Adding to Compost to Lawn

piotr01June 5, 2008

We've been going the chemical route for our lawn for a long time and were looking to switch to organic this year. The lawn isn't in the best shape.

From what i understand the first step is to spread some compost on the lawn?

How do i know which compost to buy and if its quality?

How much should I spread?

How do i spread it?


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okcdan(7 OKC - Bermuda)

The key to a successful organic lawn program is the soil. It must be alive with wide variety of beneficial microorganisms and bugs. Beneficial microbes both feed and protect the plants from disease-causing microbes. All the organic gardener does is feed the beneficial microbes and let them do their work.

Beneficial microorganisms include bacteria and fungi found in finished compost. There are two ways to get the microbial benefit from compost. One way is to topdress your lawn with compost. The other is to apply ACT or aerated compost tea. ** Keep in mind however that the introduction of additional microbes isn't entirely necessary. Your soil already has microbes just waiting to be fed so they can multiply.** For more information on how to apply ACT, see this link: Home ACT brewer.

If you want to apply compost to your lawn, spread it around in piles on the lawn with a wheelbarrow. Sling it from the piles onto the grass with a shovel. Then use a push broom to sweep it off the grass blades and down into the turf. Water it in to activate the compost microbes and wash them onto your soil. Apply compost to grass at a rate of no more than 1 cubic yard per 1,000 square feet. This results in a thin layer about 1/3 inch deep when spread out uniformly.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2008 at 8:30AM
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I'll agree with okcdan. Compost is fine but of all the options available its one of the more labor intensive and the main benefit, increasing microbes, is more easily gotten from tea which isn't hard to make at all.

Also start practicing good lawn culture. Mow high, mulch, and water deeply and infrequently.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2008 at 8:34AM
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So i'm making some compost tea like it says in the guide, but i wasn't sure do i need to add some sort of microbacteria starter? In the guide he says he used pond water but i don't have any ponds near me.

Will the compost on its own be enough?

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 8:39AM
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Uhg...too many "rules" with too little context makes things harder than they ought to be. Piotr01 assuming your compost is good quality you don't need to do anything more than use chlorine free water, aerate it, and maybe some molasses to feed the microbes. Let it brew for a day or so and then spray or pour it on whatever you want to treat. Boom you're done.

You'll know if your compost is finished if it is dark colored, sweet smelling, and decomposed to the extent that you can't tell what was in the pile originally. The point of tea is to multiply and harvest the microbial life already present in the compost. You can apply it straight or dilute it, with cholrine free water, and its still all good. You aren't fertilizing with this stuff, you are feeding the soil so it can break down the organic matter already present and what you'll be adding. The microbes in the tea release the nitrogen in the organic matter which in turn is taken up by your plants.

Pond water would be nice if you have a pond and know what's in it. Personally I wouldn't use pond water, assuming I had one which I don't, unless I was sure there was no pesticide run off in it. And I do mean sure.

Organic lawn care is too full of these kinds of "whizz bang" rules that aren't really rules at all or even necessarily good suggestions in every case. Do what makes the most sense for you and your situation and you'll be fine. There is a world of flexibility in organics and very few "wrong answers".

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 2:11PM
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decklap, thanks for the reply.

I'm not sure if my tap water is chlorinated, but all i have to do is bubble it for a few hours and the chlorine should evaporate right?

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 5:22PM
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Roughly yes or you can just let it sit for a day or so in a five gallon bucket. Tea is great. You can't over-apply it so don't worry about that. If you're coming off of a long term chemical care program its likely that you have very poor microbial activity in your soil. Earthworms and other creepy crawlies are a good indicator of how much biology you've got going on in your lawn. Can't have too much of that either.

The only caveat with tea is that you should dump it if it smells bad. Once you stop bubbling it then it has a "shelf life" of 4-6 hours, maybe a little longer if you keep it out of the direct sunlight. So basically once you unplug the pump you should use it the same day.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 6:02PM
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Okay great, i just applied my first batch.

I guess everything went well. ;p

The bucket is slimy and looks to be a lot of work to clean.

What is the maximum temperature i can brew in, we got a heat spell here in NY and i had the bucket brewing outside. The tea got up to 90 degrees.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 7:31PM
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In the interest of full disclosure I'd have to say I've never looked at the difference in tea brewed at different temps under a microscope so I can't say for sure if the heat really impacts the biology. I tend to doubt it though.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2008 at 5:39PM
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