It’s spring planting season, and you’re itching to get out and get your hands dirty! Adding compost to your garden is a great way to improve your soil and increase your bounty. Here are some tips to get the most out of your plot.
Testing your soil
Before you begin, it’s always a good idea to test your soil. Urban soils can have contamination issues. Testing your soil will make you aware of existing contamination and help you make decisions about interacting with your soil based on the results. Testing your soil also gives you information about the amount of organic matter and nutrients available in your soil, which can inform how you manage your soil fertility over the years.
Additional testing services
The Department of Sanitation and the NYC Compost Project produce high quality compost right here in NYC. Check out these opportunities to pick up or receive compost!
Compost Requests *Some restrictions apply.
|NYC Compost Project
Hosted by Big Reuse
|NYC Compost Project
Hosted by Lower East Side Ecology Center
|NYC Department of Sanitation|
|All requests must be for community groups or residents working on public greening projects. Compost cannot be requested for commercial use. Compost must be picked on Wednesdays from 4pm-6pm. Request form||All requests must be made by community groups or residents working on public greening projects. Compost cannot be requested for commercial or private use. Requested approved based on availability.
|DSNY regularly updates their website with givebacks happening around the city, featuring compost produced through the residential Organics Curbside Program. Check their website.|
Amending your soil
Compost is a great way to improve the health of your soil. It provides structure and nutrients for vegetable gardens, lawn applications, potted plants, and street tree beds. But no matter where you are using the compost, you want to think long term.
Chemical fertilizers contain a mixture of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium in a relatively pure form, which offers plants a quick jolt of nutrients. Whatever the plants can use is soaked up immediately, and any excess can wash away.
Compost contains the same nutrients fixed in stable organic compounds. Plants have to work a little harder to access the nutrients with the help of micro-organisms, but this allows them to gather nutrients as they need them. Since the nutrients are bound up in compost aggregates, they remain in the soil for longer periods. The result is a more controlled release of nutrients to the plants throughout the growing season and from one season to the next.
Because of this slow release of nutrients, we recommend that you add compost sparingly. You will build up the structure and health of your soil over many seasons. Here are our suggestions for compost application rates:
|Location||Type of compost||Annual Application|
|Garden plots and beds||Screened||1 inch|
|Lawn application||Screened||1/8-1/4 inch|
|Tree care||Unscreened||2 inches|
|Containers or Filling Raised Beds||Screened||1/5 of the overall volume|