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Monday, December 27, 2010

Got Compost: Green: it’s not just for Christmas!

Got Compost: Green: it’s not just for Christmas!: "OK. The presents are opened; the remnants of that holiday meal are just waiting to be discarded. Wrapping paper and cardboard – crumpled and..."

Green: it’s not just for Christmas!

OK. The presents are opened; the remnants of that holiday meal are just waiting to be discarded. Wrapping paper and cardboard – crumpled and stuffed into garbage bags – is reduced to a faint reminder of the recent festivities.

Does this mountain of wasted packaging give you a twinge of guilt? If so, you’re becoming more environmentally responsible and you’ll want to look into reducing this load. What’s the solution? Recycling! And that means your live Christmas tree too!
"The City will begin its citywide curbside collection of Christmas trees Monday, Jan 3rd through Friday Jan 7th ", said Bob Engel of Engel & Gray, Regional Compost Facility in Santa Maria. "Trees will be processed, along with regular green waste, into nutrient rich Harvest Blend Compost to be used as a soil amendment for landscape and agriculture".
Engel & Gray asks that you properly prepare your Christmas tree for recycling: please remove all ornaments, tinsel, and stands. Trees with stands and flocked trees will not be accepted and cannot be recycled. Place your Christmas tree on the curb, at least three feet away from your trash container on your regularly scheduled collection day.Recycling is the environmentally responsible way to dispose your live Christmas tree. Sending them to the landfill is a waste of natural resources. Transforming fresh trees into compost, which is used to make healthy soil and grow more trees, is the perfect way to “Complete the Cycle”.
More Holiday Waste Prevention Tips
You can help reduce the amount of waste generated in Santa Barbara County by taking a few of the following simple steps:
- Flatten, save, and reuse gift boxes, wrapping paper, bows and gift bags;
- Buy cards and wrapping paper made with recycled paper;
- After receiving new gifts, donate old items to a local charity or thrift store;
- Save and reuse holiday decorations (and gift bags) for future years;
- Cut up brown paper grocery bags to wrap parcels for mailing;
- Use comics, old posters, and shopping bags to wrap presents;
- remember: Styrofoam can NOT be recycled. Offer packing peanuts to local private mailing stores. Some companies are using starch based “compostable peanuts” that will dissolve in water or compost piles. Test peanuts by holding a few under running water – if they’re biodegradable, they’ll dissolve.
Now that you’ve recycled that mountain of organic materials, you’re on your way to a brighter, less cluttered New Year. Naturally!
for more info visit

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Got Compost: A New Year! Resolve to Keep it Clean

Got Compost: A New Year! Resolve to Keep it Clean: "We've had an unusual amount of rain recently, which is both good news and bad news. Restoring depleted water supplies is alw..."

A New Year! Resolve to Keep it Clean

We've had an unusual amount of rain recently, which is both good news and bad news. Restoring depleted  water supplies is always a good thing, but how about the bad? Have you thought about the unexpected negative effects this rainfall may provide our lakes and streams? How on earth can organic yard waste contaminate bodies of water? On the Central Coast, rain flows across lawns or hard surfaces such as rooftops, paved areas, and bare soil. As it flows, this runoff water carries sediments, leaves, grass clippings, litter, and other landscape waste into streets and gutters leading to storm sewers. Unlike household wastewater, stormwater runoff receives almost no treatment. As a result any particles that enter the storm drain will probably end up in a stream or lake.

