By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 8 March 2011)
To extract the finished compost, remove the bottom layer of decomposed matter. Commercial bins have a door at the bottom for this purpose. If using a compost pile, you’ll have to remove the layers on top to get at the finished compost underneath. If you have sufficient space, you can have two compost bins or piles going at the same time so that you can draw from the finished pile while the newer pile carries on decomposing.
There are several ways to use compost in your garden, including adding a layer on top, applying as a tea, or making your own rich potting soil.
Use as a top dressing
Add a layer of compost on top of the soil and mix it in using a shovel or rake. You can add up to 6 inches for a new vegetable garden and 4 for an established garden (lawns require only about half an inch).
Make compost tea
To make compost tea, add compost to a cloth or burlap bag and submerge it in a bucket or barrel of water. The ratio should be approximately 5 parts water to 1 part compost. Steep the tea for a week, stirring a few times. Then use the compost tea to water your plants. The compost in the bag can be spread over the garden or added back to the composter.
Make potting soil
You can make your own rich potting soil by mixing 1 part compost, 1 part vermiculite, and 1 part soil or peat moss. Adding some organic fertilizer can help to improve growth, as compost often does not provide sufficient nutrients on its own.