How to Properly Harvest and Use Compost for Soil Health

Compost is an organic material that is created by combining different types of waste products, from food scraps to yard waste.

But it’s not just any waste - there are specific components that are necessary to make nutrient-rich compost.

In this blog post, I will cover exactly what you need to know to properly harvest and use compost for soil health.

Whether you’re an experienced gardener or just starting out, understanding composting can improve the quality of your soil, reduce your reliance on chemicals, and improve the quality of your plants.

Let’s learn the right techniques for compost harvesting and application.

What Compost is Made of

Compost is a mixture of organic materials that have been broken down by microorganisms to produce nutrient-rich soil. This process is known as decomposition and results in humus, which is used as compost.

The key to creating compost is to ensure the correct balance of organic matter. Nitrogen-rich materials are often referred to as ‘greens’, while carbon-rich materials are called ‘browns’. The ideal ratio of greens to browns is 1:2; for example, one part of fresh grass clippings, and two parts of dry leaves.

Many things can be used to make compost. Brown materials include dead leaves, sawdust, straw, and wood chips. Green materials include kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, and lawn cuttings. You should avoid composting meat, bones, and dairy products, as these can attract rodents and pests.

Compostable materials should be cut up into small pieces to promote quicker decomposition. Large or thick pieces of organic matter can take longer to break down. Greens can be added directly into a compost bin, while browns should be shredded first.

Understanding the nitrogen and carbon ratios is critical to the success of the composting process. Aim for a ratio of 25 to 30 parts carbon to one part nitrogen. Carbon-rich materials provide structure, while nitrogen-rich materials provide the food for beneficial microorganisms.

Getting the right ratio of browns and greens ensures that there is enough moisture in the compost pile. If the pile is too dry, the decomposition process will slow down. If it is too wet, the pile can become smelly, and the oxygen supply can be reduced.

Knowing what compost is made of is the first step in creating successful compost applications. By finding the ideal balance between greens and browns, you can create nutrient-rich soil that will nourish your plants.

Factors that Influence the Quality of Compost

Creating quality compost requires attention to detail. Several factors can affect the final product, including temperature, water content, pH level and oxygen levels. In this section, I’ll explain how to manage each one of these factors effectively.


Composting is an aerobic process that relies on the activity of microorganisms to break down organic matter. For these microorganisms to thrive, temperatures in the compost pile need to be between 135 and 160 degrees F. At this temperature, harmful pathogens and weed seeds are destroyed, and the process of composting is accelerated.

Water Content

When it comes to water, the compost pile should be kept moist but not soaked. If the pile is too dry, the bacteria and fungi living there will die, and the composting process will stop. If it’s too wet, the pile may become anaerobic, producing an unpleasant smell.

pH Level

The ideal pH level for a compost pile is between 6.5 and 7.5. At this level, the microorganisms responsible for breaking down the organic matter in the pile can work most efficiently. If the pH in the pile drops below 6.0, the composting process slows down significantly.

Oxygen Levels

Finally, oxygen levels in the compost pile need to be carefully managed. Oxygen is necessary for the aerobic microorganisms to thrive and break down materials. If the pile isn’t turned regularly, oxygen levels may drop, and anaerobic microorganisms may take over. Turning the pile every couple of weeks will promote the ideal conditions necessary for compost production.

By maintaining ideal levels of temperature, moisture, pH, and oxygen, you’ll ensure the creation of high-quality compost that will provide your soil with the nutrients it needs.

How to Harvest Compost

Harvesting your compost properly is very important in order to maximize its benefits. If you ignore proper harvesting, you may end up killing the plants instead of benefiting them. Follow these steps to properly harvest your compost:

Time to Harvest

It usually takes between six to nine months to create high-quality compost. Once it is ready, it should look dark and crumbly with a sweet, earthy smell.

Tools Needed

In order to harvest your compost, you’ll need a pitchfork and a compost sifter. A pitchfork is needed to move compost from the bin to the sifter. A compost sifter will be used to separate any chunks, sticks, or large pieces from the finer compost that can be used in the garden bed.

Removing the Compost from the Pile

It is recommended to remove the compost in sections in order to scrape off the top layer of the pile. As you start removing the compost, be sure to sift it as you go. The fine compost can be used for the garden bed and the large chunks can go back into the compost pile.

After the compost is completely harvested, You are now ready to use it for the garden bed.

Preparation of Soil for Application

When using compost in your garden, it’s important to prepare the soil properly to ensure it is evenly distributed and doesn’t clump together in certain areas. First, clear the area you want to apply the compost – make sure no weeds, grass, roots, or plants are in the way.

Next, determine the amount and type of compost your garden needs. A good rule of thumb is to use approximately one-third compost to two-thirds soil, but this ratio may be adjusted depending on your specific garden needs.

Different types of soil are better suited for compost use than others. Sandy soil benefits greatly from compost as it adds nutrients and improves water retention. Clay soils are compact and can benefit from compost by decreasing soil density. For a general garden soil blend, a mixture of topsoil with a good quality compost is a solid choice.

