Compost is the best and safest fertilizer you can use in your garden, an organic material that gives your plants and your soil all the nutrients they need. Whether you buy your compost or you make your own from the organic household waste you produce in your kitchen, you cannot go wrong with compost – the solution works great with any soil type and any plant variety. Here are a few things to have in mind about how to apply your fertilizer to make the most of your investment into plants as well as of the energy you put into tilling.

Understanding Tilling

Tilling is the process of turning the top layer of the soil, usually to around the depth of 12 inches or less. The tiller or other, multi-pronged tool that you use for the job will break down the soil, eliminating any clumps or crust and will help mix in your compost to ensure that it has all the nutrients that your plants will need. To make the most of the process, you need to pick the right time to till and you also need to figure out the ideal tilling depth – if you do the tilling too early in the season, when the ground is still frozen or too wet, your soil might become too hard too soon and it might lose its ability to retain water as well.

Determining the Right Amount of Compost to Spread Before Tilling

How much compost you should actually spread on your soil before tilling depends on many factors. As a general compost soil rule, a layer of 1-3 inches of compost spread evenly on the soil should be enough for vegetable and flower beds, but here are some further tips to help you determine your soil’s needs more exactly:

  • Get your soil and your compost test – taking a sample of your soil and getting it tested in a lab is a great way to know the exact composition of your soil and to figure out whether it needs more nutrients to be added. You can also get a test for the compost you have made to figure out whether its composition needs to be changed. If your soil needs more nitrogen, for example, you might have to use more egg shells or fruit rinds;
  • The texture of your soil – another way to determine whether your  soil needs more compost than usual is to touch the soil and to take some of it between your fingers. If the soil is very dry and sandy, you will need a thicker layer of compost to improve the soil’s ability to retain moisture as well as for added nutrients, so consider adding a layer of a thickness of 4-6 inches. If you have clay soil, you will need to use less compost than the 1-3 inches recommended usually to prevent any aggravation of the drainage problem posed by the presence of clay in the soil.

Applying compost that is ready to be used is very important, too – if you are making your own, be prepared that it takes about a year for the bottom layer of material in your compost bin to be suitable for being spread out on your soil.