We have a problem when excess nutrients allow the growth of algae and rooted plants in lakes and streams. Too much algae in the water can use up valuable oxygen, kill fish, create bad odors, toxin production, and ugly surface scum.  Too many rooted aquatic plants can clog boat props, hamper fishing, pollute beaches and limit fish growth. Although plant material and nutrients slowly build up in lakes and streams, a neighborhood or community with poorly managed yard waste practices can be a major contributor to the problem and cause unnecessary degradation of lakes and streams.
What is Landscape Waste?
Sources of landscape waste include grass clippings, leaves, tree and shrub trimmings, organic mulch, and plant materials from vegetable and flower gardens. By weight, grass is the largest component averaging half of all yard waste. Leaves and brush each provide nearly one quarter. Other landscape wastes add less than 10 percent. On average, nearly 200 pounds of yard waste is produced per person each year.
Managing Landscape Waste. Controlling organic waste and reducing potential contamination of surface water can be accomplished in several ways. One way to control landscape waste is through source reduction. Amending soil with compost, grasscycling and lawn top dressing will reduce large amounts of landscape waste.
Grasscycling is the natural recycling of grass clippings by leaving them on the lawn when mowing. Leaving grass clippings saves time, money, and protects the environment. Mowing takes less time since bagging and disposal aren’t involved. The clippings add beneficial organic matter and nutrients to soil. This in turn reduces fertilizer and water needs, which can minimize nutrient runoff entering storm drains. Be sure to cut grass when the surface is dry, keep mower blades sharp and never blow, sweep or hose clippings onto the street.
Compost benefits
Amending heavy clay soils with compost improves water infiltration and drainage by improving soil structure. Compost also absorbs water and improves the water and nutrient holding capacity of sandy soils. To conserve moisture it is essential to have soil with good water retention. In addition to improving soil structure, decomposing compost will slowly release plant nutrients. Check out Google Maps for a Harvest Blend dealer near you.
Lawn Top dressing
Topdressing the lawn is the process of adding a layer of compost to the lawn surface. Top dressing benefits the lawn as it increases soil quality, adding nutrients and oxygen to plant roots. Sandy soils will be able to retain moisture better, and so the lawn will be more resistant to drought. Clay soils will drain better, thus improving root development. Another benefit of top dressing the lawn is that it will help to even out any lumps and bumps on an uneven lawn, making the surface safe for play. Top dressing also stimulates the grass to produce new shoots, resulting in denser grass cover, which helps combat the onset of weed growth.
Top dressing with aeration: aerating a lawn before top dressing will allow nutrients in the compost to reach the soil. This is the best treatment for hard, compacted soils. Professional aerators may be rented from equipment supply centers.
Using Landscape Waste as Mulch
Using an organic mulch can help gardens in many ways. Mulch reduces weeds by cutting off their oxygen, so they’re unable to grow. Mulch also maintains consistent moisture conditions in gardens. Water loss through evaporation is decreased and soil erosion is decreased by reducing the effect of heavy rainfall. Soil temperatures are modified by mulch. And last but not least organic mulch adds nutrients and humus to the soil as they decompose.
Tree and shrub trimmings are another source of yard waste. These materials are a greater challenge since they are woody and don’t break down easily. They need to be shredded or chipped for quicker decomposition and to reduce waste volume. Chippers and shredders may be available to rent at local landscape supply centers, so give ‘em a call. A 2- to 3-inch layer of shredded bark provides good weed control. Wood chips are slower to decay than shredded bark and can be used for pathway material in gardens. 
Limiting Landscape Waste
The best way to deal with landscape waste is to limit its production in the first place, or at least produce as little as possible. Choose trees and shrubs with their full growth in mind. Plants that need little or no pruning don’t produce much landscape waste. Sound yard waste management will benefit the landscape as well as surface and groundwater resources. No matter where you live, the size of your home, or the amount of time and money invested in the yard, everyone can do something to improve or maintain water quality.
Here are a few ways we can help insure clean water and a healthy environment through positive yard waste management.
  • Add Harvest Blend Compost once or twice a year to build healthy soil and increase nutrients in the soil.
  • Mow often enough to leave grass clippings on the lawn.
  • Sweep grass clippings off of paved areas. Place them on the lawn or in a compost pile.
  • Keep fallen leaves out of the street gutter or ditch, using them around the yard as practical or composting them.
  • Do not dump yard waste down a storm drain or near surface water.
  • Plan your landscape with the environment in mind, reducing intensely maintained areas.
  • Recycle organic waste through sound composting practices and mulching.
  • Mulch annual and perennial gardens with yard waste compost.
  • Use organic mulch to suppress weeds, conserve soil moisture, and reduce soil erosion.
Have questions or concerns about compost use? Visit our website for more info. Naturally!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Got Compost: Dreaming of a Green Christmas? Quit dreaming - it'...

Got Compost: Dreaming of a Green Christmas? Quit dreaming - it'...: "The most wonderful time of year? Maybe. Trashiest time of the year? No question. Boxes, Styrofoam, packaging, wrapping paper, disposable pl..."

Dreaming of a Green Christmas? Quit dreaming - it's possible!

The most wonderful time of year? Maybe. Trashiest time of the year? No question.

Boxes, Styrofoam, packaging, wrapping paper, disposable plates, cups and utensils, bottles, cans and food waste - our trash bins overfloweth. But there are ways we can minimize the amount of waste we produce. Mainly, remember the simple phrase "reduce, re-use, recycle" - and they're in that order for a reason.
Reducing what we buy and consume will have the greatest impact on the environment. That includes the number and type of gifts we purchase and how we acquire them, as well as careful menu planning related to the number of actual guests expected. Look at your trash from a fresh point of view. Getting rid of one bag of trash this season may seem like small potatoes in light of America's mountain range of landfills, but if every household filled one fewer bag, imagine the difference we could make.

Meal planning: reduce before that holiday meal - greening up usually takes a little extra time and thought, but it’s well worth the effort. Here are two options for “waste reduction”:

Casual option: Look for compostable tableware and bags – they may cost a little more than the run of the mill plastic stuff, but you’ll be “Completing the Cycle” by re-using recycled materials. And don’t throw the compostable items in the trash. Does your community collect food waste? If so, be sure to place your compostables in the food waste bin. It may look like trash, but these are valuable natural resources that can and should be recycled into compost. Note: paper plates and cups advertised as biodegradable are made to degrade in a commercial composting facility (read the fine print on the package). Added to a small, home compost pile, they may take many months to degrade.
For more info on Compostable Events and Food Waste Recycling:

Formal option: A meal served on china surrounded by silverware, glasses and cloth napkins will take longer to clean up than disposable dishes and plastic ware (taking labor to buy them, and time and fuel to drive to the store). But china and glass are classier, and you can recruit guests to pitch in after dinner – put on your favorite Christmas tunes and the time will fly.

Tips for a Greener Christmas:
Live trees provide habitat for critters, are a renewable crop, and when grown locally, create local jobs. Making an event out of visiting a tree farm to cut a tree, have a wagon ride and drink hot cocoa can be a pleasant family memory. Note: don’t send your trees to the landfill – recycle ‘em! To properly prepare your Christmas tree for recycling, make sure to remove all ornaments, tinsel, and stands. Trees with stands and flocked trees won’t be accepted and can’t be recycled. Trees over six feet should be cut in half. for more info on Christmas tree recycling and scheduled pick up in your area.

