Monday, August 5, 2013

Hello everyone!

Both the UT Concho Community Garden and UT Micro Farm have moved sites, so to access the most updated information about workdays and new blog entries, click on the links below.

UT Concho Community Garden:

Community garden plot owners should now visit the site above to enter volunteer hours, log produce harvested, and stay updated on upcoming events and workshops!

UT Micro Farm:


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Composting Class

Hello Gardeners!

We are holding another composting class at Concho Sunday, March 24th at 2:00 PM! We are requiring that all plot owners come out to one of our classes because compost is so important in sustaining a healthy garden. If you made it out to the first one in February that's great, and if you couldn't make it to that one this upcoming class will cover the same material! Check out our Facebook page for more information.

If you aren't able to attend any at Concho, there are a few other free composting classes Austin holds. Check out this website for locations and dates for Spring classes.

Everyone enjoy the rest of break and hope to see you at the garden! We will resume regular workdays (9:30 AM-1:30 PM) this Sunday, March 17.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Compost: Frequently Asked Questions

    Last weekend we had a compost 101 class at Concho. We went through the processes that make a compost pile successful and the things that gardeners need to know to make sure the process goes well. I know that not everyone was able to make it out to the class so here are answers to some important questions about composting:

What is compost?

    Compost is not the same thing as soil. Compost is considered a soil additive, because it improves the quality of almost every type of soil. Compost helps sandy soil retain water, and it helps clay-heavy soil drain better. The active colonies of micro-organisms in compost help plants to fight diseases. Healthy plants start with healthy soil.

How does composting work?

    Many different types of micro-organisms work together to digest plant matter into the finished product that we use. Both bacteria and fungi are at work in a compost pile. When enough digestion is taking place in the pile, it starts to heat up. On a cold day, you can even see steam! We want to give these organisms the ingredients they need to work fast and heat up. Heat kills seeds and diseases. After the process has stabilized, which can take a few weeks to a few months depending on the amount of care a pile is given, we are left with an earthy smelling soil additive.

How can I make this process successful?

    The organisms that make good compost require four basic things for success. The first two are carbon and nitrogen. These two elements are present in all organic matter. What is important is the ratio between these two elements in the pile. The optimal ratio is C:N 25-30:1. We control this by adding different amounts of materials with different ratios. Things that are green and wet, like vegetables or coffee grounds, usually have C:N ratios of 25:1 or less. We balance these “high nitrogen” materials by adding things that are brown and more carbon rich like dried leaves, which are around 70:1 depending on the species. This link has a table with some common items. The C:N ratio is approximate, and it will never be exact. We just try to make sure that the piles don't get too full of dry leaves and carbon heavy materials because then they cool down and work slower.
    Water is an essential item for life so it is essential for the compost organisms. A pile should be damp throughout. If a lot of dry material is added, it is important to add water. Paper does not hold moisture at all, as well as being devoid of nitrogen and micro-nutrients, so we try to keep it out of our piles in large amounts.
    Oxygen is necessary for the bacteria in the pile. The difference between compost and landfill is that landfills don't have oxygen. If the pile is smelly, there's a good chance it needs to be aerated by turning it or poking holes in it.  

I have a big bag of banana peels/apple cores/dead garden plants/tea bags/coffee grounds. What should I do with them?

    Well if you have a backyard at home, you should consider a home compost pile! Otherwise, the Concho piles accept donations like this. Our piles are a little bit picky though. First, make sure to take all the stickers off your fruits. Those little stickers don't break down. We want to keep our compost trash free. If the garden plants are big, be sure to cut the plants into small pieces. When adding to a pile, be sure to mix the materials in to the pile. If we leave stuff sitting on top, it just dries out or attracts flies.  

I have a big bag of newspapers/cardboard/”compostable” plastic/large sticks/whole pecans/metal/wrappers/”compostable” plates and cups. What should I do with these?

