Ways that Compost Improves Your Fall Perennials

Topdressing your perennial plants with a layer of rich compost will improve the entire garden's overall health. Here are two ways to put compost to work for the benefit of your plots.
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Guest post by Melinda Myers
Topdressing a perennial garden with a layer of compost will improve the garden’s overall health. The organic matter is a great addition that will revive tired gardens, improve a garden’s overall health, and keep vibrant perennials healthy and blooming.


The research has shown that there are plenty of ways that compost improves your fall perennials. Topdressing your garden with compost every couple years provides most, if not all, the nutrients most perennial plants need.It feeds the soil, which in turn feeds your plants.


If your plants are mulched, pull all the mulch away from the plants and keep it handy, so you can put it back in place once you finish amending the soil.

Topdressing your perennials in the fall will boost their health and improve the garden overall.

Topdressing your perennials in the fall will boost their health and improve the garden overall.

Topdressing is the first step in the process. Simply spread a 1- to 2-inch layer of compost. I like Hsu Leaf Compost, a 100% USDA certified bio-based product, over the soil surface. Be careful not to bury the crown of your plants.

You can leave the compost sitting on the soil surface or lightly mix it into the top inch with a hand cultivator.The earthworms, ground beetles and other organisms will move it down into the soil and around the plant roots where it is needed.


The second way that compost improves your fall perennials is especially helpful for those with heavy or compacted soils. Once you've spread the compost, do a bit of vertical mulching.Using an auger bit on your cordless drill, simply drill holes into the soil between plants. Then fill the holes with compost to further boost your efforts.

This will speed up the process a bit by getting the compost closer to the plant roots and soil organisms that will help incorporate it into the soil. You will also aerate the soil at the same time.These openings in the soil allow air, water and fertilizer to penetrate the soil surface and travel to the root zone.

Now you can replace the mulch around the plants if still needed. Maintaining an inch or two of organic mulch not only conserves moisture and suppresses weeds; it also continues to improve the soil. As the organic mulch breaks down, it adds organic matter and nutrients to the soil.

Investing some time to create and maintain healthy soil goes a long way in making your garden a beautiful part of the landscape.

Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Hsu Growing Supply for her expertise to write this article. Myers’ web site is melindamyers.com.