An artificial tree re-used for 10 or 20 years would be cheaper and result in less consumption than buying a live tree every year. However, it can't be recycled and is not biodegradable, so when thrown out, it will be a landfill lump.

Economics can be a challenge of going green. Green goods sometimes cost more, but on the other hand, the prices of trash disposal, pollution and energy continue to rise. Complete the cycle by re-using recycled materials and you’ll be helping your community (and have a Greener Christmas) - naturally!

For more info: visit

And what about trees? Even environmentalists debate whether a live-cut or artificial tree leaves a smaller footprint. Designate a recycling bin for guests to use, and asking them to bring containers for leftovers. Remember to buy local!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Got Compost: Improve Soil Structure - protect your landscape du...

Got Compost: Improve Soil Structure - protect your landscape du...: "At this time of year we need to make sure our garden soil is in the best shape possible. Cold temperatures and rain can destroy plant life,..."

Improve Soil Structure - protect your landscape during the winter months

At this time of year we need to make sure our garden soil is in the best shape possible. Cold temperatures and rain can destroy plant life, especially if soil is compacted, sandy or clay based. It isn’t easy to change a soil's basic texture, but you can improve its structure--making clay more porous, sand more water retentive--by adding amendments.

Compost is the most nutrient rich, readily available soil amendment you can choose to improve soil conditions. It’s jam packed with beneficial microbes tired, sandy and compacted soils are lacking. The organic matter opens up the soil structure, increasing oxygen to plants’ root systems, helping them grow strong.
Compost is composed of the decaying remains of plants and animals. As it decomposes, organic matter releases nutrients that are absorbed by soil-dwelling microorganisms and bacteria. The combination of these creatures' waste products and their remains, called humus, binds with soil particles. In clay, it forces the tightly packed particles apart; drainage is improved, and the soil is easier for plant roots to penetrate. In sand, it lodges in the large pore spaces and acts as a sponge, slowing drainage so the soil stays moist longer.

Though the particular organic amendment you use is often decided simply by what's available at the best price, many experts favor compost over all other choices. Harvest Blend Compost is simply your best choice! It’s registered with the United States Composting Council Seal of Testing Assurance program (STA) – a compost testing, labeling and information disclosure program designed to give you the information you need to get the maximum benefit from the use of compost. Only the highest quality compost is awarded the STA label. It’s your guarantee of excellence!

Adding amendments: when and how
New beds for landscape plants should be amended before any plants go into the ground. For long-term benefits, choose an amendment that breaks down slowly. Shredded bark and peat moss hold their structure the longest, taking several years to decompose. It's a good idea to include compost in the mix as well; though it breaks down in just a few months, it bolsters the initial nutrient supply available to soil microorganisms--and these will contribute humus to the soil, improve soil aeration, and help protect your new plants from some diseases.

In vegetable and flower beds: amend the soil before each new crop is planted. Compost is preferred by most gardeners, since they dramatically improve the soil's structure, making it hospitable to the fine, tiny roots of seedlings. Un-amended soil may dry into hard clods that small roots cannot penetrate, and plants may grow slowly, be stunted, or die as a result. Compost will break down after several months--so be sure to add more before you plant each crop.

To add amendments to unplanted beds, spread the material evenly over the soil, then work it in by hand or with a rototiller to a depth of about 6-8 inches. If your soil is mostly clay or sand, spread 4 to 5 inches of amendment over it; once this is worked in, the top 8 inches of soil will be about half original soil, half amendment. If the soil is loamy or has been regularly amended each season, add just a 2- to 3-inch layer of amendment; you'll have a top 8-inch layer of about three-quarters original soil, one-quarter amendment.

Permanent or semi-permanent plantings of trees, shrubs, or perennials benefit from soil amendment too, but you need to do the job without damaging plant roots. It's often sufficient simply to spread the amendment over the soil surface as mulch; earthworms, microorganisms, rain, and irrigation water will all carry it downward over time, gradually improving the soil's top layer. If the plant isn't a shallow-rooted type (that is, if it doesn't have many roots concentrated near soil level), you can speed up the improvement process by working the amendment into the top inch or so of soil, using a three-pronged cultivator.

Where the climate is generally mild and winters are rainy, amend the soil in established plantings annually after fall cleanup. In cold-winter regions with spring and summer rainfall, do the job as you begin spring gardening.

For more info, visit If you have questions or concerns about compost and it’s uses, we’re happy to help. Naturally!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Got Compost: Foodscraps ► Compost - Santa Barbara Successfully...

Got Compost: Foodscraps ► Compost - Santa Barbara Successfully...: "On Saturday morning, Nov. 14, the City of Santa Barbara welcomed home a load of dark brown, nutrient rich compost – demonstrating the succes..."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Got Compost: Foodscraps ► Compost - Santa Barbara Successfully...

Got Compost: Foodscraps ► Compost - Santa Barbara Successfully...: "On Saturday morning, Nov. 14, the City of Santa Barbara welcomed home a load of dark brown, nutrient rich compost – demonstrating the succe..."

Foodscraps ► Compost - Santa Barbara Successfully Completing the Cycle!

On Saturday morning, Nov. 14, the City of Santa Barbara welcomed home a load of dark brown, nutrient rich compost – demonstrating the success of the city’s Foodscraps Composting Program. We say “welcomed home” because the ingredients began their journey in Santa Barbara, where they were collected by Engel & Gray, Inc. and recycled into compost @ their Regional Compost Facility in Santa Maria. Santa Barbara Environmental Services hosted this celebration in honor of the program’s one year anniversary, and the donated compost was there to illustrate the end product of the participants’ recycling efforts.
Photo: SB resident having bucket filled with Harvest Blend Compost, donated by Engel & Gray, Inc.

