Can You Add Compost After Planting? Everything You Need To Know

Can you add compost after planting? Yes, you absolutely can! In this article, we’ll delve into the world of post-planting compost application. It’s not just possible; it can be a game-changer for your garden and crops. Let’s explore the benefits, methods, timing, and more.

Benefits of Adding Compost After Planting

Here’s why you might want to consider adding compost to your soil after your plants are already in the ground:

1. Improved Soil Fertility and Structure

Compost is a powerhouse of organic matter. It enriches the soil with essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. This nutrient boost can significantly benefit your plants.

2. Enhanced Nutrient Availability

Compost acts as a slow-release fertilizer. It gradually releases nutrients, ensuring your plants have a steady supply throughout their growth cycle.

3. Better Moisture Retention

Compost helps soil retain moisture, reducing the need for frequent watering during dry spells. It’s like nature’s water-saving secret.

4. Weed Suppression

A layer of compost can act as a natural weed barrier, keeping those pesky intruders at bay. Less weeding means more time to enjoy your garden.

5. Reduced Soil Erosion

Compost improves soil structure, making it less prone to erosion. This is especially important if you’re dealing with sloping terrain.

How to Add Compost After Planting

Now that you know the perks, let’s dive into the methods of adding compost after your plants are already settled in.

Topdressing Method

  • Step 1: Spread a layer of compost evenly over the soil surface.
  • Step 2: Avoid direct contact with plant stems to prevent rot or disease.
  • Step 3: Water gently to help the compost settle into the soil.

Incorporating Compost into the Soil

  • Step 1: Create furrows or holes around your plants.
  • Step 2: Add compost into these furrows or holes.
  • Step 3: Gently mix the compost with the soil.
  • Step 4: Water to help integrate the compost.

Mulching with Compost

  • Step 1: Apply a layer of compost as mulch around your plants.
  • Step 2: Maintain a thickness of 2-3 inches.
  • Step 3: Replenish the mulch as needed.

When and How Often to Add Compost

The timing and frequency of compost application depend on your specific plants and soil conditions. Here’s a general guideline:

Plant TypeTimingFrequency
VegetablesEarly spring or fallAnnually or biannually
PerennialsSpring or fallAnnually
Annual FlowersSpringAnnually
Trees and ShrubsEarly spring or fallEvery 2-3 years

Remember, these are general recommendations. Your soil’s condition and your plant’s needs may vary.

Real-Life Example

Let’s take a look at Sarah’s vegetable garden. She’s been adding compost to her soil every spring for the past five years. The result? Lush, healthy crops that require less synthetic fertilizers and minimal pest control. Sarah’s tomatoes are the talk of the neighborhood!

What to Put in the Compost?

Let’s dive into what you can put in your compost pile to create nutrient-rich compost for your garden. Here’s a list of compostable materials:

Kitchen Scraps:

  • Fruit and vegetable peels
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags (remove staples if any)
  • Eggshells (crushed for faster decomposition)
  • Stale bread and grains
  • Nutshells (avoid walnut shells, which can inhibit plant growth)

Yard Waste:

  • Leaves
  • Grass clippings (in moderation, to avoid matting)
  • Weeds (if not gone to seed)
  • Plant trimmings (cut into smaller pieces)
  • Straw or hay
  • Small branches and twigs (chopped or shredded)


  • Shredded newspaper or cardboard (avoid colored or glossy paper)
  • Wood ash (in small amounts)
  • Fireplace or woodstove ashes (only if they’re from clean, untreated wood)
  • Dryer lint (from natural fibers)

Avoid These in Your Compost:

  • Diseased plants
  • Pet waste (unless using a specialized pet waste composter)
  • Meat, bones, and dairy products (they can attract pests)
  • Greasy or oily materials
  • Invasive weeds
  • Coal or charcoal ashes

Remember, maintaining a balance of green (nitrogen-rich) and brown (carbon-rich) materials is key to successful composting. This balance ensures proper decomposition and prevents unpleasant odors. Happy composting!


In conclusion, adding compost after planting can be a fantastic strategy to boost your garden’s health and productivity.

Whether you use the topdressing method, incorporate compost into the soil, or mulch with it, the benefits are clear: improved soil fertility, enhanced nutrient availability, better moisture retention, weed suppression, and reduced soil erosion. Just remember to consider your plant type and soil condition when deciding on the timing and frequency of compost application. Happy gardening!