Audrey Gillespie, Reporter News Special

Posted May 23, 2021 at 5:00 p.m. CT

SHUT DOWN

This Saturday, May 29th, from 9am to 12pm, the Taylor County Extension Office at the Expo Fairgrounds is the place to be for the Big Country Master Gardener Association’s “Welcome to our Back Yard” workshop.

Register for this free event from 8:30 a.m. and win a cool door prize. Snacks are provided.

Many of my master gardener friends have worked masterfully and tirelessly on the demonstration garden beds in the extension office so that you can see and explore the reality of the gardening principles we have encouraged. On Saturday you will have the opportunity to take part in our show and talk to experts in low-maintenance gardening, rainwater harvesting, hardscape / landscaping and raised bed gardens.

I look forward to attending and expect to learn some new tricks while having a great time. We hope you can join us.

The advisory service provides gardening education based on scientific research, including soils and organics. However, the effects of compost (decomposed organic matter) in the garden seem magical.

If you’ve put a shovel in the dirt in west Texas, you know you faced a challenge. Compost to the rescue. In addition to sand, it helps hold some of the sand particles together in an aggregate, which reduces pore space and slows water drainage through the soil. This also improves nutrient retention.

In clay soils, compost acts like an adhesive that binds the tiny clay particles together to form larger aggregates and opens spaces for the free passage of water. The changed soil will thus grow down and out more easily for the roots and hold nutrients more efficiently.

Compost adds beneficial microorganisms and soil dwellers to the existing dirt. Actinomycetes help to fix nitrogen in the soil, which is then available to the plant. Amoeba soil protozoa help mineralize nutrients for plants and other soil organisms. They help keep the bacteria levels in check.

Other beneficial insects fight pathogens or help plants to become more drought-resistant, to activate disease-resistant genes in plants and much more.

Better water retention, disease and pest resistance, nutrient production – that sounds like saving water, fertilizer and pesticides to me. And magic.

Compost not only reacts biologically with the soil, but also chemically. All soils have a pH of acid or alkalinity: 7pH is neutral. The lower the number from there, the more acidic the soil, the higher, the more alkaline. The further the soil is from neutrality, the greater the likelihood that some minerals are either bound to plants and unavailable or concentrated in concentrations that are toxic to plants. Compost will help cushion the effects in both cases. Magic.

If compost is the magic, we can be the wizards. Less than 3% of the 30 million tons of organic waste produced in the US is recycled. On Saturday you will see an amazingly productive raised bed garden built from a ton of trash cardboard and a ton of other compostable materials covered with a layer of earth.

Food waste accounts for 30% of the average household waste. Kitchen garbage, excluding dairy, meat, or fats, can be buried, placed in a compost bin, or used in a vermicompost bin. The latter uses red worms to break down the leftovers and plenty of newspaper into worm casts, which is a particularly rich form of compost. It is also a fascinating project for children. Search Aggie Horticulture compost on YouTube for great videos on composting.

If compost is the magic, mulch is the fairy dust that is strewn on the ground. A layer of organic mulch 2-4 inches thick helps regulate soil temperatures, conserve water, deter weeds, facilitate soil compaction, and act as a slow release fertilizer. The Abilene Brush Center, 2149 Sandy St., offers free wood chips and mulch for collection or has it delivered for a fee.

The BCMGA is happy to help you with your gardening questions. Call our hotline at 325-672-6048 or send an email to [email protected]

Until next time, have fun gardening!

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