Ideas & Inspiration

How to Prepare Soil for a Garden

When to Compost:

Add compost to vegetable beds as soon as the ground can be worked, or up to 2 weeks before planting. How can you tell if your soil is workable? Grab a handful and squeeze. It should crumble, not form a ball. Composted manure can be used in addition to or in place of compost.

How Much Compost to Use:

A good rule of thumb is to add 1” of compost to your veggie beds each year. But don’t worry, you can never add too much compost to your garden.


How much will you need? The following sizes cover the square footage at 1” deep:


  • 1 cubic foot bag — Covers 12 sq. ft.
  • 1.5 cubic foot bag — Covers 18 sq. ft.
  • 2 cubic foot bag — Covers 26.5 sq. ft.
  • 3 cubic foot bag — Covers 36.5 sq. ft.
How to "Dress" New or Empty Garden Beds Before Planting:
  • Spread and work in compost on an existing veggie bed.
  • If it’s a new bed or your soil is compact and hard, work the compost into the soil with a rake or cultivator before planting.
How to "Side Dress" Berry Bushes, Fruit Trees and Plants That Winter over in the Garden:
  • Gently shake a shovelful of compost around the “drip” area of a plant, or where rain or moisture naturally drip from the plant’s leaves.
  • Dress it and leave it. There is no need to work your side dressing into the soil.