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Friday, January 25, 2013

Got Compost: Don't Let Soil Go Bankrupt

Got Compost: Don't Let Soil Go Bankrupt: Our garden soil is like our bank account: In the long run, we can't afford to withdraw more than we deposit. When we harvest fruits, vege...

Don't Let Soil Go Bankrupt

Our garden soil is like our bank account: In the long run, we can't afford to withdraw more than we deposit. When we harvest fruits, vegetables or flowers, we're making withdrawals.  Whenever we add organic matter to the soil or mulch to the surface, we're making deposits. Organic amendments fatten up the soil bank. They literally add life to poor soil, allowing excess water to drain away while leaving enough moisture for roots, and retain nutrients until feeder roots need them.
The weather we’ve experienced on the Central Coast this winter has been fierce and our poor soils’ bank balances have to be feeling the pinch. But there is a simple solution to this situation; just add compost!
Compost is the most nutrient rich, readily available soil amendment you can choose to improve soil conditions and replenish lost nutrients. 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
Newly established beds should be amended with compost before any plants go into the ground.
In vegetable and flower beds: amend the soil before each new crop is planted. Compost is preferred by most gardeners, since it dramatically improves the soil's structure; adding oxygen and nutrients, improving soil structure for a healthy root system. 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.
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.
For tired lawns, a fine layer of compost may be added 2x a year to bring grass back to life. The simple process of top dressing makes all the difference! If soil is compacted, you might want to aerate before adding compost - but either way you will enjoy a lush, green lawn in no time at all.
Permanent or semi-permanent plantings of trees, shrubs, or perennials benefit from added organic matter too, but you need to make sure not to damage plant roots. Most of the time all you need to do is to spread the compost 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 with a pitchfork. 
Bottom line – pay attention to soils’ ‘bank’ balance. The health and quality of your landscape depends on it!
For more info, visit If you have questions or concerns about compost and its uses, we’re happy to help. Naturally!