Posts tagged mulching

Using (free!) compost to restore flooded yards

 

Screening equipment and compost piles at the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency's site in southwest Cedar Rapids (Cindy Hadish photo)

Screening equipment and compost piles at the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency's site in southwest Cedar Rapids (Cindy Hadish photo)

   Stacie Johnson, compost expert extraordinaire, sent me a note about getting flooded yards back in shape. Stacie, education coordinator for the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency, said owners of flood-damaged homes have been calling the agency about using compost as fill as they begin work on their yards this spring.  Last June’s floods wiped out the vegetation of thousands of homes in Eastern Iowa, especially in the Cedar Rapids area. One caller wanted to put compost 4 inches deep on her lawn, but Stacie advises against using compost as fill or topsoil. The grass might sprout, but would have long-term problems growing. Also, it would make a very soft spot in the yard, as compost is mostly organic matter with little mineral content. 

      The Agency is giving away free compost for Linn County residents and Stacie wants it to be used so it’s most beneficial to these homeowners.

Here is what she says:

    Compost is a good source of soil organic matter and shouldn’t be used as you would topsoil.  The three compost applications recommended by the Solid Waste Agency are mulching, amending and top-dressing.

Mulching: add one inch of compost as a mulch layer, no need to work in and can be topped off with wood mulch for a formal landscape.

 Amending: (most likely the best approach for flood homes)  work one to two inches into the top six inches of existing soil.

 Top Dressing – spread 1/4 to ½-inch layer of compost over existing lawn; best to aerate before top dressing and reseed after.

A rule of thumb for how much compost is needed to complete a project:  square footage x depth x .0031 = cubic yards needed for your soil amendment project.

The agency’s Web site: www.solidwasteagency.org has more information on hours and where you can pick up the compost. The compost is made from the leaves and other natural materials collected in Yardys. It is aged in piles and unwanted materials are removed with a heavy-duty screening machine. The result is rich, dark compost that is great for the soil.

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Good news/bad news on annuals

The following is from Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith:

 It’s a good news, bad news thing.  Annuals provide long-lasting color throughout the summer. Then they die. 

       Perennials, while often providing dramatic color and impression, also often hold blooms for only a short time.  So, mix annuals with perennials.  Tuck annuals in and around trees and shrubs for a surprise splash of color. Use annuals in a container combining colors and textures.  Try some annuals in your vegetable garden. 

           Plan, plan, plan.  Think about what you’re doing.  Starting small works.  Remember when it’s 110’ in the shade in August, you may not want to be tending to an entire back yard of flowers.  But, make an impact.  Down by the road I have a 1’ x 60’ group of plantings that I never have gotten right.  The perennials keep coming up, but there just isn’t any emotion.  Maybe expanding it with a serpentine arrangement will help.  Annuals will be the option until I decide how I want it to ultimately evolve.  

     Color counts.  Create mood and interest with color.  Cool colors like greens, blues and violets help a small area seem larger and hot spots cooler.  Warm colors, the oranges, reds, and yellows, will warm a location and steal the show.  Go ahead:  combine warm and cool contrasting colors.  Yellow and blue are stunning together; red and green eye catching.  Use your imagination.  If you have a very favorite color, create a monochromatic garden but keep interest by varying textures. 

            Choose the right plants.  Annuals that require deadheading and staking may not be your cup of tea.  Reading the label is critical to know proper care. 

           Annuals require one inch of water each week.  When you can see four leaves on each plant, add mulch.  Mulch impedes weed growth and helps retain moisture.  Compost is a wonderful amendment. 

            Visit your favorite garden center.  Ask lots of questions.  Visit your neighbors’ gardens.  Ask lots of questions.  Dig in the dirt and then enjoy what you’ve created.

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