Who participated?
114 local businesses and 21 schools (8000 students) have contributed the success of this program, separating their food scraps for composting. In the last year Santa Barbara has diverted over 3.5 million pounds of waste from the landfill. Many of us think of food waste as just that -waste. But these vegetable culls, meat trimmings, coffee grounds, etc., are really a valuable resource - a vital component in compost.

During the past year Engel & Gray has collected and transported Santa Barbara's foodscraps to the Regional Compost Facility in Santa Maria. After blending the food waste with additional organic materials (feedstocks) it’s placed in piles, called windrows. The piles are carefully monitoring, insuring a quality product, and in a matter of months the raw organic materials are transformed into quality Harvest Blend Compost. Adding compost to soil will increase soil’s microbial activity and water holding capacity, improve oxygenation, create a healthy root system, bind and degrade harmful chemicals and destroy pathogens.

The ultimate in recycling: when we put compost, made from 100% recycled organics, back into the ground - we’re putting previously discarded materials back to work. Think about it. Instead of allowing these food scraps and other compostable materials to rot in our landfills, transformed into compost they’re put to great use: on lawns as top dressing, in the soil as an amendment, in flower and vegetable gardens, for planting trees and shrubs, and as an environmentally responsible erosion control solution.

While some folks were familiar with compost, Saturday’s event allowed others to discover its many uses and benefits. Residents were asked to B.Y.O.B – bring your own bucket – and fill ‘er up with the donated compost. Santa Barbara has always been beautiful, but adding Harvest Blend Compost to its soil can only make the surroundings more vibrant. Naturally!
Way to go, Santa Barbara! Thanks for being great “sorts”!

For more info on compost, its uses and benefits, visit

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

BEE CAREFUL! Use Compost, Forget the Chemicals

There was an article in our local paper today, shedding some light on the recent problem of vanishing honeybees. This post is dedicated to the hardworking, yet feared and misunderstood, honeybee. Without them, where would we bee? (sorry for the pun)

Recently we began hearing the buzz about honey bees, mysteriously vanishing from their hives. Only the queen bee and a few baby bees were left behind. The odd thing is there were no signs of the usual predators, like wasps, bears and other honey-loving animals. There have also been no signs of bee diseases or mites (they attack full grown bees). In the past, this phenomenon has happened when bees have died of chemical contamination. The concern now is that this is taking place on a large scale.

Why Should Disappearing Bees Cause Concern?
Most of us run screaming when we spot a bee heading our way, but the part they play in our ecosystem should earn them some respect. Since honeybees are the most important insect for the human food chain, so their disappearance would be a tragic loss. The reason being, the honeybee is the main pollinator of hundreds of types of food crops, nuts, flowers, vegetables and fruits. Recent articles suggest that this kind of disturbance in our food chain could result in widespread food shortages. Yikes!

Colony Collapse Disorder
...or CCD, is the title given to the disappearance of bees, and it’s a phenomenon that is very real. As far as scientists are concerned, it’s possible that CCD could impact honey and food production in a big way. Many scientists feel…

Bees Could be Disappearing due to Pesticide use Many think that the growing use of chemical herbicides and pesticides, which are ingested by bees when they make their daily pollination rounds, are a likely reason. Commercial beehives are also fumigated regularly with chemicals to get rid of harmful mites. Genetically modified crops, which could be producing pollen with poor nutritional value, is another suspect thought to be responsible for bees disappearing.

Use Compost Instead of Chemical Fertilizers
Compost is natural. Amending soil with STA approved compost conditions and heals the soil. Binding and degrading harmful toxins so they are no longer a danger means that plants grown in this soil won’t need chemical fertilizers, lessening the danger of bees collecting contaminated pollen. Of course, we need to be careful when using pesticides. There are natural alternatives out there, so we need to be careful when trying to get rid of pests. When it comes to using herbicides on your lawn, there are really no safe alternatives. Your best bet is to top dress your lawn with Harvest Blend Compost twice a year, insuring the healthiest foundation for a healthy, green lawn.

Ladybugs are a natural enemy of many garden pests, so attracting them to your yard will be very beneficial. Ladybug tips:
Want more ladybugs in your garden? Plant plants with pollen or nectar, such as dill, calendula, Queen Anne’s lace, fennel or cock’s comb.

Ladybug larvae are very aggressive against many garden pests. Be sure to learn to identify what they look like so you don’t accidentally kill them thinking they are problem pests.

The next time you spot a busy bee buzzing about its business, stop and marvel at this little creature, thanking it for the great job it does – because if this trend of disappearing bees continues, we may not see them around anymore.

For more info on the natural solution for problem soils, visit If we can bee of help, don’t hesitate to call or email.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Got Compost: Use Compost - Get Off the Chemical Merry-go-Round!...

Got Compost: Use Compost - Get Off the Chemical Merry-go-Round!...: "OK, by now you all probably know that compost is organic matter that has been broken down through the action of aerobic microbes and the hea..."

Use Compost - Get Off the Chemical Merry-go-Round!

OK, by now you all probably know that compost is organic matter that has been broken down through the action of aerobic microbes and the heat they produce then subsequently built up into humus. The art and science of making compost for use as fertilizer has been around for centuries. Engel & Gray Regional Compost Facility has combined this art with today’s science, equipment, and proven methods to produce compost that can help solve many agricultural and waste management problems.

