Uses of Compost - Horticulture


Compost is used in horticulture in a wide range of contexts. In raised bed gardening, compost can be mixed with sand, clay, aged sawdust, and other materials to create an enriched mix for landscape beds or raised-bed gardens. Compost should be no more than 30 percent of the total mix. Use a high quality mature compost to avoid nutrient and oxygen competition with plants.

In a container garden, as in bedding mixes, compost may be a beneficial ingredient in potting media, used up to 30 percent of the total mix, depending on salinity and maturity. It is considered a partial substitute for peat moss, but generally lacks the porosity and water-holding capacity of peat so must be used in limited percentages. The nutrient content of compost can also reduce the need for supplementes chemical fertilizers, although this has to be determined in each situation.

Excavated areas around the foundation of new buildings are backfilled when construction is complete, but these planting zones may contain rubble, residues of toxic chemicals, and other undesirable substances. Removing the backfill and replacing it with a soil/compost mix will improve soil structure and give foundation plantings a healthier start.

Two or more inches of compost can be used alone or in conjunction with conventional mulch products to keep root zones cool, conserve moisture, and act as a slow-release fertilizer, provided the product is course textured and mature. For a weed barrier, double or triple the depth of compost can be used, placed on top of a thick layer of newspapers, to replace geomembrane weed barriers. This is obviously only true if the compost is weed free; many are not.

For trees and shrubs, mixes of well aged compost with the native soils can be used as backfill. Immature composts may cause settling and young root disturbance due to oxygen deprivation. Seasonally, top dress with compost to the drip line and rake into the soil.

To establish new turf areas (lawns, recreation fields, golf courses), compost can be applied prior to seeding or sodding and work into the soil. Compost can seasonally be used to top dress and may also be raked into the soil. Some turf farms also use compost, growing grass in a couple of inches of the material to prevent topsoil loss.

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