Compost in Vegetable Gardens

Composting and vegetable gardening go together like bread and butter. The compost pile absorbs most of the scraps, weeds, trimming, and kitchen scraps from the vegetable garden, then gives it back as finished compost.

The highest-quality vegetables are grown quickly, without stress of any kind. Besides cooperative weather, this requires the best soil you can create. Compost improves any soil as soon as you add it, and continues improving it for the next several years. The benefits of compost are additive—your garden soil just keeps getting better and better as you add more.

Compost can be added in three ways. The first is to dig it into the soil whenever you turn over the ground. Spread 1 to 3 inches on the soil before you till it. The second way is to use the compost as a mulch. Compost is loose and fluffy enough to prevent weed growth and do all the other jobs mulches do, then it breaks down and is absorbed into the soil to improve it. The problem with compost mulches is that you have to renew them frequently—they don’t last long.

The third way to add compost is to make compost “tea”. This is a liquid infusion made by suspending a bag of compost in a barrel of water for a few days. Nutrients leach out of the compost into the water, making a gentle fertilizer that is an excellent way to start off transplants or seedlings. Many gardeners keep a gunny sack of compost in a barrel of water at the edge of the garden, ready for use at any time.