Saturday, November 29, 2014

How to Use Compost in Your Garden

Master gardeners consider compost “black gold” for their lawns and gardens. One of the reasons is that compost is so rich in nutrients that it improves the fertility of your soil, making plants healthier. It’s a virtuous cycle for your soil. Food gets grown, consumed, and then the scraps go into your compost pile or bin. Later, the finished compost is used to nourish the soil again.

So once you've finished making compost, how do you use it? There’s no need to worry, the answer is really simple. Use compost much as you would any sort of fertilizer or potting soil – it’s up to you whether you want to use compost while it’s fully decomposed, or even if there are still little bits of straw, hay, twigs and such in the mix.You can always put it through a compost sifter if you want it nice and broken up.

Four of the most common uses for compost are:

1. A moisture holding mulch
2. A soil amendment. 
3. A compost tea. 
4. A lawn top dressing. 

Mulch: If you are using the compost as a moisture holding mulch – do exactly what you would do with any mulch. Spread it around plants, trees, shrubs – the usual entities in your garden or lawn. Just make sure there is a good 2-3 inches on whatever the surface, and you will be good to go. Just like regular mulches from organic materials, it will break down over time. Just keep adding to it once or twice a year, and you’ll soon have the healthiest lawn in town, as the compost continually increases the fertility of the soil.

Soil Amendment: If you use compost as a soil amendment, just dig anywhere from 2 to 4 inches down and then throw the compost in there, and mix it in with the rest of the soil at planting time. Your flowers, plants, or whatever you have planted there will thrive.

Compost Tea: Compost tea refers to the liquid matter released by the compost. Sometimes, compost produces the tea naturally, but you can also produce your own compost tea by steeping a shovel full of compost in a 5 gallon bucket for a few days. When it is ready to go, simply just pour it on the flowers or plants you wish to use it on. If you want to keep the compost separate from the liquid, put the compost into a burlap sack when you dunk it into the water.

Lawn Top Dressing: Top dressing? Sounds kind of like something you’d put on a salad, but it’s really just adding a layer of compost on top of your grass, where it will work its way into the soil as the grass grows. Just apply anywhere from 1 to 3 inches of compost to the lawn and rake and water it in. Although it might look like you have a pile of dirt on your lawn for the first week or two, it will eventually settle into the soil and disappear, leaving you with much healthier soil that also holds water better and keeps your grass nice and green. Continuing to rake it in also makes it disappear faster. Early spring is a good time to add compost like this, or the end of the season. Yet another benefit: you’ll need less fertilizer, or no fertilizer at all when you use compost as a top dressing at least once a year.

By using compost around your yard in any or all of these ways, you’ll notice healthier plants, soil, and a greener lawn. You’ll also cut down on waste in the home. The nutrients contained in compost will have an amazing effect on the output of plants, vegetables, and overall appearance of your lawn and garden.

Pandanus utilius

Common Names: screw pine
Family: Pandanaceae (screw-pine Family)


Screw pine is a palmlike evergreen with an upright stem (trunk) to 30 ft (9 m) or more high, and many horizontal spreading branches. At the end of each branch is a spiral rosette of long, linear leaves armed with small reddish teeth along the margins. Old leaf scars spiral around the branches and trunk, like a screw. The dark green leaves are around 6 ft (2 m) long, rather stiff, and have a waxy texture. Screw pine produces numerous aerial stilt roots that grow down to the ground and help support the branches which may spread to be wider than the tree's height. Screw pines are dioecious: The male plants produce fragrant colorful flowers in long spikes. The females produce weird looking pendulous fruits that resemble orange pineapples or oversized pine cones.


There are more than 600 species of screw pines native to the Old World tropics in Asia, Africa and the Pacific. Pandanus utilis hails originally from the continental island of Madagascar, where it commonly grows near the sea. This is the most widely cultivated species in the genus, grown in tropical gardens throughout the world.

Light: Grow screw pine in full sun to partial shade. Indoor container plants should be in front of a south or west facing window.
Moisture: Screw pine does best in a humid environment, but it is drought tolerant once established. It grows well in any soil, but grows faster and more lush if given plenty of water. Keep moist in summer, but dry in winter and don't let water accumulate in the leaf axils as this can cause rotting.

Propagation: Propagate screw pine from cuttings or by replanting suckers. Seeds, first soaked for 24 hours, can be planted.

Screw pine is the quintessential tropical tree, dramatic and imposing. No tropical garden should be without this exotic, architecturally fascinating species. Screw pine is very tolerant of salt spray and salty soils, and thus an excellent choice for coastal gardens in tropical climates. Young specimens make interesting container plants, although the smaller P. veitchii is more often used as a house plant. Container specimens need to be kept in a humid environment: Stand the container on a tray of gravel filled with water.

In its native habitat, screw pine, with its many aerial prop roots, is sometimes used for erosion control and to bind sand dunes. The long strap shaped leaves of screw pine are, to this day, used to make mats, baskets and thatched roofs. The fruits are edible.


The screw pines are monocots, more closely related to grasses, bananas and palms than to typical trees (dicots) such as pines or cypresses or oaks.