More of a bad thing
In the 20th century, composting seemed to disappear as the use of chemical fertilizers increased. Growers thought the “New and Improved” chemical technology was the answer to increasing crop production. The use of chemical fertilizers has increased yields in many crops but their intense use creates crops that aren’t able to defend themselves against insects, microbial pathogens, and invasive weeds. To combat these problems, agriculture has increasingly developed and used insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides. In the beginning, the chemicals protected the crops. Soon the crops became resistant, needing stronger, more toxic chemicals to do the same job as before. Only now, communities are in danger from more and more harmful chemicals entering the environment.

Compost – making a comeback!
Compost is an alternative to the agricultural chemicals and fertilizers currently in use. Composting began a comeback toward the end of the last century with interest growing in recent years. Economic and environmental factors have started to change the way the world looks at crop production, the environmental concerns chemical agriculture raises, and the waste society produces. Utilizing compost means fewer chemicals are being put into the soil, while binding and degrading harmful chemicals already in the soil.

Landfills – are they land-full?
Another huge concern: our overused and overcrowded landfills. Many cities ban yard waste from entering landfills and insist on recycling glass, metal, plastic, and paper items. In the US yard waste is increasingly ground and composted either by the municipality itself or by a composting facility that takes the yard waste and composts it. Composting is an effective way to reduce the amount of organic material entering our landfills.

So, what’s the problem?
Compost sounds like the perfect way to get off the “Chemical Merry-Go-Round”, doesn’t it? Most folks will say they believe in composting and all the environmental good it does, but is compost use a part of their normal gardening/landscaping routine? Is the general public aware of the many benefits of compost use? Does your gardener know where to get 3 yards of Harvest Blend Compost to amend compacted soil or top dress a lawn? This lack of knowledge is keeping nutrient rich compost from being put back into the ground to “Complete the Cycle”. All the recycling efforts go out the window if the final product has nowhere to go.

Be part of the solution!
We can all make a difference. Instead of yard waste and food scraps going to waste in the landfill, we can put our valuable resources back to work – as lawn top dressing, soil amendments, in flower beds and also as an environmentally responsible solution to erosion control.

Visit to locate a Harvest Blend dealer. Healthy Soil Begins With Harvest Blend Compost!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Got Compost: Pumpkins - Waste Not, Compost!

Got Compost: Pumpkins - Waste Not, Compost!: "Pumpkins are at the very heart of our fall celebrations. Halloween and Thanksgiving feature the plump squash, either as a decoration or del..."

Pumpkins - Waste Not, Compost!

Pumpkins are at the very heart of our fall celebrations. Halloween and Thanksgiving feature the plump squash, either as a decoration or delicious food, but there’s one problem with this big old veggie. What to do with it when the holidays are over?

Did you know that the Department of US Census Bureau reports that in the USA alone more than one billion pounds of pumpkins were produced in 2009? The $101 million dollar pumpkin industry is potentially disastrous for local landfills. As you know, pumpkins are pretty bulky, so they not only take up a lot of space in the landfill, it also takes a good deal of fuel to get 'em there. If we care about our environment we need to find an alternative to sending used pumpkins to the landfill.

Compost vs Landfill
Pumpkins, which of course are 100% natural, will break down quickly as compost in your yard, providing you with valuable nutrients for your lawn or garden. Pumpkins are an easy addition to your compost pile. All you need to do is to remove the wax and candles and put the pumpkin into your backyard composter. Some composters say it’s better to smash or cut the pumpkin up first before you put it in the composter. The smaller the vegetable matter the quicker it will compost.

New Life for Jack-O-Lantern
Your Halloween pumpkins can enjoy renewed life as compost, bringing a grin to your face when discovering all the benefits compost delivers to your landscape. The organic matter has been transformed into nutrient rich food for your soil - making it the perfect soil amendment and lawn top dressing. Naturally!

Compost Facilities Can Help
If you don’t have your own composter, check with your local city garbage collection service. More cities are implementing green waste recycling as an additional service, and this is the ideal spot for our discarded pumpkins. If your community doesn’t offer this service contact your local compost facility to find out about alternatives. If you use pumpkins at Halloween, make a little extra effort to keep them out of the landfill.
Greenhouse Gas News reports that global methane emissions from landfill are estimated to be between 30 and 70 million tons each year. Most of this landfill methane currently comes from developed countries, where the levels of waste tend to be highest. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that municipal solid waste landfills are the second largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States, accounting for nearly 23 % of emissions in 2009.

Let’s all pitch in to keep compostable organics out of our landfills! Everything we can do to reduce our contribution of compostable materials to local landfills is a reduction in greenhouse gas production.
For more info, check out We're here to help you with all your compost needs.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Got Compost: Composts - Are They All Created Equal?

Got Compost: Composts - Are They All Created Equal?: "At first glance, this may seem like a silly question. You might be thinking, “Any waste that sits in a pile long enough will decay and turn..."

Composts - Are They All Created Equal?

At first glance, this may seem like a silly question. You might be thinking, “Any waste that sits in a pile long enough will decay and turn to compost”. Yes, but what kind of compost? Will it be nutrient rich humus or just a damp mess of debris. What goes into the pile and how well it's maintained will determine the quality of the finished product. Reputable compost manufacturers know the best way to insure a quality product is to put it to the test!

