After a couple of months of taking care of your compost pile, turning over the pile every now and then, warding off insects and pests, and keeping the pile damp, it is only natural (and you should do so) to get the most out of your compost. And this means using the compost wisely and effectively.
You will know the right time to harvest the compost when you no longer recognize the original materials that you used to make the pile. The finished compost should look more soil-like or humus-like. It is dark, loose, and smells earthy. When you harvest the compost from your pile, it would be best to spread it out and exposed it to the air. This will further dry the compost and will make it easier to use.
If you find some bigger chunks still not fully decomposed, throw it back to the next compost pile you’re going to make. One way to get the not fully decomposed material, you can use a screen or wire mesh large enough to let the compost through but small enough to screen the remaining big chunks.
As you probably know by now, compost has a lot of benefits that is why it is often encouraged among gardeners. For starters, compost helps improve the overall soil structure. This means the density and porosity of the soil is improved allowing plants’ roots to grab a hold of the soil better. The soil also becomes more resistant to erosion and runoff. Likewise, adding compost to the soil allows better water retention.
Aside from the soil structure, the macro and micronutrients compost contains provide plants with the needed minerals and nutrients to grow healthy. The soils hold in the nutrients better when compost is added to the soil. Not to mention, compost improves and stabilizes the soil’s acidity levels as well. These are but a few reasons why compost should be used by gardeners.
Let’s go back to your newly harvested compost. After removing those that did not fully decompose and after curing the finished compost, the next steps would be using what you have been brewing these past few months.
Among the most common usage of compost is as a soil amendment. What you do is add the compost to your soil and allow it to draw out the nutrients and other essential minerals for your plants to absorb. You can also spread the compost over the soil before the planting season. You can apply to selected plant surfaces if you have not enough to go around with.
You can also use your compost as mulch. Mulch is a protective layer spread over the soil to help counter the effects of the climate. You might need an ample supply of compost if you use it mulch though. To use it as mulch, you need two to six inches of compost covering the soil surfaces of plants, trees, shrubs, and exposed slopes. As a mulch, the compost will help lessen weed growth, prevent erosion, attract earthworms, and help retain water.
Another usage of compost is a potting mix. Mix the compost with sand and soil and voilà! You’ll have a great quality potting mix which you can use for your plants. A mix of 1 part sand, 2 parts compost, and 1 to 2 parts soil seem to be the general agreement for using compost as a potting mix.
Getting the most out of your compost is only natural. You worked hard creating your compost, and you should learn to reap the full benefits.