier. But compost is full of tiny micro-organisms that can break down that waxy coating!
Break up your dry soil well with a mattock or a spade, add in a mountain of compost and mix it in evenly through the bed. You can optionally add a wetting agent from a hardware store to boost the process. Then, soak the soil for 20 minutes the first time, and give it deep, regular soaks as often as possible.
There's a whole world of uses for compost in the garden. These are just some of them, but we hope it's enough to get you excited!
Since composting is a fantastic way to divert waste from landfills, it really is a no-brainer that this secret soil weapon should be an essential staple in every garden.