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Want to get the most out of your compost?

  • Use it fresh—compost is alive with microbes
  • Protect it with mulch or light tilling
  • Understand it

Where do you want to use your compost?

On Vegetable Gardens and Flower Beds

Sprinkle compost sparingly over your mulch layer. You can do it anytime, but during warm weather, before plants bloom, and just before a rain is best.

In autumn, empty your compost bin onto your soil and turn in anything that isn’t finished — it will compost in the soil over winter.

Tip:  During harvest, not sure what to do with all the stems and vines? Trench Compost dead plant material right into the soil.

In Containers and Raised Beds

Soil in containers and raised beds depletes more quickly, especially in extreme conditions like a windy balcony or sunny patio. Mulching with as much organic matter as you can through the growing season will help plants resist drought and protect soil from depleting.  

In containers, choose plants that will cover the soil with foliage — this is called 'living mulch.' For success year-after-year, fermented organics (Bokashi) can replenish your soil mix each spring.

In raised vegetable beds, sprinkle a few millimetres of compost on the soil every month, use shredded weeds and grass clippings as mulch, and bury dead plant material with extra autumn leaves after harvest to keep the soil rich with carbon. Mulch with autumn leaves to protect and feed the soil over winter.

Remember: Nature provides a blanket of dead plants for the soil each fall, and so should you.

In Parks and on Boulevards

You can spread your finished compost on public land.

Sprinkle your extra compost lightly onto public greenspace. You’re helping to make Edmonton greener!

Make Compost Tea

"Teas" are liquid solutions made with water. You can make soil tea, manure tea or compost tea. Tap water is fine, but rain water is better, and you can even use aquarium water.

Fill a pail half to two-thirds full of finished compost and add water. Stir it well and use it to lightly water plants around the garden. It’s a great way to make a little compost go a long way.

You can let your tea "steep" for several hours or days, but stir it briskly twice a day so it stays fresh. With research and practice, you can adjust your recipe to grow better crops or correct soil imbalance.

"Brews" are teas that have been handled in a way that creates a solution that provides many benefits to plants. These liquids are actively aerated in a special "brewer".

A brewer can be made with a large bucket and air pump

The quality of your brew will depend on the quality of your compost. Poor compost will produce poor brews every time.

Restore Depleted Soil

Edmonton's soil is generally clay—made up of finely textured rock. When our soil contains the right amount of organic matter, it is great for growing food. Soil that runs out of organic matter becomes depleted and then compacts. Depleted clay soil feels hard underfoot or like digging into concrete.

The best way to ruin our soil is to pull up roots, remove detritus, and leave soil bare.

To lighten our clay soil, incorporate carbon-rich organics (Browns) with one-time rototilling or double digging. Autumn leaves, clippings, twigs and small branches, coffee grounds, sawdust — just about anything you have on hand. Follow that up with a layer of mulch, a centimetre of finished compost, and water lightly.

Compost Crops are another way to build deep, rich soil.  Between your rows, plant grasses (deep roots to bust clay layers), cover crops (broad leaves to shade soil), and legumes (Nitrogen fixers).  As your desired plants grow, cut these crops back and let the tops fall on the soil.  Green mulch feeds the bacteria that will provide Nitrogen to your plants.

Mulch protects the soil from sun and wind and prevents a layer of "dust mulch" (dead soil) from creating a crust that keeps rain from soaking in and leads to erosion.  That's right, no more hoeing.

Remember: When restoring soil, take care to not add too much compost. Browns are the soil builders.

Learn more about soil science on this PennState U page.

Using Unfinished Compost

In fall, bury everything in your garden and let it finish over winter. You’ll reduce the possibility of your bin filling up by spring.

Spring isn't a good time to use unfinished material, but small amounts can be dug into soil while transplanting mature plants (not seedlings).

Remember: Unfinished material may attract animals so hold it in a bin under a layer of Browns. Leaving rotting material in the open can harm wildlife and cause a mess.

Moving and want to take your bin along? Spread unfinished material (not too deep) between plants, turn it into the topsoil, and cover with finished compost or mulch.

Remember: Avoid using unfinished compost around young plants or within 5 cm of woody stems.

For More Information

Our staff and volunteers are ready to answer your questions or even visit your yard to help you compost better.

Title The Compost Doctors



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