How to Make Compost – Part 2

Santa Barbarara Landscaper Bruce Koehler

Bruce Koehler - President, Down to Earth Landscapes Inc

The Composting Process – Part 2

With a little know-how, anyone can make compost from home. Simply gather the right ingredients and nature will do the rest for you. Compost does not have to be made in a special place. You can simply collect your ingredients in one place and cover them with a polythene bag or can use a bin or other form of container, which can be bought from your local nursery, or you can build your own.

Where Do You Make Your Compost?

You want to select a location that is sunny with some shade during the day.  You want the composting material directly on soil or grass, not on concrete of other hardscape surface. Also, locate your composting area away from any flowing water such as a creek or river.
The bin or container you select should have a lid or cover and be easily accessible. It is often insulated.

Recommended Compost Ingredients

General Guidelines

If it was once living, it will compost. However, you should avoid meat, dairy and cooked food. They can attract rodents and other wildlife and should not be home-composted.

Why is Compost Important? – Part 1

Santa Barbara Landscaping company

Down to Earth Landscapes Inc in Santa Barbara

Why Compost and What are it’s Benefits?

Do you know about 40% of your garbage can’s contents are useful? Yes, many of the food scraps and yard clippings being disposed of can actually be useful for your backyard garden. You should recycle your kitchen waste along with your cut lawn and fallen leaves to make your own compost. You’re soil’s best friend.

What is Compost?

It is often said that “compost is gold for the garden”. Compost refers to the end product resulting from the decomposition of once living organic matter. When these living organisms die, they decompose and depending on various environmental factors, can form compost. Examples of organic matter around your home that can be used to make compost include straw, grass clippings, leaves, tree branches, certain animal manure, kitchen scraps, and so on.

It is true that over time all organic matter will eventually decompose but with your participation and under proper conditions, organic material can decompose more quickly and form compost to be used in your garden sooner

Please note that compost is not high in nutrients, (N-P-K) and is known more to condition the soil.  Since compost is most valuable as a soil conditioner, it can improve the soil structure, making it firmer to hold plants, can suppress soil borne diseases, attracts beneficial insects such as earthworms, and helps maintain optimum soil moisture and necessary microbial activity.

What is “Composting”.

As we said previously, composting is the natural process of turning organic matter into a more usable organic soil amendment called “compost”. This is nature’s own way of recycling decomposed organic material using microorganisms, nitrogen, carbon, moisture and oxygen.

But for serious gardeners, the composting process is managed to achieve the end result within a shorter time. To be successful, the gardener mixes various types of organic matter (greens and browns) in proper proportions with bacteria and other agents to form the proper consistency and dark color compost is known for. That is why within horticultural circles compost is frequently called “black gold”.
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Fixing Landscaping and Planting Mistakes

Common Planting Mistakes

Our maintenance clients often call on us to fix landscaping and planting errors made by other contractors. Here is a case study of a recent landscapee rescue project we just completed.

Case Study – Poor Soil Preparation

Recently we’ve been reworking the planting in the front yard of a client whose has lost trees and shrubs due to a fungus named armillaria and compaction of soil.


A large row of Texas Privet hedge and various shrubs were lost. The client desired these to be replaced as the Privet hedge offers them privacy against the street traffic. As that point, we tested the soil to determine the severity of the problem.

Planting and soil Poblem in Santa Barbara

Problem: Undetected Soil Fungus plus Irrigation and Electrical Conduits Not Buried Deep per Code Requirements


The causes of the problem was determined to be an undiscovered fungi in soil which caused root disease and poor planting techniques used by previous landscaper.

It is imperative that landscapers test the soil for harmful elements that can cause plant disease.  An example of a harmful soil condition is Armillaria.  A root disease commonly found throughout temperate and tropical regions of the world.
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Soil Tips for Santa Barbara Gardens

What you need to know about Santa Barbara Soils

Have you ever wondered about the soil type you have on your property? In Santa Barbara,  we run into  4 varieties  of soil types.

  • Monterrey ShaleSana Barbara Soil types
  • Clay
  • Sand
  • Sandy Loam

In our last blog, we offered some secrets to planting a low maintenance garden. In the course of writing this blog, we realized that an examination of Santa Barbara’s soil types themselves would be helpful because each soil type needs to be treated and amended in a different way.

1. Monterey Shale

This soil is most often found in the foothills of Santa Barbara County. It consists of a chalky substance that has been compressed over thousands of years. The soil is generally white or light grey in color that is actually useful as chalk. It is mainly found on slopes and hillsides, not in a flat area.
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5 Secrets to Growing a Beautiful and Healthy Low Maintenance Garden

santa barbara low maintenance landscapes

Growing Low Maintenance  Gardens in Santa Barbara

We will end our Four Part series on low maintenance gardens with tips on planting.

You might be aware that many factors are necessary for planting a successful low maintenance garden. These basic ingredients are the same no matter where on the planet your garden is located. The planting wisdom we are about to share below is universally accepted. However, there are distinctions specific to Santa Barbara landscaping.
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Using Soil Amendments to Create a Low Maintenance Garden in Santa Barbara

soil prep and healthy plantsThis week begins a series of blogs that will spotlight methods for creating a low maintenance garden. This week’s topic is “How to Use Soil Amendments to Create a Low Maintenance Garden”.

These blogs will provide you with a few tips on how to transform your garden into one that essentially takes care of itself. Who knows, you may be closer to “going low maintenance” than you think!

Soil Amendment and Low Maintenance

In an earlier blog dated March 14, 2012 we discussed the importance of amending soil. Proper soil preparation and amendment  is the starting point for having a healthy landscape. As a matter of fact, the quality of soil also directly impacts the maintenance required in your yard’s landscape because well amended and prepared soil keeps plant material healthy and strong and the result is a low maintenance garden  that will require fewer instances of fungicide, fertilization and dry soil.
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Soil Amendment Tips for Santa Barbara Landscapes.

Soil Preparation is important

Santa Barbara soil adviceSoil amendments and proper soil preparation are essential when installing a new landscape. As a matter of fact, it is arguably the most important component of a successful landscape. Clients often pay for a new landscape completely unaware that the installer doesn’t even have a clue what needs to go into the native soil for proper plant growth. Often enough, even the person doing the installing is unaware that THEY are unaware of it.
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