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Friday, June 9, 2017

The Soil and Water Connection

The soil-water connection is a real one, for a healthy soil, rich in organic matter, not only has a dramatic impact on the reduction of runoff volumes, but also captures and degrades pollutants before they have an opportunity to foul ground and surface water.
In 1997, the U.S. Composting Council (USCC) published The Soil and Water Connection as an easy-to-use document that would explain the connection of soil to water, as well as the fundamentals of composting.  In essence, it was The Farmer’s Almanac of the composting world. Since that time, public opinion has steered in a positive direction and an increase in organics for environmental applications (as well as the results) can be seen. The composting industry has also evolved in its techniques and the various ways in which compost can be applied. This makes now the perfect time for a second edition, and the USCC has done just that. The Soil and Water Connection: A Watershed Manager’s Guide to Organics is an updated booklet that takes the original’s message and applies it to today’s world. 
The first half of The Soil and Water Connection focuses on the environmental problems of soil degradation and water pollution, the harmful effects they are having on the environment and what compost application can do to change all that. From there its goes on to explain just what compost is, its processes and what makes it so valuable to soil and water. Finally, the guide describes what can be done to prevent these problems, as well as composting’s role going forward.  
Engel & Gray and Harvest Blend Compost are dedicated to collecting, composting, and recycling organic materials into nutrient rich compost products, ready to build healthy soil and plants. With nearly 25 years of experience in composting, Harvest Blend Compost is a proud supporter of the USCC and the US Composting Council’s Research & Education Foundation. For more info call us at 805-925-2771 or visit


Tuesday, December 20, 2016


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.
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 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  

Friday, June 17, 2016

Got Compost: Reducing water in the garden

Got Compost: Reducing water in the garden: We’re often asked questions about gardening and compost use, many of which concern conserving water. We hope the info below will be of int...

Reducing water in the garden

We’re often asked questions about gardening and compost use, many of which concern conserving water. We hope the info below will be of interest to some of you. If you have any questions you’d like answered, or just want to share your gardening stories, please ‘Like’ us on Facebook and post away. We’d love to hear from you!

Q: My kids want to plant a vegetable garden this summer. I’d like to get started on this project but gardens use a lot of water. Is there anything I can do to conserve water, hopefully not see an increase on my water bill and still enjoy fresh, healthy veggies from our own garden?

A: You bet! There are many ways to use water efficiently in your garden and significantly reduce your use. First, you'll want to consider what vegetables you want to grow. Peas and corn need more water, while vine plants and tomatoes require less.
Make sure to group water dependent plants together. This way, the majority of your water is directed to the areas that need it most, while keeping the rest dry. Your next step is to come up with strategies to use water more efficiently.
Drip lines and raised bed gardening are two excellent ways to conserve. Drip lines deliver water close to the base of the plant, which allows for deeper penetration and encourages the development of a strong and more extensive root system. They are easy to install and can reduce your gardening water needs up to 50 percent. Growing plants in raised beds will decrease the amount of weeds in the garden, which will draw water away from your vegetables.
Many cities offer rebates to residents and businesses taking part in water-wise landscape methods. Check out the Smart Landscape Rebate Program available in Santa Barbara County. Program requirements may vary slightly depending on your service area, so please click for water wise info for your area.
Soil amended with compost is a great way to manage soil moisture! Growing plants in garden beds containing soil that’s been enriched with compost is another way to increase efficiency. Soil that contains compost is able to hold significantly more water than the typical California soil.
STA Certified Harvest Blend Compost builds healthy soil; adding soil organic matter; improving soil structure, increasing water holding capacity. For more information email or visit


Thursday, December 31, 2015

Got Compost: Protect Landscapes Against El Niño

Got Compost: Protect Landscapes Against El Niño: With the possibility of record-breaking precipitation this winter, experts say now is the time to take action by preparing yards against ...

Protect Landscapes Against El Niño

With the possibility of record-breaking precipitation this winter, experts say now is the time to take
action by preparing yards against El Niño storm damage.

Heavy rainfall has the potential to cause major devastation, run-off and even mudslides. Highly saturated soils make it hard for plants to survive. In wet soil, it is almost impossible for roots to take up all the oxygen that the plant needs, which causes the roots to decay. Deep roots are the first to rot. If the condition continues shallower roots will also be damaged.

Even plants that don't appear to be flooded may have problems during extended wet weather. And you may not see the damage until next summer. One of the best defenses for your winter landscape is to make sure you have healthy, well-drained soil.
Horticulturists suggest the following tips on how to prevent run-off and yard damage:
  • Since good drainage is extremely important to plant health, pre-storm chores should include clearing a place for the rain water to go - clearing weeds from the run-off ditches in yards as well as cleaning out rain gutters and spouts.  
  • Amend compacted soil with compost. Adding a few inches of compost to hard, dry soil will open soil, increasing water holding capacity, improving drainage and decreasing runoff.
  • Opt for six-packs of groundcover plants as they have larger, more mature roots (beneficial on sloped areas)
  • Save top-heavy plants, such as ice plants, for flat areas since they tend to become water-logged and uproot on hillsides during heavy rains
  • New landscaping may need additional care during storms
  • Rocks can prevent run-off by stopping pathways of rainwater
  • Prune trees before storms happen as strong rain storms can cause dead branches to fall and damage property
  • Plants that have fibrous roots, such as California wild lilac, are ideal to plant for controlling erosion
  • Hemp nets can help keep seeds and new grass in place on hillsides during heavy rain
  • Newly created slopes will need to be covered with plastic from top to bottom as they tend to have unstable soil

Friday, July 24, 2015

Got Compost: DON'T TEAR YOUR LAWN OUT! There are easier ways to...

Got Compost: DON'T TEAR YOUR LAWN OUT! There are easier ways to...: Higher temps and lack of water can cause folks to resort to drastic measures, such as tearing out lawns and gardens. But there’s no need to...