How can I be sure the compost I buy is safe for my lawn and garden? When purchasing compost it’s important to look for the US Composting Council’s Seal of Testing Assurance (STA) label. Only composts that have passed strict testing by approved labs may wear this label.

What is STA?
It’s a compost testing, labeling and information disclosure program designed to give you the information you need to get the maximum benefit from the use of compost. The program was created in 2000 and has the approval of many of the leading compost research scientists in the United States. STA is the only compost testing program available to compost producers or compost buyers that provides this kind of information.

How does the STA program work?
All participating manufacturers or marketers regularly sample and test their compost products based on production volumes, or as otherwise prescribed by the STA program administrators.
Participants will complete test analyses for the required compost properties. Also, any and all testing required by applicable State and/or Federal regulation (e.g., pathogens, heavy metals, pesticides, inerts, etc.) to assure public health/safety and environmental protection must be completed.

All lab analyses are conducted at ‘approved laboratories’ which have certified that they are capable of performing the test methods specified in the Program Rules. The Participants, or their compost testing lab, will provide the appropriate lab analyses results (and updated Compost Technical Data Sheet) to the USCC. Test results are available to any person, upon request, using the STA Program’s “Compost Technical Data Sheet”. The Compost Technical Data Sheet includes directions for product use, a list of product ingredients and analytical test results.
A Participant’s composting facility must certify that it is in compliance with all applicable government regulations and it must remain compliant to remain in the STA Program.

STA Certification
The USCC will certify an applicant’s compost product when the specified criteria are met. Only then will the STA label be awarded, assuring the compost buyer a quality product. When buying compost in bulk, be sure to ask the sales person if the compost is STA certified.

Harvest Blend Compost is proud to wear the STA label, providing you with the highest quality compost products for your residential, agriculture and commercial needs (Cal Trans approved!). Check out our website, for more info. Naturally!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Got Compost: Healthy Turf = Fewer Sports Injuries

Got Compost: Healthy Turf = Fewer Sports Injuries: "Top dressing playing fields can significantly reduce the number and severity of sports injuries. How can improving the soil actually help in..."

Healthy Turf = Fewer Sports Injuries

Top dressing playing fields can significantly reduce the number and severity of sports injuries. How can improving the soil actually help increase the safety factor? Well, when a field is dry and compacted, uneven and riddled with pot holes (see photo above) players are way more likely to suffer painful falls or step in one of the pot holes we just mentioned, causing a season ending sprain or tear. Ouch!

Note: Photo taken in May, 2010 right before renovation began. For a look at the after photo, please scroll to the bottom of this post.

How About Artificial Turf?
The dangers here are related to the playing surface becoming compacted and uneven in spots. We also need to remember the risks associated with heat build-up on artificial turf. These conditions can take their toll on an athlete, no matter what his/her age or level of play.
In May of this year, Orcutt Jr. High Soccer Field was in need of help: the turf was hard and uneven. You couldn’t take more than 10 steps without hitting a pot hole. The field would be vacant for a few months, so it was the perfect time for a renovation! Engel & Gray Regional Compost Facility to the rescue! A team of community partners was assembled to carry out the project. What a difference top dressing can make!

Here, the field is being disked - loosening grass,
rocks and old dirt for removal a little later

When the field was cleared of old grass and debris, Engel & Gray began delivering the twelve truckloads of Harvest Blend Compost they had donated for this project. All in all, this amounted to 400 cu yards of compost! Amending the soil with compost added valuable nutrients while increasing soil structure and water-holding capacity. Compost acts as a kind of conditioner for problem soils, with the added oxygen giving a boost to fragile root systems.

Workers from Nishimori Landscape are busy spreading compost evenly over the field

Pre irrigation sprinkler pipe was generously
donated to the effort by Craig Reade

Craig and his company were also responsible for the final disking and laser leveling of the area.

Then it was time to Hydro-Seed the entire area. It was so nice to see it all coming together, especially since this process colors the field a nice green while adding the seed.

And here's the field, dressed in a coating of green hydro-seed. Kind of gave everyone a hint of what was to come!

July, 2010: the first blades of grass made their appearance! A little patchy, but coming in nicely.

August, 2010: the new turf enjoying it's first watering

Finally, the field was ready to take on the pounding of little feet! Thanks to our community partners, and with help from parent and student volunteers, local residents will be able to enjoy their own field of dreams for years to come. Naturally!

For info on top dressing your lawn, or compost use in general, visit:
Harvest Blend Compost - Healthy Soil Starts Here. Naturally!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Growing Greens Saves "Green"

In our last post, we talked about the importance of healthy soil for your fall and winter garden: amending it with compost. We should also address the healthy impact this garden may have on your wallet. Any money saved by growing the vegetables you regularly eat is money in the bank. Instead of driving to the grocery store (save the gas!), all you need to do is step outside and choose which fresh veggies or herbs to throw in that day’s salad, soup or stew. You’ll also be improving the environment by adding valuable nutrients to the soil, increasing soil structure, ultimately controlling erosion issues. A home garden is a win/win, don’t you think?

Most of us can garden through the winter in almost any climate. Even northern gardeners can enjoy harvests of root crops and greens in the winter, but it involves some extra effort to protect plants in green houses. But those of us living in mild winter areas, such as California’s Central Coast, can really enjoy the fall and winter seasons. This is the time to sow and grow a variety of vegetables that don't do as well in the heat of summer.

Start your winter garden by turning the soil, removing perennial weeds and grasses, and amending it with compost.

