Friday, July 17, 2009

The Benefits of Compost

Most folks are familiar with compost as a soil amendment for general landscaping purposes in planting beds and establishing new lawns. There are several other benefits and applications for compost and the use of compost continues to grow!

Compost can be used as a mulch; a top dressing to blanket the layer of soil the plants rest their feet(roots) in. Utilized in this fashion, it suppresses weed growth, holds soil moisture, lowers soil temperature than without it, and improves the organic structure of the soil as the mulch breaks down. This supports an entire system of life typically referred to as the soil food web, but I digress, that is another post. Compost is instrumental in plant establishment when back-filled into the planting hole with the root ball of plant material. The roots of the plant have a softer and nutrient rich medium to begin their new development of growth. And by the way, without an adequate root structure, even the plants that require less water need a root system to support them first and foremost.

Coffee Drinkers, Keep Those Grinds!

Coffee grinds can be a great alternative to chemical fertilizers. Some of your local coffee houses even give their used grinds for free. That's an opportunity to prevent it from becoming an addition to your local landfill.....and it's free fertilizer!
For some reason, I am less than enthusiastic about eating food that chemicals were poured onto and apparently more and more people feel the same way as I notice an increase in the availability and selection of foods labeled with the word ORGANIC.
If you're already a composter, you probably already add coffee grinds as well as other fruit and vegetable waste to your compost bin (See the City of San Jose's site to get one for yourself or if you are not a San Jose resident, check with your city or county). As an alternative, that is to say if you don't have a bin, sprinkle the coffee grinds onto the soil around the plant so that it is within the plant's root zone. Although you could mix it into the soil, leaving it on the surface works just as well and saves you time. Either way as the grinds are slowly absorbed into the soil we waste less and nurture more.