What is compost used for? 

Written by Ollie Wilkinson

Compost, huh, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing everything! Our go-to guide to using compost provides food for thought and your soil, digging up the dirt on the many ways you can weed out waste and grow your garden. 

How to know when compost is ready? 

Little known fact, compost was actually quite contrary Mary’s secret to garden growth. But how do you know when it’s done rotting and ready for potting? 

Compost matures a bit like teenagers, in that the longer you leave it the darker and smellier it becomes.  

Finished compost – also known as spent compost, humus, or compast-its-sell-by-date (we may have made that last one up) – is usually dark brown, crumbly and very earthy. This is the level required for compost that’s going deep into the ground to help your plants grow. This can usually take around six months to be ready. 

Unfinished compost is brighter and chunkier, and should only be used as a top layer after a month of maturing. If buried around the roots, it can damage the soil and your plants.  

Compost maturity test 

Mature compost won’t start paying into its pension or creating a savings account. So what’s the most accurate way to test its maturity? Much like the start of every great plan, for this, you’ll need a tupperware dish and some radish seeds.  

Place some of your compost in the container and throw in the radish seeds. If they start to germinate, your compost is good to go. If not, you’ll have to continue with the waiting game. 

Not got a bin or pile yet? Check out our guide on making your own compost bin!

How to use your compost 

Your compost is ready. You’re ready. And your plants are hungry for some nutrients. Now what? Here are our top ten ways to make the most of your composting efforts… 

Put waste to bed 

Compost is a plant’s protein shake, but instead of muscular gains and a funny stomach, it has another way of soiling its consumers. Compost-enriched flowerbeds contain a wealth of nutrients and nitrogen to help plants become as strong and green as the Hulk, and as bright as Bruce Banner. 

Keep your beds nice and rosy by spreading a thin layer of composted soil around the base of your flowers and plants. You know, kind of like sprinkling cheese atop a lasagne. Or, if you’re planting new shrubbery, dig a 10cm pocket of compost within the soil and tuck in the new stems or seeds. 

Mulch ado about nothing 

Keep waste and weeds at zilch with much-needed mulch. Try saying that three times in a row as quickly as you can. Mulch is made up of compostable kitchen and garden scraps, and can be laid on the top of soil to lock in moisture and lock out pesky weeds. 

Weeds are the zombies of the garden, stealing your precious plants’ water, nutrients, light and space. However, mulch not only drags waste through the mud, but also acts like a sturdy bouncer, standing at the doors of your flower beds with its arms firmly folded.  

If your compost is crisp, you’ll have monster mulch in no time. 

A bit on the side 

Compost works wonders on garden borders, which can often fall victim to sandy, heavy and soggy soil. A light 5cm sprinkling of compost around the perimeter of your green space will keep food waste on edge (literally) and give the soil structure and added goodness.  

Bark up the right tree 

Don’t beat around the bush to reduce waste. Compost around it instead! Branch out by spreading a 10cm layer of compost around the roots to ensure your trunks remain sturdy and upright. 

The added nutrients will stimulate growth, prevent disease and stave off weeds, ensuring your trees remain gloriously green and tall. 

Did you know you can also protect and feed your plants using eggshells? Read our piece on using eggshells in your garden for all the juicy deets. 

Put waste out to pasture 

If the grass is greener on the other side, you can bet your sweet bippy they’re using compost. A 3cm topdressing of compost on your lawn will give it added moisture, nutrients and microbes to ensure every blade is denser and greener than a sickly Homer Simpson. 

Thyme to treat your herbs 

Let us give you some sage advice… Compost is a pretty big dill when it comes to growing rich, healthy, tasty herbs in your garden. 

Whether you’re partial to parsley or lav’ lavender, crumble some compost around your garden and wait for those clean, green, fantastically fragrant herbs to sprout. 

Grow greens not landfills 

It’s not just herbs that love a bit of compost crumble. Fruit and veg just can’t get enough, either. The likes of carrots and potatoes love nothing more than lying back and spreading their spindly roots in those scrumptious nutrients. 

Don’t worry if you don’t have a compost bin just yet. There are other ways you can make full use of your uneaten stalks and stems. Check out our guide on how to grow vegetables from scraps for more tips. 

A lot to be done 

Not got a garden but looking for somewhere to exercise your green fingers and put kitchen scraps to good use? Allotments are an awesome place to grow your own produce and cut down on plastic packaging and waste. 

Allotments often have a wonderful community feel, where people share their own compost and gardening tips. Discover the many benefits of managing one with this guide from the National Allotment Society

Swap green fingers for green cash 

You probably know by now that we love a bit of return and reuse and recycling. But this doesn’t just apply to sustainable packaging. 

Composting reduces unnecessary food waste, but only when used to fertilise plants and gardens. If you have neither, we recommend finding someone who does. 

Selling your compost on the likes of Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace ensures your pile or bin doesn’t overflow and attract rodents. It also allows you to swap your green-fingered efforts for some lovely green cash. If you really want to ensure your compost goes to a good home, you could even donate it to a local school, allotment, community garden, or neighbour.  

Ensure waste goes to pot 

Your organic waste shouldn’t be limited to flowerbeds and borders. There’s no reason why you can’t treat your potted plants to some tasty, healthy compost, too.  

Whether you’ve got indoor or outdoor plants, a light scattering of compost is just the trick to creating strong and sturdy shrubbery. Just be sure to remove the top layer of existing soil before replenishing the pot. 

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