When to apply compost to the garden?

by Katie
(Ottawa)

In the course of answering a question about soil rotation, Scott made the comment, "Some crops benefit from applying compost every year, for example squash. Other crops like ground that received compost the year before, like tomatoes." (http://www.new-terra-natural-food.com/plant-rotation-to-minimize-soil-depletion.html)


My instinct would have been to apply compost everywhere & incorporate it into the soil in the late Fall, but of course you're going to run into areas that have late-season vegetables like carrots where that wouldn't be possible.

So would it be better to apply compost in the Spring, even though it won't have as much time to break down further before plants start going in the ground?

And notwithstanding the "when", this is the first time I've come across mention of crops that actually want you to lay off the compost for a year before they go in. Is it just tomatoes, or the whole nightshade family? And are there many others, and if so, can you pass along the names?

I'm planning my first garden for next year... to get my feet wet, so to speak, so that I can expand it to a market garden the following year (and I'm ridiculously excited!) ... so this information would be invaluable to me.

Thanks so much!

Answer

Congratulations, Katie it IS very exciting to get started on a market garden (I still get the same thrill each spring.)

re when to apply compost, if your only option is to apply it to the whole garden at once, I prefer fall to spring. Like you, I prefer to let the compost 'age' over the winter. This also helps avoid problems with possible contamination from bad bacteria coming into contact with edible parts of vegetables.

re which crops to avoid applying compost in the same season, the two that are probably most affected are potatoes (they have a greater tendency to 'scab') and carrots (can cause 'hairy' carrots).

Research I have read does suggest that tomatoes, cabbages and most root crops yield better with every-other-year application of compost. Beans, peas, corn, and squash do better with every-year application.

For example, you could apply compost to your bean plants, then the following year rotate the tomatoes into that area (without applying more compost.)

Scott K

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