Compost-Conservation Corner-sustainability-WaterSmart-sustainable landscapingYou worked hard to plan your sustainable landscaping. Keep it healthy and thriving with a commitment to becoming a compost champion. Photo: Mel Green/Pixabay

Become a Compost Champion

Once your sustainable landscape makeover is in place, commit to best practices in maintenance. This includes regular composting.

Compost can also be used as mulch, applied directly to the soil surface. It can prevent erosion and help plants, and soil filter pollution, especially hydrocarbons and metals from road surfaces. Most greenwaste-based composts can be applied to a depth of three inches. Composted biosolids should be no deeper than two inches.

If you don’t produce your own compost on-site, it should be obtained from a reputable source that guarantees high quality. Commercially produced compost quality can vary significantly due to the diverse nature of feedstock, composting processes, and maturation standards.

Using compost as a soil amendment

For native plants in your sustainable landscaping, use roughly 15 percent compost by volume to repair disturbed or damaged soils.

Clay-based soil amended with compost will lead to more productive and healthy plant growth at a lower cost than amending the same soil with the necessary 45 percent sand.  In general, poor soils that are compacted, lifeless, or subsoils should be amended with three to six cubic yards or high-quality compost per 1,000 square feet to improve soil structure,

Biosolids-based composts should be used sparingly if they are high in ammonium nitrogen.

How do you know when it’s ready to use? Your compost is ready to use when it has an earthy smell, when it’s cooled off, and when it doesn’t reheat when stirred. The color should be uniformly dark brown or even black. You shouldn’t be able to identify any of the original particles.

This article is part of a year-long series inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at