Start a compost pile in time for Earth Day

Here’s a link to an excellent “How-To” for composting by Susan Donaldson at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extention. » Link to article

Here’s the breakdown. I highly recommend reading the article if you’re thinking about starting to compost at your home.

  • Site. Pick a level, well-drained site…
  • Pile size. Make compost piles at least one cubic yard…
  • Ingredients. Start by creating a series of layers…
  • Particle size. The size of the materials you add to your compost pile plays a role in how fast the material breaks down…
  • Water. This is often our biggest barrier to effective composting in Nevada…
  • Mixing. Once the pile is built, it should begin composting quickly…
  • Curing. The pile should stay hot for several weeks to two months…

Susan Donaldson is water quality and weed specialist for the western area of University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. This is the 10th in a series of articles from University of Nevada Cooperative Extension on starting your own vegetable garden. Previous articles have explored such topics as site selection, ordering seeds, preparing your soil and starting seeds indoors.

To find the complete series of articles, go to www.unce.unr.edu/resources/horticulture/growyourown.

Apply compost now for water savings later

Turning the corner into a new year makes the gardening season feel closer at hand.

If you’ve got a hankering to get outdoors and “do something,” January is an ideal time to apply compost, regardless of weather.  That means do it the Nevada way… toss it on top of the snow!

Homemade Compost Bin

Even if you are not able to till it into the soil, the early application gives compost adequate time to break down.  Compost on its own is low in nutrient value.  It’s not valuable for what it is, so much as what it does — and the doing takes time.

Early composting allows a “mellowing process” that will result in a homogeneous soil mixture ripe with microbial activity.  That’s why compost that mellows a few months has better results than when it’s applied right before planting.  This process helps soil hold onto both nutrients and water.  With another dry season predicted, holding on to every drop of water this growing season will be critical.

What kind of compost?

  • Compost by nature is all organic, but some compost “mixes” will have sand and other inorganic material as fillers.
  • To promote the most organic activity possible, look for compost with little or no fillers.
  • Also, shop for compost that is well-aged and low in salt.

How much do I need?

A good rule of thumb is 1 cubic yard of compost per 100 square feet of garden area.  Use less if your soil has been well amended in the past.

Best value: 

Bulk purchases are the most cost effective, so you might get the best deal picking up bulk compost.  For reference, a pick-up truck holds about 1 ½ to 2 cubic yards.  So if you need this amount–or could share with a neighbor–buying in bulk could save some cash.  To buy in bulk and have it delivered to your home usually requires a minimum order of 5 or more cubic yards.

We suggest calling on someone like Craig at Full Circle Compost in Carson City for some really great material. Call them at 775-267-5305.

This weekend looks to be a bit warmer.. up in the 40’s! So as long as the frost isn’t biting too much,  it might be fun to pitch some compost over the garden and daydream about early-summer tomatoes.

Reminder:  compost is about more than growing veggies.  It’s a key ingredient when establishing a healthy, low-water lawn and for all the other plants in your landscape.  If you are renovating or installing a new landscape, be sure to follow the compost requirements as suggested by your landscaper – or visit the University Cooperative Extension web site for excellent information on composting in Nevada.

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