Unlike the air we breathe or the water we drink, soil is often overlooked as an essential element in a balanced, sustainable environment. But healthy soil is critical for good air and water quality and the health of our lawns and gardens. In the Pacific Northwest, the top layer of soil is thin. And in many yards, construction and years of neglect have removed any trace of healthy soil, leaving only poor soil behind. Learn how you can improve your soil and how composting can restore soil to make plants grow and yards healthy.
Compost is a natural organic material that is produced when leaves, plant residue, grass clippings and other yard waste break down over time. Learn how to use compost.
Organic materials decompose in nature to feed soil and make it healthy. You can imitate nature in your own yard by composting your yard waste and kitchen waste. Compost is used as a soil amendment rather than a fertilizer because its nutrients become available slowly. Worm castings, is a nutrient rich top dressing and soil amendment, which provide nutrients for your plants in a form the plants can use as needed. Apply two to three inches of worm castings to your soil as a top dressing in small areas of your garden to feed the plants and nurture their growth.
You can buy compost and worm castings or make your own. Buy bagged compost and worm castings at local home improvement, nursery and garden stores.
Benefits of Composting
How and where should you use compost?
Mix in organic matter with existing soil before planting perennials or lawns, each time garden beds are replanted and when dividing perennials or repotting container plants. Sandy soils need more compost than do clay soils.
How much compost should you use?
Amounts vary for compost use, and it is possible to use too much. Below are some general guidelines based on 100 square feet of planting area. Check with your local nursery for specific directions.
For very poor, unhealthy lawns, you may want to consider starting over. For a list of local laboratories that can test the amount of sand, silt and clay in your soil, call the Washington State University/King County Extension at 206-205-3100.
Updated: Apr. 16, 2013