Return to the Organic Lawn Care Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
Compost tea on lawns

Posted by gardener_sandy z7 VA (My Page) on
Fri, Nov 17, 06 at 0:45

I'd like to hear from some who have used compost tea on their fescue lawns. How much per 1000 square feet did you use? How dilute was it? How often did you apply it? Time of year/temperature range when applied? Was it acitively aerated or the old fashioned sockful in a bucket of water brew? What results did you see?

Our lawn was renovated this fall and I believe it's suffering from the excessive tilling. The microherd seems to need a boost and this is one method recommended.


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

I have made compost tea the past 2 summers from my home made compost. I use an old cotton sock full of finished compost brewed in a 15 gallon kitchen trash can. I aerate it for about 3 days. I usually add a couple of tablespoons of corn syrup or molassas. If I use city water I run the aerator one extra day before adding the compost to disapate the chlorinates. If I use rain water I don't bother.

I have applied it as a drench with a 2 gallon plastic watering can and as a spray with a dial-hose sprayer. The sprayer is set on the highest setting.

I use the drench on the areas that have been repaired with
new seed and the spray to the rest of the lawn.

I make 3 or 4 batches during the June to Sept season. And I usually apply the whole 12 gallons at once to my 5000 sqft of turf grass. I also make a batch early in June to use as a drench in my flower beds.

Making compost tea is cheap and easy to do. However, I must confess, I really have no idea if it's really full of micro biology or just "dirty water".

That being said, my lawn and planting beds seem to need less water and the TTTF and flowers seem to be OK. I do not irrigate my lawn as most years we get enough natural rain here in central Iowa. But, my lawn seems to stress less during the hot dry periods since I started using the tea. But, mowing high and mulch mowing along with only fertilizing in the fall might also be helping.

I did not do any lawn repairs this fall so next year I may just add tea to the lawn in early June and again in August.

In summary, I "think" the tea helps my TTTF lawn...but there is also a chance that the tea is actually worthless and I'm being taken in by a "placebo effect"


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

I use it and I also am a supplier of Turf Tea and let me tell you these products are awesome. I like most people believe in results so here is what I had done and seen with the Turf Teas so far. This past summer we had a drought that lasted about 6-8 weeks. Grass went dormant and looked really bad. About a month into the drought I sprayed it with Turf Tea as the manufacture said that it just might be a good idea. Then approx. a month after spraying it with Turf Tea we started to get rain one evening here in Pa. within 12 hours after it started to rain I checked the grass and could already see that the grass was coming out of dormancy by showing a lot of green. Come this fall I road all around just looking at other peoples lawns as this is the business that I'm getting into just to get some ideas. Well them lush lawns were showing alot of Brown areas thinking they were weed areas really. Well any way My lawn stayed the nice lush green the longest of many of them. Matter of fact in the OP post they wanted to know about tall fescue grass. I also did an overseed of the 15,000 sq. ft. area after doing an aerate job on this section first. And the grass responded really well. How well some might ask well how about 2" roots at 2 month old and that is from the time I did my overseeding. Turf Tea is for a healthy soil that is what we want. I'm also going to post a couple pictures on here, but my camera isn't that great it's only a camera in a cell phone just for now that is. Hope this helps you!!!


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

"This past summer we had a drought that lasted about 6-8 weeks."

I guess everything is relative.

If we had a period of 6-8 weeks in the summer without rain, when we got the rain, it would be on the front page of the paper with meteorologists and water management people trying to decide if it meant an end to the multi-year drought or if it was just a single unusually wet summer.


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

I would think that applying " of compost to the lawn would be beneficial, followed by " of finely shredded leaves. Theory is that this would introduce/ replenish the micro organisms and food for them to munch on. Certainly AACT would help jump start this process, but with out microscopic examination we would not know if it were required., but AACT would not hurt & would act as a mild fertilizer depending how it was made. There needs to be a sustainable environment for the soil food web.
BTW, I like making compost. My dream is to make enough so I can "waste" it on the lawn & make it such that it will sift thru screen (much easier said than done for the impatient gardener).

Lawns are a high maintenance crop & often the work one does can be counter productive in regard to weed suppression. On the other hand, a nice healthy lawn will attract children, if you would like those critters around your garden.


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

I don't mean to just sound 'counter' to tumblenes' message, but there are a few tune ups that might help others.

I would think that applying " of compost to the lawn would be beneficial, followed by " of finely shredded leaves.

This is way too much covering for most turf and could smother many turfgrasses to death. 1/4 inch total is a better amount. This is roughly equal to 1 cubic yard of compost per 1,000 square feet. Every spring I see one neighbor or another making this mistake. Sure enough, they kill much of their lawn leading to bare dirt - even bermuda lawns have trouble with this. Too much compost is one of the three main issues keeping more people from turning to organic turf care.

...but AACT would not hurt & would act as a mild fertilizer depending how it was made.