Recommended Application:
  1. Thoroughly work and loosen soil to be planted 5 to 6 inches deep.
    Level area so your newly planted beds will drain correctly.
  2. Uniformly apply one and one half(1 1/2") to two (2")inches of Harvest Blend Compost (4.70 to 6.20 cubic yards per I000 sq. ft.) over entire area.
  3. Following application of compost incorporate the compost five to six inches deep. Use a shovel or rotor tiller to get a uniform blend.
  4. Establish a smooth planting bed by raking or dragging the soil surface.
  5. Place plants into amended soil and firm soil around them. Seed should have a light layer of soil covering them.
  6. Water thoroughly to insure proper establishment.
Note: If your garden will be located in a cool, damp area, this can lead to rotting plants. You may want to think about growing plants in raised beds. This will keep the soil well drained and help avoid water logging.

It might help to have a go to list when shopping for seeds and transplants. These cool season crops should yield a nice harvest in a few months.

  • Arugula
  • Spinach
  • Collards
  • Lettuce
  • Swiss chard
  • Mustard
  • Kale

The greens listed above will grow like crazy! You’ll also have success with root crops, such as:

  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Onions
  • Radishes

Veggies, such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, form large heads. Legumes, like fava beans and peas, grow and flourish. All these cool weather vegetables have better flavor and texture than if you tried to grow them during the heat of spring or summer. Peas make a great fall crop. Snow peas are easier to grow than English peas since they can be eaten before filling out. The crops you choose to plant and the timing of your planting will depend on your location. Don’t worry, there’s something for everyone.

Garden Maintenance
In most areas winter means some amount of rainfall, so watering isn’t usually an issue. It's still a good idea to mulch your plantings to preserve the soil moisture and keep the weeds away.

Pesky Garden Pests
We don’t see as many garden pests in winter, but cabbage worms and slugs are two that don’t “slither south” for the winter. Watch for cabbageworm droppings on your broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage plants and use a good organic pesticide to control them as soon as you notice them. Slugs and snails are a big problem on the Central Coast. Did you know that slugs and snails don't like touching copper? Protecting raised beds with copper flashing will stop these guys in their tracks. To make sure the little pests won’t destroy all your hard work, you can cover plants with a floating row cover tucked firmly into the soil. This will definitely keep the snails and slugs from getting into the bed.

Harvest crops as needed. While many vegetables are picked and finished, such as cabbage, cauliflower, carrots and beets, some keep producing in winter. Many greens, like spinach, lettuce and mesclun mix, can be cut a number of times to the ground and allowed to re-grow in winter. As long as the temperatures stay cool, they’ll keep growing. Broccoli heads will continue to send out side shoots, and peas and fava beans will continue to flower and fruit. Even if they go dormant during December and January, they’ll quickly start growing and producing again when the longer days arrive in February.

For detailed planting info, consult a farmer's almanac or visit the Old Farmer's Almanac online at

So, with some planning and proper maintenance you can enjoy a winter garden that provides fresh produce to your family right through the dark days until spring. Just make sure you get off to the right start with healthy soil, and healthy soil begins with Harvest Blend Compost. Naturally!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Got Compost: Grounds for...a Successful Garden!

Got Compost: Grounds for...a Successful Garden!: "OK, now we’ve had a little fall rain to moisten the soil and wash away a little of the dust blown in by our lovely Santa Maria “breeze”. Th..."

Grounds for...a Successful Garden!

OK, now we’ve had a little fall rain to moisten the soil and wash away a little of the dust blown in by our lovely Santa Maria “breeze”. This is the perfect time to take a look at your garden, or if you don’t have one yet, to plan one. The best way to insure a successful harvest is to start from the ground up – take a look at your soil. Better yet, feel your soil. Is it hard and compacted? Maybe the soil is clay based or too sandy. Any of these conditions will make it tough for roots to find room to grow and for soil to retain water. What to do, what to do...

Amend that soil with compost!

Working compost into the soil before planting will

  • Improve root systems
  • Reduce erosion
  • Save Water
  • Stabilize soil pH
  • Supply nutrients, microbes, & organic matter
  • Suppress plant disease
  • Bind and degrade pollutants

Sound too good to be true? It’s not! Harvest Blend Compost is the ultimate “soil conditioner” – it fixes what’s wrong with the soil, giving plants the boost they need to grow big and strong.

What if I don't have room for a garden?
Hey, lack of space is no excuse not to plant some type of garden. City dwellers plant in window boxes and on balconies. We’re hearing about more homeowners replacing lawns with more useful (not to mention edible) vegetable gardens. Have you heard about roof gardens? How great would it be to harvest a healthy, delicious salad from a plot right outside, or above, your door? Look around your home and garden, surely there's an empty nook or cranny just waiting to be used.

Remember, the key to a successful garden is starting with a good foundation – healthy soil. If all we ate was junk food and didn’t condition our bodies, how unproductive would we be? Plants are no different; they need a source of nutrients, water and healthy earth in which to grow. Naturally!

Next time - we'll focus on the particulars of planting a winter garden. Thanks for checking in!

Healthy soil starts here – Harvest Blend Compost. For planting tips and compost info, visit

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Got Compost: Rain, Rain - Go This Way

Got Compost: Rain, Rain - Go This Way: "We may not be addressing compost use directly right now, but Sustainable Landscaping involves incorporating recycled natural resources into ..."

