Last week, I observed that it was more important to use organic mulch around the plants on your property than to depend only on compost to build the soil. The organic matter is reduced to something called humus, which offers benefits very similar to compost and is already spread throughout the soil. That left the question: Does that mean I don’t have to use any compost at all? My precise answer was, yes and no.
I think of compost as just another valuable tool I use in certain ways in caring for my property. You can make your own compost, but unless you have a lot of free time, I don’t think it is worth the effort. I buy compost in 40-pound bags. My preference is Organimax because it is not only high quality non-manure compost but the company adds beneficial microbes.
One common mistake folks make is to use more compost on a job than is really needed or useful. A single handful of compost goes a long way to benefit the soil. If you use too much, you do no harm to plants, but why waste the money?
So here are the situations where I think yardeners should use some compost.
Always add a handful of compost in all holes in which you are going to place a plant whether it be a little seedling or a 4-foot shrub. This modest amount of compost is very helpful for any plant in stress from being planted in the soil.
If you have surface roots under some trees, you are wise to mix soil and compost half and half and just barely cover the roots. This slows down the emergence of more surface roots.
If you have no access to chopped leaves for mulching the lawn, you can use a mix of Canadian sphagnum peat moss and compost at a 2 to 1 ratio or a 3 to 1 ratio and get almost the same benefits. All the lawn needs is 1/8 of an inch of this mixture every fall.
If you prefer to use bark chips or chunks as mulch, then adding a layer of compost before you spread the bark chips will speed up the decomposition of the mulch so it becomes food for the soil food web.
Now, if by July, you still have some compost in the tool shed, use it. You can spread it under any and all plants on your property. If you can treat only half the plants, so be it. Most garden centers have really good sale prices for compost in October and November so you can stock up for next year.
There is a place for some compost in the yardener’s shed. However, using as much organic mulch as you can is your road to a better looking landscape that takes less and less time to manage each year.