Mary Ann Van Osdell, Peterson, Grace
News Release Distributed 01/26/10
BOSSIER CITY, La. – Your soil is alive, and you need to feed it, Dr. Grace Peterson, an LSU AgCenter agent, said at the monthly Lunch and Ag Discovery session held at the LSU AgCenter Red River Research Station Jan. 20.
Peterson explained mulching and composting, two techniques for increasing organic material in soil. “Organic material is anything that used to be alive,” Peterson said.
Free sources of mulch and composting material include lawn clippings, leaves, gin trash and manure.
Peterson suggested drying the grass clippings and using small or shredded leaves.
Mulch conserves moisture and prevents weeds. “Apply a 3- to 4-inch layer around plants,” she said. “Spread it evenly to the drip line,” the outer limit of a plant’s leaf canopy.
Organic material improves soil structure, loosens heavy clay soil, increases water retention in sandy soil and holds nitrogen in the soil, Peterson explained.
Yard wastes can be composted without a bin if you don’t mind the appearance of an uncontained compost mound in your yard. “Pile your yard waste in a mound about 3 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet,” Peterson said.
Covering it with a layer of soil will hold in moisture for the microorganisms and other organisms working to make compost.
Add wastes as they become available, Peterson said. “Non-wood materials work best.”
Turning the pile can speed composting. Compost should be ready in three to four months if a good, compostable mixture of organic materials is used and the pile is turned regularly, Peterson said.
Mary Ann Van Osdell
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture