The best and most refined of organic matters is compost, which is organic matter and/or manures that have decomposed until they resemble loamy soil.
Whether you make your own compost (see the "Compost Happens: Making Your Own" section, later in this chapter) or buy it ready-made, you can add finished compost to the garden or around plants at any time. I pile a 2- to 3-inch layer annually around my plants and on my garden beds.
Why not just add raw organic matter to your garden instead of composting it? When you compost the materials first, the final product is uniform in color, nutrients, and texture; is odor free; and contains fewer viable weed seeds and potential disease organisms (depending on how it was composted). Your plants will be happy with you for treating them so well.
As gardeners have become more aware of the value of compost, more sources of it have become available. You can buy compost in bulk (back the truck right up) or bagged, depending on where you live. The following sections explain these options. For many gardeners, making their own compost is the best solution. For information, head to the section "Compost Happens: Making Your Own."
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