Soil and Compost forum: Composting in the desert?

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May 27, 2013 2:05 PM CST
Hi there,
I am new to the forum, looking forward to meeting you all and learning from your experiences. I've recently moved into a condo with a small yard, in a little town just outside of Las Vegas, NV. I rent, but my landlord is very cool, and has given me permission to do as much or as little as I want with the yard (within HOA rules). So far I've just thrown a few herbs and flowers into some pots, and am trying to re-establish some Texas Ranger shrubs that had nearly died of thirst before I moved in (neglected irrigation system). I probably won't have enough $ to do much more until autumn. I try to garden as organically as possible.

I am interested in establishing some sort of composting set-up. I have my grass clippings and kitchen waste for green matter, and can get all the brown matter I need from work, if I don't produce enough at home. I've only ever composted once before, and that was in a cooler, moister climate. I'm assuming the heat here (July-Aug ambient temps in the 105-115 range) will kill the worms in a traditional compost setup? I don't have any shade trees, so would have to construct any shading that might be required. There is one corner of my yard that only gets about 3-4 hours of direct sun (mid-day) due to surrounding structures. I think that would be the best place for composting, as it's also furthest from the neighbors, in case of odors from the compost. I don't produce a huge amount of garden/food waste, but would like to put it back into the earth if I can, rather than send it to the landfill.

Has anyone successfully composted in this type of climate? How did you go about it? What problems did you run into?

Thanks in advance!
[Last edited by Anushka3 - May 27, 2013 2:06 PM (+)]
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Name: Susie
Phoenix AZ (Zone 9a)
Southwest Gardening~ moderator/ATP.
Charter ATP Member Tip Photographer Forum moderator Region: Southwest Gardening Garden Ideas: Level 2 Roses
Birds Region: United States of America Garden Art Dog Lover Daylilies Hummingbirder
May 29, 2013 7:39 PM CST
Hi Anushka,
Welcome. We've been pretty quite as a regional ATP forum lately. I think needs, interests, climate have brought about a stall here. Hope we happen to have some folks drop in to help with your question.

First, my nephew from Woodland CA went to college at New Mexico Highlands Univ. and liked it.

I compost much like what you're describing. Brown from spent leaves in my yard. Not the best for composting but it seems to work. Kitchen scraps and some grass cuttings from Winter Rye. I don't use the Bermuda clippings. In the cool months I have lots and lots of worms, in the summer/warm months... none. I do continue to put material into the pile and turn it year round no matter. Everything decomposes, turns dark and fine... no oder. So... maybe what you do, plan to do with your composting should be fine. I have a friend here in Phoenix who have planted a very small garden... in the ground, of strawberries, greens, etc. with great success. I have lettuces growing from seed nearly year round. My two tomato plants have produced at least 38 perfect tomatoes the last few weeks with more to come!!

“Don't give up too quickly"... unknown, I heard it somewhere.
Name: Crista Abel
Gilbert, Arizona
Birds Cat Lover Dog Lover Hummingbirder Purslane Region: Southwest Gardening
Vegetable Grower
Jul 18, 2013 10:23 AM CST
Hi Anushka! I'm a composter and agree with Susie about not composting bermuda grass. There's too much danger of the bermuda grass seeds not being killed --- some say there are killed when you attain high heat with your compost, but I don't want to risk it! You won't have any odors as long as the compost doesn't get too wet, and then if it does just add some shredded paper. With your dry heat, really keeping the compost pile damp enough is more of an issue. With just my husband and myself we don't go through much to produce much compost, but like you I like to return what I can to the earth to enrich the soil. Have fun with this - it's great that your landlord will let you garden!!

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