Your soil will benefit from compost applied at any time of year, but to get the best results, spread garden compost (or any other organic material) while the soil is moist, to retain the moisture. In practice, this usually means any time from autumn through to spring. Winter rains may wash some nutrients out of compost applied in autumn, but on the plus side, the compost will help to protect the soil structure. Also, the worms will be able to work on it during any mild periods. Applying a layer at least 5cm (2in) thick will help to suppress weeds, and in any case you won't see much benefit if you spread compost around very thinly.
Even though everywhere in the garden will benefit from a mulch of compost or other organic matter, it's worth mentioning that mulching dramatically improves the establishment of newly planted trees and shrubs.
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