Gardeners with access to manure will most likely reserve their compost for use as a special fertilizer for favored plants. It is applied as a side dressing during times of peak nutrient demand, or used to amend the soil at the spot where transplanted crops will be set.
Those whose gardens depend on compost and soil-building cover crops for their fertility should spread it more generally on the beds, just before planting, at a rate of two to three bushels per hundred square feet. That is 100 to150 pounds of compost, or about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds per square foot. A well-made compost pile measuring four feet square at the base and four feet high will contain sixty-four cubic feet and weigh about a ton, which should be enough compost to fertilize a garden of up to two thousand square feet. The same size pile could help make a smaller garden into a superproductive plot virtually overnight.