Posts Tagged Soil

Getting your compost together

Compost is a great way to improve your soil quality and it’s easy to cultivate, when done correctly.

Here are some things to think about:

Tip 1: If you decide to set up a compost pile, make sure you have your brown/green ratio all set.   The basic idea is you want to put well chopped, 6″ layer of brown matter at the bottom of your compost pile (like dead leaves, hay, straw, sawdust, etc).  Once you have your “brown” layer down, add about 3″ of “green” organic matter (grass clippings, old vegatables, etc).  Next you rinse and repeat – literally.  You want to water each new layer thoroughly before adding more organic materials in.   After about two days, mix your layers together thoroughly.

Tip 2: It’s important that if you add in table scraps, you ensure they consist only of organic plant matter.   If you put in meat, bread, or other processed foods, your compost pile will become smelly and attract rats.  No good.

Tip 3: If you see heavy weather coming, throw a tarp over your compost pile.  If it gets too wet, it’ll have difficulty heating up and breaking down the materials which compose it properly.

Tip 4: Make sure you have a good spot for your compost pile.  You can put it in a pre-fabricated bin, have an area built, or stow your compost behind a barn or out-building.  It’s not the most attractive thing to look at, but should be easily accessable.  My compost pile is behind raised planters which conceal it completely from view.

Here’s to the new rich, fabulous soil.

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Landscaping and Soil Quality

It’s a great time of year to get serious about your soil quality.

Some good reasons to take a look at your soil are:

– So you can see what will grow well in your soil or, alternately, so you can modify your soil so it’ll grow everything you want.

– To solve the problem of hardscape vs. lawn.  If you have terrible soil, and you don’t want to modify it, you can install hardscaping.

– If you trying to work out if you need to install raised beds.

You can always ask your landscaper for help in getting your soil tested, and advice on what to plant with your type of soil.

Here’s to a wonderful new year, with a productive and gorgeous yard or garden.

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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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