Rain, Rain - Go This Way

We may not be addressing compost use directly right now, but Sustainable Landscaping involves incorporating recycled natural resources into your normal landscaping routine to improve the environment. With all this rain falling down around us, it seems a shame not to mention a way to harvest it for use later. Hey, you can always use the rainwater to irrigate your lawn, freshly top dressed with Harvest Blend Compost.

Did you know that the use of rainwater collection can be traced as far back as ancient times, some 3,000 years ago? That’s 850 BC! And since that time the rain barrel has changed very little. Sure, the container may not have been made of food-grade plastic with anti algae properties, but they collected rainwater just as well.

What exactly is a rain barrel?
A rain barrel is a water tank - used to collect and store rain water runoff, typically from rooftops by way of our trusty rain gutters. These rain barrels are great for harvesting rain water to be used for landscaping and gardening purposes rather than as a potable water substitute. These containers, often recycled from food storage and transport barrels or, in some cases, whiskey and wine aging barrels, are usually very affordable. There are also many low cost designs that use locally available materials. Some communities are helping out by offering either free or low cost rain barrels to local residents.

Can I drink the harvested water?
While most are properly made to screen out mosquitoes and other large pests, the lack of proper filtering or closed loop systems might be a breeding ground for bacteria and larvae. You’re safest using this “Re-Water” outside your home.

There are many benefits of using a rain barrel;

· Reduce storm water runoff
· Water conservation through water reuse
· Water reuse
· Low investment for years of water collection

What can I do with harvested rainwater?

Well, you’ll be able to:
· Water lawns, gardens, flowerbeds
· Wash cars, lawn furniture and exterior windows
· Recharge water features
· Conserve water, and isn’t that what it’s all about?

Rain barrels can help conserve water by capturing a portion of the storm water that would otherwise not be infiltrated into the ground before leaving your property. The storage and reuse also allows for reduced groundwater consumption. How much will a rain barrel collect?
The formula to remember: 1 inch of rain on a 100 SQ. FT. roof yields 62.3 gallons of water. To calculate the yield of your roof multiply the square footage of your roof by 62.3 and divide by 100.

Why Care?

Storm water is a leading cause for pollutants entering our local streams, watersheds. Storm water also leads to increased erosion of stream banks and flash flooding.

And finally…
As long as water is not a problem, people don’t really seem to care where it comes from or even how it gets in the house, just as long as it is there and useful. This way of thinking is pretty short sighted. Why not learn from the past – use our natural resources as our ancestors did - to make a better and brighter future. Naturally!

Remember to visit us @ for environmentally responsible soil solutions

Got Compost: Top-dress for Success

Got Compost: Top-dress for Success: "And Help the Environment While You’re at it! Did you know that - Santa Maria’s storm drains aren't connected to the City's wastewater tr..."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Top-dress for Success

And Help the Environment While You’re at it!

Did you know that -

Santa Maria’s storm drains aren't connected to the City's wastewater treatment plant? When surface water flows through streets from storms, any pollutants run into storm drains. Storm drains flow directly, without treatment, to the Santa Maria River or into the nearest local retention basin where the water percolates back into the groundwater. Both our river and our underlying groundwater eventually flow to the ocean. Any pollutants found in the water, stay in the water untreated, and causes ocean pollution affecting our beaches, our coast, and our ocean life.

A major contributor to the pollution problem is lawn pesticides. Think about it - if there was a way to make your lawn lush and green without using harmful pesticides and harsh fertilizers, wouldn’t you want to know about it? The key to a good lawn is healthy soil. It’s the foundation of a vibrant lawn. If your soil is dry and compacted or clay based your lawn won’t be able to get the oxygen and nutrients it needs. Root systems need room to grow and that won’t happen in tired, dry soil. Healthy soil contains high organic content and is teeming with biological life, supporting the development of healthy grass that is naturally resistant to weeds and pests. Once established, an organic lawn uses fewer materials, such as water and fertilizers, and requires less labor for mowing and maintenance. More importantly, your lawn will be safe for children, pets and your local drinking water supply. Follow these tips to start transitioning your lawn and you'll be well on your way to a lush, green, pesticide-free landscape.

Top-dressing – what is it?

The process of applying a layer of compost over the surface of a lawn is called Top Dressing. Top Dressing may be applied after lawn aeration, or alone as a Quick & Easy application. Golf courses and sports fields have always realized the value of top dressing the turf, but this practice has only recently become popular on home lawns. Top Dressing with Harvest Blend Compost is the most environmentally beneficial way to a greener, healthier lawn. Naturally!

When should I top-dress the lawn?

Spring and fall are the best times to top-dress. Lawns based on poor soil will benefit from top dressing the soil twice each year. Lawns based on good quality soil might not need top dressing every year but if you want a lush, green lawn then once a year will keep it that way. Professional greens keepers regularly top dress to ensure a top quality turf. If you want a beautiful lawn that can meet professional standards then you should top dress your lawn annually.

What product should I use for top-dressing?

Harvest Blend Compost not only beautifies your landscape, it’s environmentally responsible and benefits your landscape by:

1. Improving soil structure, porosity and density to ensure a healthier root

2. Infiltrating heavy soils thereby reducing erosion

3. Increasing water holding capacity of soil so that water is used more

4. Stabilizing pH and improving the soil's ability to hold nutrients

5. Supplying valuable microbes, micro and macronutrients and organic
matter to the soil environment

6. Helping to suppress soil-borne plant pathogens

7. Binding and degrading specific pollutants – so they stay out
of our water system

If you need more info, or want to know where to find Harvest Blend Compost, visit us at
Thanks for checking in