Written by Claire Swetlin (Compost Coordinator 2019-2021)
So you’ve made some compost. That’s exciting, but can be overwhelming if you don’t have a plan for what to do with it. Compost can be beneficial for a variety of projects and plants. Hopefully, this post can help you devise a plan and give you some ideas on what compost is good for.
Q: How do you know when your compost is ready?
A: Compost should be dark brown, or almost black. It should be fairly moist, enough that if you squeezed some in your hand, a drop or two of water would come out. It should be smooth and crumbly. Lastly, it should be very clear that there are no large food waste pieces still intact.
Q: How do I add compost to my soil?
A: If you already have perennials planted (trees and bushes that regrow during the spring but don’t die during the winter) then you can add compost like mulch around the base of the plant. If you want to plant some new annuals (plants that die in winter and need to be replanted) then you should mix soil and compost together at about a 3:1 ratio respectively.
Q: How often should I add compost to my already existing plants?
A: As with all things, too much can sometimes be a bad thing. You don’t want to overwhelm your plants with nutrients. I would suggest adding new compost to the base of your already existing plants about once per week, though adding this often or at all is an optional trick to help your plants grow.
Q: Should I let my compost sit for a bit before adding it to soil?
A: This isn’t necessary but if you have an abundance of compost and nowhere to put it, leaving it in an empty pot or tin for about 2-4 weeks can help the new compost age and strengthen the nutrients bonds.
Q: What is compost tea and how do you use it?
A: Compost tea is exactly what it sounds like, compost steeped in a bucket of water and then sifted out. This concoction has been used by gardeners for decades and people swear by it though there isn’t much scientific evidence to back up claims. It doesn’t harm your plants, but if you are spare on time, it is completely optional. You can use it as a weak fertilizer or a natural insect repellent.
Compost does 2 main things for the soil and therefore your plants. It holds water better, meaning less runoff and more long term hydration for your plants. It also adds back nutrients to the soil.
Some Ways To Use Your Compost:
Lawn Mulch: spread about 1-3 inches of compost on your lawn or a grassy area, rake it even, and then water the area. In a month or so you should see your grass growing more lush and thick.
Share it: if you don’t want or need the compost but still want to reduce your food waste, then I suggest looking for someone in your friend group, neighborhood or community who needs/wants compost and sharing with them. That way you are both benefiting.
Gardening: you can use your compost as previously mentioned above on all kinds of plants. You can add the compost to the base of trees and bushes or add it to your soil mixture when planting new things in your garden! This helps the plants retain moisture better as well as provides them with key nutrients.
Donate: if you don’t want to keep your compost, another good option is to look if a local community garden is in need of compost.
For more posts by the PICA Team, check out their blog at https://ucscpica.wixsite.com/ucscpica