Finally, spread the compost evenly over the cleared area using a rake. Depending on the type of plants you want to grow, compost may be mixed into the soil or added as a layer around the plants. Covering the compost with an inch or two of mulch will storage the moisture and set everything to the growing season.

How to Apply Compost to the Soil

Once you have harvested your compost, you need to decide how to apply it to the soil. There are a few different methods you can use to apply compost to your garden.

One common method is top dressing. This involves spreading a thin layer of compost over the top of your soil. You can do this at any time, but it’s especially helpful in the spring before planting season. Top dressing improves the soil structure, provides nutrients to the plants, and helps to retain moisture in the soil.

Another method is incorporation. This involves mixing the compost into the soil. To do this, you can use a garden fork, a tiller, or a garden hoe. This method is great for adding compost to a new garden bed or for when you have a large amount of compost to use. Incorporating compost helps to improve the overall soil quality and can help to enhance plant growth.

Finally, you can also use compost to create your own potting mixes. To do this, mix compost with other ingredients such as perlite, vermiculite, and peat moss. This is a great way to not only add nutrients to your plants but also improve the water-holding capacity of your potting mix.

When applying compost, a good rule of thumb is to use about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of compost on top of your soil. You can repeat this process every few months to help maintain soil health and plant growth throughout the growing season. Remember, the quality of the compost you use can have a direct impact on your plants’ growth, so take the time to harvest and prepare your compost carefully.

Composting Tips and Tricks

Composting is an essential component of any home gardener’s routine, but it can be challenging to get it just right. As someone who has been composting for years, I have learned a few tips and tricks that can help take your composting game to the next level.

If you want to increase the nutrient content of your compost, one thing you can do is to test the soil. This can be easily done by using a soil test kit. Testing the soil can tell you what nutrients are lacking in the soil and give you an idea of what you need to add to your compost to create a more fertile growing environment.

Creating compost tea is another way to get the most out of your compost. Compost tea is a liquid that is made by steeping compost in water and then straining out the solids. The resulting liquid can be used to fertilize plants or as a foliar spray.

Finally, it is important to create a compostable material. You can easily do this by collecting kitchen scraps and yard waste such as leaves, grass clippings, and even cardboard. These materials can be added to the compost pile and will break down over time, creating a nutrient-rich soil amendment that your plants will love.

Overall, composting is an incredibly rewarding activity that can have a significant impact on your garden’s health. Following these tips and tricks can help you create compost that will lead to healthy and thriving plants, and a garden that you can be proud of.

Common Composting Mistakes

Properly harvesting and using compost in your garden can be an enriching and fulfilling experience. However, making certain composting mistakes can be detrimental to achieving your desired crop yield. Here are some common composting mistakes that you can avoid:

Overfeeding the Plants with Compost

Although compost is a great organic fertilizer, applying too much of it to your garden at once can do more harm than good. Over-feeding plants with compost will result in the accumulation of excess nutrients such as nitrogen, which is bad for crops, and may lead to nutrient burn; this is when plants become too overloaded with nutrients and suffer from stunted growth.

Ignoring the Importance of Temperature

Temperature plays a significant role in the process of composting. When the temperature in the compost bin is too low, the breakdown of organic material takes too long. On the other hand, when the temperature is too high, it can destroy the beneficial bacteria and organisms that are needed for composting. A good temperature range for composting lies between 120 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. You should monitor the temperature regularly and adjust it accordingly to optimize the composting process.

Putting in Non-Compostable Items

Including non-compostable items in your mixture can seriously harm your compost and make it unusable. These items take longer to decompose and some may even carry harmful pathogens that can infect your plants. Non-compostable materials include meat, dairy products, plastic and metals, and diseased plants.

If you avoid these common composting mistakes, it will save you time, money, and resources, and help ensure that you reap the benefits of quality compost for your home garden.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, composting is an essential component of soil health.

It is cost-effective, easy, and provides soil with essential nutrients that help plants grow.

And with the right techniques, anyone can get great results.

So what do you say?

Are you going to try composting on your own?

Or perhaps, try one of the tips mentioned here to take your composting to the next level?

Let me know in a message and share your experiences, I’d love to hear from you.

If you found this post helpful, please share it with your friends and family on social media so that others can find value in it too.

Thanks for reading!

Author: Scott Sanders


All the information on this website - - is published in good faith and for general information purpose only. Planet 997 does not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability and accuracy of this information. Any action you take upon the information you find on this website (Planet 997), is strictly at your own risk. Planet 997 will not be liable for any losses and/or damages in connection with the use of our website.

From our website, you can visit other websites by following hyperlinks to such external sites. While we strive to provide only quality links to useful and ethical websites, we have no control over the content and nature of these sites. These links to other websites do not imply a recommendation for all the content found on these sites. Site owners and content may change without notice and may occur before we have the opportunity to remove a link which may have gone 'bad'.

Please be also aware that when you leave our website, other sites may have different privacy policies and terms which are beyond our control. Please be sure to check the Privacy Policies of these sites as well as their "Terms of Service" before engaging in any business or uploading any information.

By using our website, you hereby consent to our disclaimer and agree to its terms.

Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same, but we will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated and helps us keep going!
Copyright © 2023 Planet 997