I started a large compost pile.....so now what do I do with it?
My garden is still growing..... just starting to get flowers on my taters, my watermelons are the size of ping pong balls....cukes are coming along nicely also.
At what point, after harvest do I dump some of my compost on to the garden? I'm in Chicago.
I also have a long section that I've cleared against the fence of all the garbage and sticks that was left for us. It needs soil, nothing is growing, it's dying. lol Only some hostas have made the replant. Rose of Sharons...dead. moon flowers....dead. So can I dump compost on that area too and come spring I should have some nice dirt to plant in?!
I use compost in the garden, not after harvest, but during planting. I put a shovelful under each start or work it in the whole space if I'm scattering seeds.
For the other area - how shaded is it? If hostas are the only thing that's growing, it may be shady and hard for other things to grow. Compost certainly wouldn't hurt to add to any new garden area :)
If your compost pile gets working well it will be almost soil when ready to add to your garden, about 6 months of composting? Get your mix of lotsa browns (leaves, sawdust, etc) and some greens (scraps, manure, clippings, etc) going, get everything chopped in small pieces to make it go faster, some soil, maybe some worms, turn it over and sprinkle water on it now and then until it's really cold out. With luck and a good balance the pile will get warm and work quickly.
Spreading it on the garden whenever you want as a mulch/top dressing when it's not yet broken down does work for grass clippings, chopped leaves, and rabbit manure. A proper compost needs to stay in the heap a while to break down more quickly though.
I say when to spread compost is when you have the time to spread it! If you are spreading it in, say, a perennial bed I find it easiest to spread the compost (mulch, too) before the plants start growing and slowing you down tucking it around each plant. Here, that's late winter/ early spring or even earlier. Spread compost on vacant spaces immediately afterwards and it will act a weed-suppressing mulch (though not nearly so effective. Still....)
Fertility-wise I think compost is added as a top dressing after the first flush of growth. I think. I pay more attention to when I have time to spread it than to fertility since I'm not a farmer and compost isn't as concentrated a fertilizer as other substances. (It is slow-acting so it isn't as easy to overdo.)
I don't recommend adding compost to the planting holes of shrubs, trees, and perennials. The soil in the hole needs to be the same as the surrounding soil. Put the compost on the top. Work in the compost if that is your thing. I never do, I'm lazy! There are conflicting theories about whether to turn in or simply layer on top.
If your compost is pretty well done -- like soil, put it on whenever you like. If it isn't fully composted, you can just layer it on your garden, and in the new area you mentioned after your season is over. It should be in great shape for planting by spring. You can add in leaves, grass clippings, old straw, manure, etc. for more organic matter and fertility if you do it in the fall so it has time to break down.