The fertilizer effect from organic materials usually comes from the protein content. With AACT, the only protein in the brew is that found in the bodies of the microbes themselves. As long as they are living, they are eating protein, not contributing it. So I guess I'm saying the fertilizer effect is so mild as to be unhelpful. I believe the purpose of AACT is to get microbes into an area that otherwise is lacking in them.

My dream is to ... make [AACT] such that it will sift thru screen

I'm not disagreeing here - I'm suggesting you shoot for a 1/4 inch screen and you'll be happier. Add more horse manure ;-)

Lawns are a high maintenance crop

Again I'm not disagreeing because this statement is true for 99.99% of lawns; however, if you want a near-zero maintenance lawn, try Dutch white clover. Back before the chemical industry found a "cure" for broadleafed weeds, Dutch white clover seed was easily found in stores and was almost always a component of lawn seed mixes. When you have a turf with 100% coverage of DWC, it looks plush and needs very little attention. It stops growing at about 4 inches and needs no fertilizer. On the negative side, it does have issues with attracting bees and it stains clothing when you slide into home plate. Stains don't seem to be a problem for the kids, just the mothers.

often the work one does can be counter productive in regard to weed suppression.

I'm not sure what tumblenes means here. The solution to weeds is neither organic nor chemical. The solution is to not germinate the seed (water control as much a Mother Nature will cooperate with) and mowing the grass at the highest setting to shade out any seedlings that might try to root. You do need to have 100% grass coverage so TTTF turfs need overseeding to get their grass plant density up. Any creeping type grass will usually keep weeds out with just the cultural practices.


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns


My dream is to ... make [AACT] such that it will sift thru screen

I'm not disagreeing here - I'm suggesting you shoot for a 1/4 inch screen and you'll be happier. Add more horse manure ;-)



Actually, I think he wants to sift compost, not tea. I think any tea that won't go through a 1/2 inch screen would be a little scary.

I have a compost sifter made from plans my wife told me about on Martha Stewart's website. I used the 1/4 inch hardware cloth.

I think I'd get a lot more compost on my lawn if I used the 1/2 inch hardware cloth, but I like the fine compost that I get with the smaller holes. I also think I'd probably end up with uncomposted shredded paper on the lawn with the larger holes. I just throw anything that doesn't sift through back into the bin. Eventually, it'll go through.


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

Well if the newpaper isn't completly broken down then your compost pile isn't done cooking. I have never had newspaper in my compost that wasn't totally broken down.Never seen any when the compost is nice and Black and ready is what I'm saying.


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

It's not newspaper, but shredded paper. Actually, most of what wasn't broken down was shredded cardboard (twelve pack cases and so forth), and it came from a bin that was a mixture of finished and unfinished compost. The stuff at the bottom was finished, and after a few shovelsful, it came pouring down, mixing the new and the old. When I have a really hot pile going, it only takes a few weeks to get finished compost, and at those times, I usually use the whole bin at once. But if it's not composting as fast, I may have a mixture of finished, partly finished, and just started compost all at the same time.


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

bpgreen, I don't use the cartons with a lot of ink on them just mostly regular newspaper here and paper that comes through the mail along with the envelopes. I always cook mine for at least a year, also turning it only every couple months. I just get out the old rototiller and go too it works for me. I cook several bins at a time so I always have black gold. I have three bins setup here 5'x5'x5' always fill them up and let them cook. I take a grease marker and mark on the bin when it was turned. That way I don't have to think when did I turn that pile last.


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

I'm glad my post got people talking. Unfortunately, verbal clarity is sometimes a fleeting skill.
My point was without conditioning the lawn soil with compost there might not be enough food supply to support tea microbes. But really, how would I know?
Also, it seems that ACCT seems to fit with my magic potent mind set. It is easy to make & apply. Compost is a bit more painful and is often omitted in lawn care; so I would hope to refine those tasks.

Since this forum is about lawn care here is my post in the mower forum that may be of some interest.

Here is a link that might be useful: mower post


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

I tried it full strength (ACT) on an isolated area of my lawn to see if that area showed any difference compared to the rest of the lawn.

It didn't.

I have found soybean meal to be terrific for overall lawn health. Nice, consistent green and thatch in my KBG isn't an issue any longer.

Perhaps I didn't use the ACT long enough, maybe I didn't brew it with the 'special recipe', maybe the microbe gods were angry with me, but I simply didn't see any discernible difference between treated and untreated areas of the lawn.


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

Justaguy2-

Perhaps you never really needed it in the first place or you did something very wrong somewhere in the process of ACT brewing. Was the water from tap? The chances are that they are chlorinated and need to be filtered out by air bubbles. It could be anything. It doesn't take much to screw the whole thing up.


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

I have been using compost tea now for two years on my lawn and roses, veggies, etc. I started by buying an oak whiskey barrel, cutting a door in the end and putting on it's side on a rack with wheels, since I have bought a 15 gallon pull behind sprayer, I pull it with my riding mower but at first I used a one gallon sprayer, I mix the tea in the sprayer, I cannot tell you about the microbs but my entire lawn has a glow for days when I spray. I spray once a month, molasses and fish emulation are cheap. I do believe it helps. I live in a dry area of Oregon but I still have very green healthy lawn.


