Soup up your soil

By Casey Cuellar, Communications intern.

Compost is a biodegradable superhero that’ll deliver much-needed moisture to your soil and transform it into a veritable sponge.

With the ongoing drought, some local soil types have baked, hardened and lost their absorbent ability. Since soil and water are the root of all landscape issues and possibilities, many gardeners are left wondering how to build up our soils and make them healthy again.

Let’s be clear: finding a solution for parched soil can be a trial-and-error journey. Although irrigation brings short-lived moisture, it can be a costly resource. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution to help your soil stay moist and take better care of itself: Compost.

A biodegradable superhero, compost delivers much-needed moisture to the soil, transforming it into a veritable sponge ready to receive the next rainfall.

So what is compost and where do we get it? In short, it’s decaying plant matter — kitchen vegetable scraps, decaying leaves or even manure from grass-eating livestock. When applied to your landscape, it releases millions of microbes that begin working, providing beneficial growth for new plant life.

After years of drought, erosion and other woes, even during a big rainfall event not all the water gets absorbed into lawns or landscapes due to runoff, which winds up in our stormwater systems. This is because moisture can naturally slip off without ever penetrating the soil, especially in “hydrophobic” clay-based soils that repel water. (Clay soils are very good at holding on to water once it’s absorbed, but they’re not very good at absorbing it during a sudden downpour.)

Over the long term, compost can help solve this problem and maximize the amount of water our landscapes soak up. And it doesn’t take much. Even a ¼- or ½-inch of compost applied to your lawn or landscape will help soften the soil, allowing wiggle room for water to sink into the ground.

Whether homemade or purchased from a local producer, compost is applied the same way. Spread it out gently with the backside of a rake to ensure your landscape is lightly covered. Don’t worry about scraps sticking out. All the material will eventually blend into the landscape and your soil will enjoy a boost of food and nutrients.

Consider every spring and autumn an invitation to achieve a healthier, more water-absorbent soil, and make compost part of your gameplan.

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Guest Author
Our Guest Authors are fantastic former SAWS employees, incredible interns and community leaders in the local landscaping world. They are all as passionate as we are about saving water with beautiful, diverse landscapes.
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