Posts Tagged healthy soil

What is the buzz about Compost?

Composting is becoming more and more popular as people attempt to garden and landscape as organically as possible.  It’s not only good for your lawn or garden, but helps prevent overflow at landfills.

So, how does one do this composting thing

There are actually several different ways to do this.

1. Instead of getting a high power, almost vacuum cleaner type lawn mower, get the kind that has less powerful suction.  This will leave a thin layer of grass clippings on your lawn to decompose and give back to the soil.  This is very passive composting.

2. If you have excess grass clippings, leaves and other fully organic material (not meat scraps, or processed things like bread), rake them all into a pile somewhere in your yard and then add to it with other scraps like fruits or veggies that went off in the fridge, carrot tops, the parts of potatoes which started to sprout, green bean stems. apple cores, etc.  You can also add eggshells, dead flowers, coffee grinds, plant clippings from the garden, old tomatoe plants, etc.  Just don’t add meat, even if it’s raw.  It’ll make your pile smell horrible and attracts rodents.

As a note, if you have large leaves, try running them over with your lawn mower to shred them before putting them in your pile.

Every once in a while, spray your pile down to moisten it, then turn your pile with a rake or some such implement.

Once the materials in the pile have broken down, spread it around your garden/lawn.  If you start a pile now, the material should be ready to go just in time for spring.

3. Get a kitchen or larger, garden composter.  These are basically large buckets with holes in them.  The best kind let you turn them and are called “tumblers”.  They look nicer than a pile.  I have one myself as I have a small yard with little space for a huge pile of compost. 

To really optimize your composting, you can buy some worms to add to your kitchen scrap bin or your outdoor bin.  The worms will help break down the organic material much faster and will create a super nutritious “tea” at the bottom of your bin.  This “tea” is a liquid created by water and worms moving through you compost.  It’s amazing fertilizer.

4. Is your yard in need of immediate soil amendment before you landscape it in spring?  You can try covering your entire yard with compost you purchase, then laying down brown cardboard (don’t use glossy cardboard, and make sure you remove any tape), and finally putting a top layer of some other kind of mulch which is weed and seed free. 

This really gets good nutrients into your soil, while smothering weeds and plants you don’t want beneath it.  It’s a great way to prep your soil for a springtime landscaping project.

Here’s hoping your soil is well-fed and healthy!

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Covering up for winter

This wintertime, it’s a good idea to cover any bare soil up.  I know we all think about mud slides for hillside homes, but imagine what those flash floods do to your soil quality, no matter the type of slope.  Every year soil gets swept away by flash floods, and the remaining soil gets compacted and weighed down by water, then it dries – usually very quickly – and creates hard, compact dirt.

While we aren’t getting flash floods yet here in Southern California and the weather forecast for winter is something like below to average rainfall, rain in places like Thousand Oaks, La Canada, Simi Valley, etc, tend to come in torrents.  So, how to protect that soil from compacting?

1. Plant a variety of species.  It can be nice to have a pretty, even lawn, and, while this isn’t a bad idea as it does slow soil compaction, it also means you have loose soil to a certain point, then it begins to compact.  This is because you’ll have a farely even root system.  So, if you don’t want hard pan when you do decide to shake it up and landscape, plant a variety of species.  Try different kinds of grasses, some wild flowers  and some shrubs or even a tree.  You can go entirely native too, planting only Southern California plants.  One of my neighbors does this and her front yard always smells amazing and attracts the most honey bees, birds, butterflies, etc. every year.

2. Plant a cover crop.  If you have bare ground because you haven’t decided what to do with it yet or you’re trying to let your soil rest, try planting a cover crop.  Cover crops like alfalfa, buckwheat, barley, mustard, etc, are great for rejuvenating and protecting your soil.  Just make sure to keep it mowed so it doesn’t get out of control and to turn it in spring before it reseeds. 

3. Mulch, mulch, mulch.  If you don’t want to plant a cover crop, or you’ve got a really small patch of bare soil you don’t want to have to mow, cover it up with a nice mulch.  You can research what your soil may be deficient in by examining your micro-climate, what you’ve been growing in it, or discussing it with your local landscaper or nursery.

Here’s to healthy, happy soil!

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