DIG THIS! SLO Landscape Strategies

Compost Part Two: Let It Rot, Let It Roll!

The great (digestible) outdoors! 
Outdoor composting includes both green and brown materials. Which is to say, all you really need is food, water, and air, and maybe a bin (if you want to impress your neighbors). Good compost is made of the stuff you’d usually just throw away: table scraps, yard waste, shredded paper, pruned branches, eggshells, and so forth. With the right mix, millions of microorganisms will convert your raw leftovers into rich, beneficial compost.
How can I be sure the composting has started?
The little mico friends that make compost possible need a balanced diet of green materials (high in nitrogen) for protein and brown materials (high in carbon) for energy.  Once these elements are in place, there’s no stopping them! The best combination is three parts brown to one part green.
  • Fresh green grass clippings
  • Kitchen scraps (fruit, veggies, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells, compostable plates and flatware)
  • Weeds and green leaves
  • Brown dry leaves
  • Dried grass
  • Cornstalks and straw
  • Excess mulch
  • Pruned branches
  • Pet droppings
  • Materials treated with herbicides and/or pesticides
  • Too much meat, especially if your pile is uncovered
When do I stop adding stuff?

Start with a minimum of a cubic foot of raw materials, and add as you go. More material is always better to generate the heat core necessary for rapid breakdown. Remember that compost needs time to cook down before you use it in your garden: Each time you add new material it’s like resetting the clock on harvesting your product. You wouldn’t buy a bag of potting soil with a rotting tomato inside, so don’t do that to yourself at home!

By adding leaves and natural ingredients, you’ve got all the bacteria and fungi ready and waiting to help.  If you want to give them a little boost, add a shovel of good garden soil to the mix. By regularly turning your compost you help the decomposition along and speed up the process.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Morro Bay Celebration: Dahlia Daze and Cypress Nightz

Morro Bay’s city flower is the Dahlia–did you know? And early this year the city’s fine folk voted to make the official tree the Cypress. Together, this is cause for celebration. Taylor Newton of Newton Cultivation (Taylor’s nursery near the roundabout in Morro Bay that blasts classical music for the benefit of his plants) is a member of the Morro Bay Tree Committee, as is Gabriel. Together with the group’s other constituents, Taylor and the Dahlia Society put together a celebration at the Morro Bay Community Center to meld horticultural inquiry and education with community fun and festivities.

Things kick off this Friday, August 26th, at 5:00 pm, and continue from 10:00 to 5:00-ish on Saturday the 27th. Enjoy presentations and booths of Kevin Larkin, president of the Dahlia Society of California, local Master gardeners, closet horticulturalists, Central Coast arborists, the California Native Plant Society, Dahlia-lovers, the California Rare Fruit Growers, and more. Also enjoy food, fun, wine, cheese, dancing, and the Red Skunk Jipzee Swing Band. Bring your friends, bring your neighbors!

We’ll be at the walk ‘n’ talk presented by Matt Ritter, associate biology professor at Cal Poly on Saturday morning. Hope to see you at there!


Compost: The Lifeblood of Your Central Coast Garden

Our mild climate here on the Central Coast makes it easy to overlook the changing of the seasons. With all the back-to-school commercials, however, it’s clear that fall is right around the corner. One of the best parts of autumn is making use of all those leaves that Nature provides for us. Yes, we’re going to have to rake a little, but it’s worth it for the leafy reward! Don’t put your pile in the yard waste container. Instead, add them to your compost pile and reuse them as nutritious supplement for your garden, lawn or houseplants.
No compost pile of your own? Do any of these lines sound familiar?
“I’ve been meaning to start composting, but I’m not sure how.”
“My neighbor composts and her house plants and garden are stunning.”
“I try to eat healthy and I’d like to save some money and not use fertilizers for my fruit trees and spring vegetable garden.” 
Not to worry, now is the perfect time to start your compost adventure! First, to talk about why. Simply put, compost is decomposing organic material. While that doesn’t sound too appetizing, think about it this way. Have you ever gone for a walk in the woods and enjoyed the soft, springy soil, or the way sounds seem muffled and softer? You’ve been surrounded by compost! As plants die, foragers of all sizes (from larger mammals, birds, and rodents to worms, insects, and microscopic organisms) consume them. The result of this natural cycle is compost, a combination of digested and undigested food that’s left on the forest floor to create rich, usually soft, sweet-smelling soil. Mother Nature knows her stuff!
We all have a variety of organic material that ends up at the local landfill. But if we compost our table scraps, lawn clippings, and fallen leaves, we avoid the messy garbage heaps of rotting food by choosing to manage–and reap the benefits of–the decomposition process. Compost also cuts down the need for fertilizers and potential chemical pollution.
Win, win, win!
Our local clay and sandy soil doesn’t always hold the right amounts of nutrients, air and moisture for healthy and productive plant growth.  Enter compost (imagine if Stan Lee had a garden comic strip hero)!  Compost improves the soils structure and gives virtually all the essential nutrients, and it releases those nutrients over time to give plants a steady, consistent amount essential for growth.  Compost will transform our sandy soil and grow stronger plants that are more resistant to diseases.
Soon to come, answers to: “How do I start?”  “Do I need worms?” “Can I compost everything??”
Tags: , , , , , ,