Making your own compost at home provides two great benefits. It’s a great way to recycle your yard clippings and kitchen scraps, and the end result of the process provides free mulch for your plants. Our Arizona summer is just around the corner, and placing compost or other organic mulches on the surface of plant roots is one great way to get your landscape through this long, hot, dry season.

A two to four inch layer of organic mulch will help keep roots cooler, retain soil moisture, reduce weed growth, improve soil structure, and increase nutrient holding abilities of the soil. Compost or other organic mulches can reduce plant water needs by as much as 30%, and best of all, if you are composting, you are diverting waste from the landfill that would produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

When installing new plants, place compost or mulch on the surface of the root zone after planting and then top with rock or granite. Because mulch breaks down very quickly here due to the heat, it is a good idea to replenish organic mulches around existing plants once or twice each year.

Here are our favorite tips to share for successful composting in the desert:

  • Check with your City/Town and see if they offer recycled trash barrels as composting containers.
  • Place your composter near a water source so you can occasionally wet it down to speed up decomposition.
  • Add some helpful ingredients to your compost pile like coffee grounds (check with your local coffee-house) or horse manure (check with local stables).
  • Keep mulches about three to four inches from the trunk or stem, since too much moisture against the bark can cause damage.
Composters, hard at work: Cities may offer recycled trash barrels as compost containers. Photo by Pam Perry

Composters, hard at work: Cities may offer recycled trash barrels as compost containers. Photo by Pam Perry

If you’re unsure how to get started, then you can’t miss Mesa’s March Living Green Workshop titled Composting as Easy as One-Two, March 13th at 1:30 p.m. at the Dobson Branch Library, 2425 S. Dobson Road in Mesa. Or you can learn easy steps to turn green waste into mulch from the City of Mesa’s March $ustainability $avings Tip .

Carol turning compost: Turning the material to aerate aids the decomposition process. Photo by Pam Perry

Carol turning compost: Turning the material to aerate aids the decomposition process. Photo by Pam Perry

Mesa is one of seventeen Water – Use It Wisely regional partners, many of whom offer water-wise workshops. Check out all of the partner programs from the Water – Use It Wisely calendar on our home page. You can also check out all of our landscape plants and Xeriscape links, including rebates available on our Water – Use It Wisely local resources page.

Compost: Turn your kitchen scraps into rich mulch. Photo by Donna DiFrancesco

Compost: Turn your kitchen scraps into rich mulch. Photo by Donna DiFrancesco

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