Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Got Compost: Mulch in Winter- Protect Soil & Plants: Nearing the end of December, it’s supposed to be cold…right? And when you’re cold, what do you do to make life more comfy? Put on a cozy ...
Nearing the end of December, it’s supposed to be cold…right? And when you’re cold, what do you do to make life more comfy? Put on a cozy coat or sweater, maybe snuggle under a blanket? Whatever your choice of ‘cover up,’ you probably do NOT tough it out and dress as though it were summer. Our trees, flowers and soil deserve the same consideration - and how do we accomplish this? One word – mulch.
Mulch (noun) is “a protective covering of organic material laid over the soil and around plants to prevent erosion, retain moisture, and enrich the soil.” Mulch acts as an overcoat for soil and plants; providing protection, insulation and natural, chemical-free weed control. Materials such as leaves, bark, straw, newspaper, compost and even plastic, may be used as mulch. Only one of these offers great potential for restoring ecological processes to degraded soils, while diverting a valuable natural resource from landfills – and that is compost.
Applying compost and mulch to the landscape increases soil organic matter (S.O.M); providing vital nutrients that create structure and pore spaces - allowing soil to easily soak up excess rain water. This helps reduce runoff from lawns and gardens during storms, which can help reduce flooding, sewer overflows, and erosion. Improving your soil can also save you money by reducing summer irrigation needs because plants grow deeper roots and the soil holds more water. Healthier plants have fewer pest and disease problems and need less fertilizer, so you’ll need fewer chemicals, which is good for your family’s health and our environment. The beneficial soil organisms (fed by compost and mulch) also break down pollutants and help move carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) from the atmosphere into long-term storage in the soil.
Three steps to building healthy soil:
1) Amend the soil with compost
- Dig or till 2-4 inches of compost into the upper 6-8 inches of soil when preparing beds or new lawn areas for planting. Amend the whole bed. Amending just the planting holes can limit root growth.
- Top dressing - improve existing lawns by aerating, then raking ¼ to ½ inch of compost in, spring or fall.
2) Mulch existing plantings regularly
- Spread mulch in the spring or fall, to control weeds and conserve water, reduce runoff, and prevent erosion (keep 1 inch away from tree trunks). Renew mulch layers annually.
- On garden beds and around shallow-rooted annuals, mulch with 1-2 inches of compost, shredded leaves, or grass clippings.
- Around trees and woody perennials, use 2-4 inches of wood chips (from a tree service) or leaves. Medium-sized bark mulch (fine bark can repel water) is a second choice.
- Save your fall leaves, or gather them for free – they’re a great mulch for most plants.
- Use conifer tree needles as a mulch around conifer trees, or around acid-loving plants.
- Mulch-mow (leave the clippings) on your lawn, to build denser turf, deeper roots, and a drought resistant, healthy lawn.
3) Avoid using chemicals, and choose organic or slow-release fertilizers
- Pesticides (weed and bug killers) like “weed-and-feed” may hurt beneficial soil life, wildlife, and our families’ health too – use the resources below to find better alternatives.
- Over-fertilization with quick-release chemical fertilizers is also bad for soil life, and harms our lakes and streams by causing algae blooms. (The algae later dies, and uses up oxygen in the water as it decomposes, suffocating fish).
- Fertilize moderately (compost can replace most fertilizer needs), and look for the words “natural organic” or “slow-release” on the fertilizer bag. They cost a little more but they feed plants a long time, and they don’t wash away in the first rainstorm.
When purchasing compost for your lawn or garden, be sure it's USCC STA Certified compost - preferably BULK (less expensive and no plastic bags to clog the landfill)
Questions? Expert answers are a call or click away!
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
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 a small dent 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 eating that big 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 click here
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:
Designate a recycling bin for guests to use, and asking them to bring containers for leftovers. Remember to buy local!
And what about trees? Even environmentalists debate whether a live-cut or artificial tree leaves a smaller footprint.
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. Visit www.lessismore.org 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 www.GotCompost.com
Sunday, December 2, 2012
Got Compost: Want to Recycle Organic Materials? Location Matter...: Doing some traveling over the past few months, we've paid attention to trash and recycling collection practices in a variety of loc...
Doing some traveling over the past few months, we've paid attention to trash and recycling collection practices in a variety of locations in California. This post focuses on the Bay Area; Menlo Park, to be exact. Whoa, life must be pretty exciting if a highlight of our visit was spotting bins specifically for compostable materials!
But this is a topic of interest because recycling practices vary so drastically from one area of our state to another; and undoubtedly, across the country. If Menlo Park, San Francisco and San Jose have designated bins for compostable materials, in addition to recyclables and normal everyday trash, why can’t the rest of the country do the same? On the Central Coast, some cities have passed ordinances requiring collection of Green Waste – with a slight rise in collection fees (approximately $3). This is a move in the right direction, but when we think about all the food scraps and coffee grounds heading for the landfill, we’re sorry to see these resources being wasted.
Recycling isn’t just for glass and metal. Potato peelings, egg shells, tea bags and coffee grounds (don’t forget the filter!) can be recycled into compost. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg (lettuce); almost all food waste, paper goods – such as paper plates and napkins – and clean wood products, like coffee stirrers, can be transformed into nutrient rich compost.
In our little community on the Central Coast of California, we faithfully truck our recycle bins out to the curb one week; and our green waste bins go out the next. With no compost bin for collection of food scraps, coffee/coffee filters, cardboard, etc., we’re forced to waste these resources or do what we do – compost this stuff at home. All well and good for the environment, but when we need a decent amount of compost for lawn top dressing, laying sod or amending soil for our annual vegetable garden; buying fresh, local, bulk compost is the way to go.
Bins for compostable materials need to be available across the country; with collected organic materials sent to the nearest Regional Compost Facility. These facilities provide the freshest soil products to the public - ready to be put back into the earth building healthy soil to grow crops and improve lawns and gardens. The re-use of recycled materials has a few labels, but we call this ‘Completing the Cycle.’
So, to free up landfill space and improve the environment we should:
1. collect organic materials
2. recycle these material for transformation into compost
3. purchase bulk compost
4. use compost to build healthy soil
Working together, we can do this. Naturally! Click for more info
Need compost for your next project? Call (805) 925-2771 and ask for Jim or Chuck.
Harvest Blend Compost is available at authorized dealers in San Luis and Santa Barbara Counties.