Nutrient-dense compost comes from organic matter that microorganisms consume and break down into dirt-like humus, which enriches and conditions garden soil. Knowing when to plant after applying compost to garden beds maximizes the availability of compost nutrients and minimizes potential plant problems.
Use the appearance of your compost to aid you in determining exactly when planting time should occur. If you have well-decomposed compost that looks like loosely textured earth and has a rich, dirt scent, then you can typically plant seeds and seedlings immediately after blending the compost with your garden soil.
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The high nitrogen levels in fresh livestock manure, a common compost ingredient, can burn plants and kill young seedlings. As a rule, plan on allowing compost that contains fresh livestock manure to age and break down in the soil at least one month before planting seeds or seedlings, advises Judy Pray, author of "Garden Wisdom and Know-How" (2010).
Develop the habit of applying compost to your garden beds in the fall, immediately after harvesting produce. This allows plenty of time (usually about six months) for the compost to break down and blend thoroughly with the soil before planting time, releasing nutrients to promote vigorous, healthy plant growth.