    Please do not add these things to our piles! Adding metal and plastic to a compost pile is practically littering. Newspapers and cardboard are technically biodegradable, but they do not hold much moisture or have any nutritional value. Better to recycle your paper and cardboard. Industrially manufactured products with the label “compostable” take a long time to decompose and are only suitable for industrial compost facilities. Austin is working on curbside compost collection.

How can I help? How can I learn more?

    Come out to the garden on a workday, every Sunday from 9:30-12:30. We are also having another compost class on March 24th, so if you missed the first one you should definitely attend the next one! More reading about compost can be found here or at the public library.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lil' Gardeners

Hey gardeners!

Lil' Gardeners (a program where we teach kids all about gardening) will now be holding its weekly lessons Fridays at 9:00-9:40 AM! They will begin this Friday, 2/22, and continue every other week this semester.

Fill out this form if you would like to volunteer to help lead one of the lessons! We ask that you show up by 8:40 AM at Concho on the day(s) you sign up for so that we have plenty of time to prepare.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Hey everyone!

I just wanted to remind everybody about our upcoming Composting 101 class this Sunday February 17th at 2:00 pm! It will take place at Concho Garden and will be a fun, interactive way to learn how to compost. Check out our Facebook page for more details!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Thanks to everyone who came out to our first two workdays! We are very excited about the progress being made on the vertical garden and greenhouse. We can't wait to get started on the shading structure. Here are some picks from the last two weeks!

For all those gardeners eager to get to planting, here is a list of some things you can already start putting in the ground:


You can find a complete chart of when to plant under gardening resources. Have a good day and hope to see our members at the GM tomorrow 6-7:30 pm, WEL 2.312.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Composting Class

Hey everyone!

We had a great time last weekend at the garden starting with the Little Gardener's lesson Friday, the Urban Bike Tour Saturday, and our last workday/composting class on Sunday!

Thanks for everyone who came out to help!

We wanted to pass along some great information Rene Fuqua, a certified master gardener, shared with us during the composting class. Thank you again Rene for coming by the garden to teach us!



First, create some sort of composting bed. The ideal dimensions are 3x3x3 feet to allow the little microbial decomposers to create an optimal temperature for cooking all the ingredients you will add. At the garden, we used 3 pallets for each pile, but there are many other methods to do this. You can use a plastic bin, trash can, or even wire fencing!


Adding the bulkier items like dead plants and larger branches allows allows more oxygen to reach your bed and gives them a better chance to break down! This will be your first nitrogen-rich layer.


To get the pile cooking, you need to continue adding alternating carbon-rich ("brown") and nitrogen-rich ("green layers") until you get a pile about 3 feet tall. Maintaining a proper C:N ration (25-30:1) is vital to getting soil your plants will thrive on. To do this, add a hefty layer of brown materials (dry leaves, hay, mulch) after step 2. At Concho, we added 2 bags of leaves followed by a thin layer of mulch for our carbon layers. Then comes the good stuff! For the next nitrogen layer, add things like food scraps and grass clippings. Although brown, coffee grounds and filters are a very rich source of nitrogen. We add food scraps and coffee grounds Division of Housing and Food drops off to our composts!


As you are adding your browns, water your pile to make sure it stays moist. This helps your pile get nice and warm, which is vital for it to decompose.


After you've built your pile, make sure it's level. This will make it cook more consistently. Now you just need to wait! Making sure your pile remains moist is important. Turning your pile every 2-3 weeks will help it break down more quickly. You can have a beautiful pile of compost in just 3 months!


  • Avoid adding weeds to your compost pile. They are good little growers and can often infest your soil if you keep them in the mix! However, you can have a separate compost pile dedicated especially for weeds.
  • There are a few extra ingredients you can add into your compost to make it even richer! Rene was nice enough to share some she uses in her own compost with Concho. Vermiculture (adding worms and other microorganisms) helps increase nutrients, especially during colder months. Adding granite salt between layers helps with aeration!