Compost for Gardens

A Guide to Using Compost

Compost is a popular and extremely beneficial way to add nutrients to your soil and improve the overall health and quality of plants in your garden.


Finished compost should be dark and crumbly and should not resemble any of the composting original materials. Compost generally has a pleasant, earthy smell when properly finished. Insufficiently finished compost can attract pests and can damage young plants, so make sure your compost has fully decomposed before adding it to your garden beds.


The simplest way to determine if compost is finished is to have it tested in a laboratory. The report will reveal if the carbon / nitrogen reading is below 20, which is needed for good quality compost. If you’re not going to have it tested make sure that it is jet black before using it in your landscaping projects.


There are various ways to use finished compost; sprinkle compost on top of the soil or mix it into your flower and vegetable beds, gently rake compost into shrubbery beds, blend it with potting soil to refresh outdoor plants, or spread it on over the soil on your lawn to amend the soil and improve overall lawn health. Aerating the lawn is recommended when adding compost.


Adding compost to your garden improves the structure and health of your soil. Compost helps the soil to retain moisture and increases earthworm and microbial populations, which act as biological deterrents for unwanted pests. Compost will also provide a slow release of macronutrients, providing a steady supply of nutrients for your plants.


Compost - Charlottesville VaAmending Soil
Improve soil structure and nutritional content by working 1–2 inches of compost into the top 3–5 inches of soil.

For Vegetables
Use plenty of compost in your vegetable garden in the fall. Spread four inches of compost on top of the existing bed in the fall, and plan to till it into the soil in the springtime. A handful of compost added to each hole when you’re planting will give roots a boost as they begin to grow. Once plants begin to grow vigorously, you can add a half-inch layer of compost around the base of the plants. “Heavy feeder” plants like tomatoes, corn, and squash can benefit from 1/2 inch of compost monthly—the results will amaze you!

Growing Flowers
In the spring, rake and loosen the top few inches of annual and perennial beds and mix in a 1-inch layer of compost. Alternatively, you can apply a 1-inch layer of compost as a mulch in the fall to protect plant roots from freezing and conserve moisture.

Replenishing Soil Potting Soil
Even the best potting soil is eventually depleted of its nutrients as plants grow. To replenish these nutrients, add new potting soil every year. You can also make your own potting soil using two parts screened compost to one part sand or perlite.

If you have never used compost before, take advantage of our excellent ready-made compost to boost your garden and improve the quality of your landscaping. You will see the results in the beauty and produce in your gardens!