Area residents can buy a discounted backyard compost bin or rain barrel, plus pick up some free mulch from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium, 1702 Foss St. Enter the stadium from Scenic Highway.

Compost bins will be sold for $30 and rain barrels $45. Nature’s Best Organics will offer free mulch, one scoop per pickup truck or load-your-own container, while supplies last.

A total of 1,300 compost bins and rain barrels will be available in this city-subsidized program.

The “Earth Machine” compost bin is made of black recycled plastic, has a 10.5 cubic foot capacity, a 10-year warranty, and fits easily into an average-sized sedan. The Systern Rain Barrel has a 55-gallon capacity.

It is made of recycled plastic, and comes partially assembled. Those who wish to purchase both a compost bin and rain barrel should bring a four-door sedan, pickup truck, SUV or hatchback.

City-Parish Recycling Director Susan Hamilton said that a family can produce up to 1,000 pounds of yard waste annually.

“Keeping yard waste off the curb through composting, grass cycling and mulching saves landfill space, valuable resources and money,” Hamilton said. “In as little as 10 minutes a week, residents can convert leaves and grass into an abundant supply of organic matter for use in gardens, as well as reduce their curbside trash output by 30 percent and their gardening water bills by up to 30 percent.”

The Systern Rain Barrel also reduces household water bills and is an excellent, chemical-free water source for lawns, plants and gardens. In fact, rain water is better than tap water for plants, Hamilton said.

Baton Rouge tap water has a medium-high alkalinity which has a liming effect when used on plants long term. This does not bother some plants but ones that require a lower pH suffer, especially potted plants.

Baton Rouge water is great for drinking but not so great for plants.

LSU AgCenter Master Gardener volunteers and the EBRP Recycling Office will offer an Education Expo to teach residents how to use the compost bins, as well as how to practice grass recycling and mulching. Visit for more information.

Valuable mulch

Wait! Don’t bag those tree leaves and throw them away. That’s valuable mulch.

Mulching flowers, trees and shrubs is a great sustainable landscape practice when done correctly.

Organic mulches include tree leaves, pine needles, ground bark and wood chips. Mulches improve soil fertility as they decompose.

In addition, mulches buffer soil temperature, keeping soils several degrees warmer in winter and cooler in summer. They can help maintain soil moisture by reducing evaporation and minimize water needs for established plants. A mulch layer will also help with weed control.

Mulching can be done almost any time of the year.

Normally home gardeners apply mulch in spring and then add more in fall. In addition, it’s common to use mulch during the winter.

Leaves and plant debris collected from yards in fall make good mulch material for many plants. Mulching can also help protect sensitive plants from freeze injury.

In order to maximize mulch benefits and minimize problems from mulching improperly, learn how to use mulch in the landscape and know how to apply it properly.

One of the major overlooked facts of mulching is how it inhibits germination and subsequent growth of weed seeds. A layer of mulch, primarily pine straw, will partially block sunlight penetration to the soil surface.

Many weed seeds lie on top of the soil and require light to germinate. If mulch is present to block the light, seeds may never germinate.

Over time, many types of mulch improve soil aeration, structure and drainage. In areas with compacted soil and little desirable plant growth, continually mulching for a couple of years will gradually loosen the compacted soil. This will allow more drainage and aeration and will improve the area for plant growth in the future.

Applying mulch around trees and shrubs — but not against the trunk — eases maintenance and reduces the likelihood of damage from string trimmers.

Unfortunately, “volcano mulching” — piling mulch in a cone shape around the base of a tree or shrub — is now becoming common. This hinders oxygen exchange to roots, which causes plant stress and root rot.

Do not place mulch on top of a tree’s root ball or against the trunk. Mulch that’s deeper than about 3 inches on top of the root-ball area of newly planted trees and shrubs can stress plants because it can intercept water meant for the roots.

Remember to go outward rather than upward with mulch.

Finally, mulch gives planting beds a neat and uniform appearance, adding a contrast of color and texture that complements plantings.

Most mulches fade in color over time, but they can and should be replenished to maintain their effectiveness and attractiveness.

Master Gardener

Want to become a Master Gardener? Visit and click Research Stations, then Burden Center and EBR Master Gardeners or contact Bob Souvestre at or (225) 763-3990.

Applications are being accepted for the East Baton Rouge Parish program at Burden. Deadline is Jan. 17. Class size is limited.

Got a gardening question? Write to Bob Souvestre, horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter, at Burden Center, 4560 Essen Lane, Baton Rouge, LA 70809, or email to, or call Master Gardeners at (225) 763-3990.