Save Water, Add Aged Compost to the Garden

Compost sidedressing

Compost sidedressingHelp your garden retain moisture for the hot summer ahead by adding plenty of aged compost to your planting beds. Aged compost—rich in organic materials—has a high water-holding capacity.

You can add compost to your garden beds in two ways: the easiest is to simply “sheet compost”, that is lay a 2-inch thick layer or sheet of aged compost across the planting beds. You can do this before or after you plant. If you are adding compost to a planted bed, simply be careful to keep the compost back from plants stems. “Burying” plant stems can cause stems to rot.

Irrigation over the course of the next weeks and months will carry the compost deep into the soil adding important nutrients to the soil.

You can also turn compost into the planting beds before you plant or at the end of the season; simply spread compost across the bed and then turn the soil over once with a spade or shovel—the depth of the blade of your spade or shovel is about 12 inches.

Compost can be used as mulch when added to beds in late spring or early summer. One or two inches of compost spread across the planting bed will inhibit soil moisture evaporation and insulate the soil from getting too warm as summer heats up.


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Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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