UC Master Gardeners

Using compost in your garden can save water

UC Master GardenerApril 16, 2014 

The numerous benefits of compost include moisture retention, weed suppression and a slow release of nutrients into the soil.


Compost is a mixture of carbon-rich dry brown materials and nitrogen-rich green plant materials. Composting is the process by which organic materials are decomposed through a series of biological events. The resulting small volume of material, what we call compost, will continue to slowly decompose.

One of the many benefits of adding compost to soil is that the nutrients in the compost are released slowly, making them available to plants over a long period of time — thus reducing the need for additional soil conditioners.

The benefits of using compost are numerous.

Composting retains soil moisture, so it limits the amount of irrigation needed and minimizes runoff. Compost can also lighten heavy clay soils and improve the water holding capacity of sandy soils, helping you to further manage your water resources. Well-composted soil supports beneficial microorganisms, encourages root growth and balances soil pH. Composted soil also moderates soil temperatures and can protect plants from freezing conditions.

Additionally, when used as mulch, compost can help suppress weeds. Long-term benefits of compost involve the recycling of organic materials that would otherwise be sent to landfills.

Another form of composting is vermicomposting, which uses worms to recycle food scraps and other organic material to develop a compost that can be used to amend an existing garden.

If you would like to learn more about composting or vermicomposting, please join the UCCE Master Gardeners at our Advice to Grow by Workshop at 10 a.m. on Saturday at 2156 Sierra Way in San Luis Obispo in the Garden of the Seven Sisters. Along with a lively presentation about composting, Wiggley Wranch stacking worm bins will be sold for $120. The worm bins include worms and all the information you need to set up your vermicomposting at home!

Please bring a hat, camping chair and water, as seating is limited.

Save the date: At 1:30 p.m. April 23 there will be a one-hour fruit tree thinning demonstration of deciduous fruit trees (not citrus or avocados). It will include information on why it is important to thin fruit and how and when to do it for all types of fruiting trees. The demonstration will be at 2156 Sierra Way in San Luis Obispo.


Contact the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners: at 781-5939 from 1 to 5 p.m. on Monday and Thursday; at 473-7190 from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesday in Arroyo Grande; and at 434-4105 from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesday in Templeton. Visit the UCCE Master Gardeners website at http://ucanr.org/sites/mgslo or email mgsanluisobispo@ucdavis.edu  .

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