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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