Compost is good, right? Can you actually use too much of it? We’ll tackle this question and provide some remedies if you’re a bit too heavy-handed with your beloved compost.
Can you add too much compost to your soil: It is hard to add too much compost to your soil, so you don’t have to be too worried. Just make sure you blend your compost into your soil so that it doesn’t sit on top of the ground. Compost is often very high in nitrogen, so if you have plants that don’t do well with too much nitrogen, you might want to add less compost to these areas.
What is NPK?
NPK is a shortened form of three periodic symbols that represent nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. If you purchase any sort of chemical fertilizer, you will see three numbers, which indicate the ratio of these three elements.
While different plants require a different ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, you don’t have the luxury of tailoring your compost to specific plants. Therefore, if you have plants with very specific needs, your compost might not be meeting them.
Compost should be a mixture of brown organics, such as dead leaves, and green organics, such as vegetable scraps. Once they all break down, you should have a compost that has about five times as much nitrogen as phosphorus and potassium.
This ratio is fine as you will be mixing your compost into your soil. However, if you don’t mix enough soil in with your compost or don’t add more phosphorus or potassium for plants that really need these elements, then your garden may suffer.
How much compost do I mix with the soil?
For every square foot of soil already in your garden, try to add two square inches. This should be done at least twice a year so that you can replenish the nutrients your plants take from the soil.
Most households don’t produce enough compost to overfull your garden, so there is little to worry about adding too much. Still, look for health changes in your plants as this will be an indicator if they are getting too few or too many nutrients from your soil and compost mix.
Do you mix compost into the soil or put it on top?
It is always best if you can mix your compost into your soil rather than just spreading it on top. This is important for a few reasons.
First, while your compost should be broken down, there may still be small parts of it that need more time. Burying your compost will create a warmer environment that can finish off the breaking down elements further.
Secondly, remember that a lot happens with a plant below the surface. The vast network of roots can spread out and get pretty deep. These roots will be encouraged to grow deeper if there are more nutrients further down in the soil, which in turn will make the plant stronger.
Finally, compost is fairly light and airy. When you dig up your garden and add compost, you are helping to make soil that is less dense. This then makes it easier for your plant roots to move and grow.
Benefits of mixing compost into your soil
Compost has a lot of airiness to it and when you dig up your garden to add it, you further increase the loftiness of your soil. Dirt that is less compact leads to healthier, larger plants, as their root systems can grow more freely.
All soil will need more nutrients as your current plants continue to deplete what is in the ground. While you can purchase chemical fertilizers, having an all-natural route is a better choice.
With compost, you are in charge of what goes into it. You can ensure that there are no pesticides, and no fungus, and it is completely organic.
Less yard waste
With any size of garden, there will be yard waste. Add in the natural activities of a kitchen, and you can produce a lot of food waste.
Compost takes what would traditionally go to a landfill and redirects it. Composting is a win for everyone.
How to mix compost into your soil
The best and most efficient time to add compost to your soil is in the spring. At this time, your garden is usually in transition and if you are growing vegetables or annuals, your garden won’t have any plants yet.
Take a shovel and start by digging up the top layer of your current garden. You want to dig up at least a foot of the soil.
This initial process will help turn over any dead plants from the previous year and will also prevent your soil from becoming too compact.
Once you have soil that is loose, you can then start adding your compost. The total amount will be based on how much compost you have. However, try to aim for at least two inches of new compost to your already existing soil.
Take your shovel and dig up the area again. During this process, the compost will start to naturally mix into your garden. You can then use a rake to smooth the surface out.
If you have perennials, adding compost is important but also a bit trickier. You can’t simply start digging up the area because you won’t know where the roots of your current plants are.
It’s better to use a small trowel as you can still dig up the soil around your plants but can be more specific about where you do so. Then, add smaller amounts of compost around the area.
Because you are not adding as much compost in the ground in this method, you can repeat the process every few months.
Adding compost to your garden is an excellent, all-natural way of increasing the nutrients of your garden. While it is not very often that you add too much compost, it can be high in nitrogen, so you want to offset this for plants that need more phosphorus and potassium.