Rehabilitating degraded sites with compost blankets

16 January 2017

Australian landscape-gardening company The Hills Bark Blower® has joined forces with marketing firm Penelope’s Garden and the NSW Government Roads & Maritime Services (RMS) in a project that aims to train RMS operatives in the uses of Australian-made ‘compost blanket’ products to rehabilitate denuded sites across the state.

The project team will use a recent $82,150 in funding from the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (NSW EPA)'s Waste Less, Recycle More Organics Market Development Grant Program to build on the results of “excellent research, coupled with site-based learning” on rehabilitating large-scale sites – from major construction areas to desalination plants, soil stockpiles and cemeteries – using The Hills Bark Blowers’ innovative compost blanket system.

Already, the company’s suite of patented ‘erosion control’ products has been shown to promote the speedy and effective rehabilitation of sites across the state.

The products greatly reduce erosion and run-off, help detoxify sites and restore nutrients to depleted soils, enabling successful revegetation.

The EPA grant will fund a project to train RMS operatives across New South Wales in the effective use of The Hills Blast Blowers’ compost blanket products and site rehabilitation system, paving the way to their wide-scale usage on RMS sites in coming years.

What are ‘compost blankets’ and how do they work?

The Hills Bark Blower’s patented erosion control products, including EcoBlanket® and EcoBerm®, have been developed to “protect and rehabilitate damaged areas until a natural balance is restored”.

EcoBlanket

Hills Bark Blower Ecoblanket

The company’s EcoBlanket replaces the natural layer of humus that protects the undisturbed soil. Injected with an adhesive substance for increased structural integrity, the compost blanket can be installed simply via a single-step, low-impact ‘pneumatic hose’ process that can conform to most terrain. The ‘compost blanket’ has multiple benefits:

1. It gives 100 percent soil coverage.

As an erosion control measure, EcoBlanket completely covers the denuded soil with a matrix of natural organic material. Through pneumatic hose-on application, it conforms to the contours of the soil’s surface and forms “an interlocking blanket” with the soil beneath.

2. It can be used with ‘Terraseeding’ to revegetate sites fast.

The Ecoblanket can be injected with seed using the company’s Terraseeding® process to establish permanent vegetation – grasses or native plants, with the EcoBlanket material providing the perfect growing media for seed along with erosion control.

3. It is an organics, recycled product.

Made from recycled organics, EcoBlanket forms a fibrous matrix thanks to the bonding capabilities of an adhesive substance, giving it the necessary structure without the addition of non-biodegradable netting as reinforcement. Designed for optimum performance, “it can be used as an earth-friendly soil amendment at the completion of a project or left as a permanent stabilising organic layer to create a new ecosystem over a relatively short space of time,” the company’s website states. 

The multi-functional EcoBlanket also:
     •  establishes a buffer to absorb rainfall energy
     •  slows the speed of water run-off, allowing “natural percolation of rainwater into soil”
     •  improves the existing soil structure and biology; and
     •  affords greater accessibility to remote and difficult-to-reach areas.

EcoBerm

Hills Bark Blower Ecoberm

The Hills Bark Blower claims it’s “a more advanced alternative to plastic silt fencing”. Composed largely of a specialised mix of compost and Microblend, made entirely from recycled organics, it’s been shown to be more than 99 percent effective in reducing soil loss, comparable, after “stringent testing,” to the industry’s highest-rated best-management practices. It is simple and cheap to install and requires no removal or disposal.

Installing EcoBerm requires just one step: the mixture creates a structure that adheres firmly to the ground, enabling sifting of run-off without the non-biodegradable waste created by silt fences. Ecoberm can even be seeded and left in place “as a permanent landscape contour,” says the company.

Moreover, claims the company, “independent lab tests have shown that the combination of Microblend® and the compost used to make EcoBerm greatly enhances the ability of the material to degrade hydrocarbons as water flows through the natural matrix”.

As the EcoBerm mix “conforms to all terrain conditions and does not require ditching, staking or reinforcement,” it’s a low-impact solution with no negative impacts on surrounding soils, waterways or vegetation.

The ‘compost blanket’ solution to site rehab

EcoBlanket and EcoBerm form “the ideal solution to acute or chronic erosion problems,” the company claims. The two products, essentially super-mulch-mats and run-off controllers, can be used separately or in conjunction to help rehabilitate environmentally damaged areas, becoming undetectable soon after application “as the natural ecosystem of the area reasserts itself».

A companion product, all-natural MicroBlend®, contains a “tackifier” that binds the EcoBlanket/EcoBerm to the ground, shielding the site from further degradation and soil loss immediately following application.

In what the company dubs a “single-process solution,” its EcoBlanket and EcoBerm can also be used to trap silt, heavy metals and hydrocarbons, preventing damaging run-off into nearby waterways.

Compost blankets and associated products, the company claims, can be used to resolve various site rehabilitation problems including:

  • soil amelioration;
  • replacement of topsoil;
  • rehabilitation of native flora;
  • erosion control;
  • prevention of harmful run-off; and
  • improving the visual impact of a site.

Hills_bark_blower_great-western-highway-upgrade3.jpg

Caption: Erosion control, Great Western Highway upgrade.

The Hills Bark Blower: Compost blanket site rehab case studies

The Hills Bark Blower has trialled its compost blanket rehab process successfully on various large-scale sites around Australia: read about them below.

Ecoblanket AV Jennings case study

Ecoblanket Leighton Contractors case study

Ecoblanket Turn Point case study

Erosion control solutions 

Who is The Hills Bark Blower?

Leading landscape gardening company The Hills Bark Blower, established in 1997, owns and runs hectares of landscape yard in which it develops, tests and stocks various soil mixes, mulches, sands and pebbles, including an innovative suite of products for erosion control.

Along with large stocks of landscaping product, the company owns and operates Australia’s biggest fleet of blower trucks, making it an efficient, cost-effective service capable of delivering on large-scale contracts.

This story originally featured on AgInnovators.

For the latest news, sign up to the Compost for Soils newsletter.

Or follow us on social media Twitter and Facebook @compostforsoils

More stories on AgInnovators