City offers free compost to gardeners

By Tom Dominguez

Talking to Joe Ramirez, city of Tucumcari Wastewater superintendent, the best compost to get is through the city waste water department.
It only cost you the effort and time to go by and pick it up. According to Ramirez, the biosolids that come from wastewater go through an industrial digestive process for seven to eight days to remove any and all pathogens and odors. It then goes onto drying beds until it is 90 percent to 95 percent solid. That means most or all of the moisture is out of the material.All this follows strict government regulations.
It is then piled and has non-waste water added to get the moisture content back up to 40% which then begins the decomposing system. Regulation says it must be turned five times within 15 days at a temperature of 135 degrees Fahrenheit. The compost is then tested to make sure all pathogens are killed. Compost must also meet Vector Attraction reduction requirements.
If all is well and every requirement, regulation, and time periods are met then the biosolids then are awarded a Class “A” compost and is ready for the public.
Consult with Ramirez on times and availability, handling instructions and you and your garden will reap the benefits of an abundant crop and flourishing landscape.
– Tom Dominguez
To contact the city’s Wastewater Department, call 461-3451.

Compost is your garden’s treasure

A good way to prepare your flower beds, vegetable gardens and even turf grass for the spring season is to add organic matter to your soils.

Composting is an excellent source of organic matter at a very low cost.

Gardeners usually make their own compost by keeping a compost bin or two full of old leaves, food scraps, and other natural bi-products that easily break down with a little water, heat and organism activity.

Yard waste makes up 20 percent to 30 percent of the solid waste of most municipalities throughout the United States, while food waste makes up another 8 percent to 9 percent.

The cost of collecting, hauling and handling yard waste is often a large part of the budget associated with many municipal solid waste management programs, averaging 20 percent of the budget and increasing to as much as 50 percent when grass clippings and leaves are handled.

What is composting?
Making compost is a speeded-up way of imitating nature’s cycle of life and death. The end product in the composting process is a dark, loose,partially decomposed, amorphous form of organic matter that reveals no hint of its origin. The only difference between finished compost and forest humus created by nature is time. The actions of various microorganisms and invertebrates convert raw organic matter in a compost pile into finished compost. Maximum decomposition occurs when these organisms are exposed to an appropriate balance of oxygen, moisture and nutrients. Products of the composting process include finished compost, carbon dioxide, heat and water.

Compost value, uses
Finished compost has many uses in the home garden. As it is created from a mixture of plant and animal wastes, it contains a broad base of both macro and micro fertilizer nutrients. Most of these nutrients are bound in an organic form and are made available to plants slowly throughout the growing season. The relative quantity of any one nutrient found in compost is quite low; thus, the major benefit of compost lies in its soil conditioning qualities.

As a rich source of organic matter, it improves the water-holding capacity of sandy soils and their ability to retain nutrients and release them to plant roots as needed. In heavier clay soils, compost binds clay particles together to form aggregates, improving both water drainage and the ability of plant roots to penetrate the soil. Conditioning soil surface layers with compost also will improve water penetration and decrease soil erosion and soil crusting. As a soil conditioner, compost contributes organic acids that weather mineral portions of the soil, making nutrients more available for plant uptake. Compost also improves the buffering capacity of the soil, helping stabilize soil pH levels. Because earthworms are attracted to organic matter, earthworm populations increase and make more nutrients available from deeper in the soil. Compost is most frequently applied to garden soils in the spring before planting. Compost should be liberally applied and turned under to a depth of 4-6 in. Gardeners with limited compost should incorporate it only below the seed row. Handfuls of compost also can be incorporated in planting holes for transplants.

Compost makes an excellent top dressing for lawns, trees, shrubs and perennial flowers. Mulches around vegetables and other plants help reduce water evaporation from the soil and cut down on annual weed growth, as well as serving as a slow-release source of nutrients. Compost will also cool the soil and buffer soil water fluctuations.

Tom Dominguez is an agent with the Quay County Extension, NMSU, Extension Service. He can be reached by emailing tdomingu@nmsu.edu or calling 461-0562.