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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!