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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Got Compost: Spring Cleaning in the Garden

Got Compost: Spring Cleaning in the Garden: Spring has sprung. In California this season normally signals warmer temperatures, strong breezes and the dwindling of our rainy season. For...

Spring Cleaning in the Garden

Spring has sprung. In California this season normally signals warmer temperatures, strong breezes and the dwindling of our rainy season. For Central Coasters though, the weather still carries remnants of winter chill and dampness.
So what’s a gardener to do, you ask? We suggest you slog through messy garden beds and soggy lawns to assess your landscape’s condition. If you’re like most of us, general garden clean up is in order. Yeah, yeah, we know…the maintenance end of gardening holds little magic for most of us, yet it is crucial to the success of spring and summer planting.
Some garden jobs best done in March and April:
- Lawn top-dressing
- Plant bare-root (packaged) perennials
- Tend flowering shrubs – clean up spent blossoms, feed with acid fertilizer
- Sow annuals – cosmos, nasturtiums, sunflowers and zinnias
- Sow: carrots, spinach and chard
- In April – set out transplants of tomato, peppers and squash
- Sow: beans, corn and squash
- Water
Interestingly enough, the rainy weather helps indentify low spots that might hamper drainage. Make note of these areas, using soil amended with compost to fill them in. Since it’s too early to do much planting, you’ll want to focus on prepping soil for future plantings; both flower and vegetable. In addition, you may amend surrounding soil as well as soil in planting beds you’ve designated for spring and summer vegetables.

Victory Garden author James Crockett calls compost “the caviar of organic materials” for its ability to retain moisture and provide the necessary 5% Soil Organic Matter to soil. Harvest Blend Compost is a premium compost; wonderful for use as lawn top-dressing, soil amendment, tree and shrub backfill mix and in flower and vegetable gardens. Click here to locate a Harvest Blend Compost dealer near you.

To amend soil with compost: you will first need to loosen the soil. If the soil is too wet from too much rain, let the soil dry for a few days as wet, heavy soils are difficult to work. For dry soil or new garden plots that have not been worked before, a thorough watering a few days ahead of time will make your job easier. Using a rototiller for large areas or a fork and spade for existing beds, break up the soil to a depth of approximately six to twelve inches (the lower range is appropriate for existing beds).

Spread compost evenly over soil. Blend compost into the soil using a gardening fork or your rototiller (if you don‘t own a rototiller, they’re often available through equipment rental locations). After you have thoroughly worked the materials into the garden soil, level the area with a rake.

Your soil is now properly replenished for the upcoming planting season. Over the next few months, the organic amendments you have added will continue to break down, building healthy soil for a plentiful gardening season ahead; providing a slow-release of nutrients that will benefit growing plants. Remember, these nutrients won’t last forever and should be replenished periodically throughout the year.

Many organics naturally occurring in your yard are ideal for building up your garden soil. A simple lawn mowing provides one of the best resources for organic garden soil improvement. Mow your lawn and bag or rake the shredded leaves and grass clippings to work into your soil. Not only will the grass and leaf bits break down to provide essential soil nutrients, but they will work to loosen and aerate the soil as well, increasing root health during the next spring and summer growing season. This will aid in soil drainage, too.
Before you know it, we’ll be experiencing warm evenings and even warmer days; perfect for planting all the tasty vegetables we’ll be enjoying throughout summer and fall. Naturally!

For more info on compost use and benefits, visit