Although you may have added a blend of soil and soil mix to your raised garden bed, this might not be enough to give plants the correct nutrients they require to grow healthy. Adding compost to your soil is essential, but can you add too much compost to your raised garden bed?
You can put too much compost in your raised garden bed, which can cause your plants not to thrive. When fed too much compost, plants can become stunted, get burned, or look stressed – the leaves may start wilting.
In this article, I’ll explore what you need to know before adding compost to your raised garden bed, such as how much to apply and when to add it for the best results.
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How Much Compost Should You Put in Your Raised Garden Bed?
The amount of compost the soil in your garden bed needs varies depending on whether your garden bed is new or already established. A new garden bed will require more compost than an established one.
- For new garden beds: You should apply three inches (7.62cm) of compost to your soil and mix it into the top eight inches (20.32 cm) of the soil with a fork or spade (source).
- For established garden beds: You should apply a layer of compost that’s between a quarter-inch (0.635 cm) and one inch (2.54cm) in thickness to the soil. Mix this about eight inches (20.32 cm) into the soil with a fork or spade.
When To Add Compost to Your Raised Garden Bed
To avoid adding too much compost to your soil, it’s generally a good idea to apply compost to your raised garden bed in the spring. This is an optimal time because the compost will give plants the nutrients they require for their growing season.
Springtime is also a good time of year to apply compost if you live in a location that experiences a cooler climate, such as the northeastern region of the United States. This is because your plants have one major growing season which occurs in late spring to early fall.
However, if you live in a warmer climate, you should apply compost to your raised garden beds twice annually to cater to the two growing seasons. One occurs when it’s warm (spring) and the other when temperatures cool (fall). This enables you to grow various plants, such as vegetables, herbs, and annuals.
If you want to use compost with manure, you should apply it during the fall or winter. This is because the compost will require more time to decompose, so it will be ready for use in the spring. You can learn how to make your own compost from Composting For Dummies (link to Amazon).
You may also be interested in reading our article Is Vermicompost Better Than Manure?
Signs You’re Putting Too Much Compost in Your Raised Garden Bed
If you’re worried that you may have put too much compost in your raised garden bed, you might wonder how you can know for sure.
Your plants will display signs that they’re not healthy. Here are important ones to keep an eye out for so that you stay on top of your plant’s health.
Your Plants Look Unhealthy
When soil contains too much compost, it develops high concentrations of nutrients such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium. When these nutrients are in very high quantities, they can prevent the plants’ uptake of other nutrients, causing nutrient deficiencies (source).
You should therefore avoid applying compost only in a raised garden bed – without any soil. If your bed hasn’t been filled, you should fill it with a soil mix before adding compost. This is essential if you are looking to give your plants the correct balance of nutrients (source).
Symptoms of nutrient deficiencies in plants include:
- Holes in leaves.
- Brown or yellow leaf edges.
- Brown or yellow spots on leaves.
Your Plants Have Stunted Growth
If your plants don’t get enough of the nutrients they need or they receive too many specific nutrients, both issues can cause them to wilt or stop growing. Signs of stunted growth in plants include:
- Small leaves.
- Limp, droopy leaves.
- Leaves that fall off the plant.
Your Plants Are Burned
When exposed to too much compost, plants can become burned or scorched in a similar way to how fertilizer burns them. For example, plants can start to display:
- Yellowish-brown leaves.
- Curled leaves.
- Leaves that fall off the plant.
How To Reduce Compost in Your Raised Garden Bed
When growing plants in a small area, such as a raised garden bed, it’s easy to remove excess compost. Here’s how:
- Scoop some of the compost and soil out.
- Spread it over a larger area in your garden so it doesn’t go to waste.
- Add fresh soil to the garden bed with the correct amount of compost that we outlined earlier.
Why Compost Is Essential for Your Raised Garden Bed
While you might think you don’t necessarily need to add compost to your raised garden bed, this is a vital component of ensuring the health of your vegetables and plants. Here are some compost benefits to consider.
- Compost improves soil quality by adding nutrients to it. Soil can lack essential nutrients that plants require, so the compost can boost their nutrient content while also making these nutrients more available to plants.
- Compost attracts insects beneficial to plants. These include earthworms which aerate the soil.
- Compost discourages weed growth. Weeds will try to grow in a raised garden bed when plants are unhealthy or diseased. Keeping your plants strong and healthy enables them to ward off weed growth. They will also draw all the water, nutrients, and air they need from the soil, leaving nothing behind for weeds.
- Compost prevents pests that can cause plant disease. This is because compost nourishes plants with the nutrients they require, strengthening them against disease.
- Compost balances the soil density. If your soil is compacted, compost loosens it; if it’s loose, compost makes it denser. This helps plants grow healthier roots (source).
Adding compost to your raised garden bed is recommended to provide nutrients to your plants so they can grow and thrive. Nonetheless, applying too much compost can damage your plants or stunt their growth. Signs of too much compost in plants include:
- Burned leaves.
- Brown or yellow leaves.
- Dry, wilting leaves.
- Stunted plant growth.
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