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns or another product

Last year in an attempt to fertilize my burmuda and try keeping the cost down along with trying to get away from using chemicals, I tried making my own liquid fertilizer (epsom salt and ammonia)or as I call it,Liquid ammonia nitrate.It worked great and the grass really greened out. This year I'm getting a little more soficiated. I plan on using a sprayer I pull behind my rideing mower. Heres the question -------- Will this liquid fertilizer hurt my trees,bushes,and flowers or will it do them good also?


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

If your soil is short on magnesium, a micronutrient, it will help for awhile. When you have a sufficient amount of magnesium, then you would be wasting the Epsom salts.

The problem with liquid fertilizers is they hold only a little nitrogen. If you apply enough of them to try and get a long term effect, then you'll burn the plants roots and kill the plant. Generally dry fertilizer is applied by the pound and liquid is applied by the ounce.


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

What you are spraying, a liquid, is highly soluble and what is not utilized immediately by the Soil Food Web (that still needs them) will simply flow out of your soil and pollute the ground water, unless you have sufficient amounts of organic matter in your soil to absorb some of those nutrients.
What does a soil test say about the nutrients in your soil? Maybe you are simply throwing your money away spraying this stuff around.


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

Well the formula is 16tbsp of epsome salt combined with 8oz of ammonia. This is my concentrate to which I use 2oz to two gallons of water. Coverage for this is 200 square feet. Figure the square feet and encrease the ammount however, I assume this does not last a real long time since I was told to perform this procedure every thirty days. Since these are basically natural items,poluteing the ground water was not on my mind. Soil test showed that I needed to add lime, which I started doing two years ago (yes it helped). This homemade liquid ammonia fertilizer greened the grass up last year - but it was at the end of the growing season. The question is,will this liquid hurt my bushes,trees,and flowers and since it was brought up, am I playing with a loaded gun? Thankyou.....


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

What you don't know is whether your soil is short on nitrogen (almost all are) or short on magnesium. If your soil has adequate magnesium, then you are wasting money on the Epsom salts. The only reason to use Epsom salts is to correct a magnesium deficiency. I would try spraying with only the Epsom salts without any ammonia to see if the grass greens up. That is a quick and dirty test for Mg deficiency.

Epsom salt may be a natural material but that does not mean it is good for the soil. Cobra venom and castor beans are both natural and a lot more organic than any salt. I would not use those on my grass.

Will it hurt the trees and rest of your garden? Probably not. I do not know if there is a limit to Mg in soil like there is for boron.


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

OK - so what you are telling me is test to see if the grass greens out with just the epsomesalt. If it does not, add ammonia to the mixture.Does this give the grass any food?I will say this - in the twenty five years that I have lived here, I've tried everything - Yard service (waiste of time and money)and SAFE fertilizer (scotts turf builder).The scotts does work but lasts less than a month and is expensive. This latest idea was a combination of using a power sprayer to de-mildue the house and put out liquid fertilizer that I made myself.


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

Yes, Epsom salt only as a test.

I had given up on chemical fertilizers, too, in the 1990s. In 2002 I heard about the new, advanced organic gardening materials. They really work. Compost is out - animal feed is in.

Ammonia is plant food and will green up the grass, but it won't do much for your soil microbes. If you feed the soil microbes with animal feed, then they will green up the grass for you without the weekly or monthly sprays. Healthy microbes will also produce enzymes, vitamins, and release minerals needed for plant health. They stimulate the plant to activate its own self defense genetics to ward off disease and even plant pests like aphids and spider mites. They also provide soil structure that opens the soil, lets it breathe, and improves water absorption and retention.


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

Explain - microbes with animal feeds? Now I was brought up in the country where you rotated the cows from one pasture to another which also involved disking up the manure or picking it up,grinding, and spreading it out over other pastures. This was a long time ago and acess to manure is almost a impossibility - but microbes with annimal feed? Please explain this process. It does not sound difficult...


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

Read this FAQ, it will get you started. I believe it may have been written by .. uh wait, Who is that Masked Man?

http://faq.gardenweb.com/faq/lists/organic/2004020829016580.html


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

Grazing animals were rotated from one pasture to another because they would eat the forage to nothing if kept on the same pasture. Same reason crops should be rotated form one field to another, including discing the pasture up for use as a crop field. Plus moving the animals from one field to another could help prevent the spread of diseases, if that pasture was left fallow long enough.
The link below may be of some help in understanding what goes on in your soil, providing the Soil Food Web has adequate resources.

Here is a link that might be useful: Soil Food Web Primer


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

*Posted by dchall_san_antonio 8*
*** I had given up on chemical fertilizers, too, in the 1990s. In 2002 I heard about the new, advanced organic gardening materials. They really work. Compost is out - animal feed is in. ***

I recognise that raw vegetable material such as foodstuffs would last longer in the soil than compost and have a wider range of microbes, but is there more than that?
(Sorry, if this takes the thread even further, off course. :)


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

What Dchall is referring to with "animal feed is in" is the utilization of proteins to feed the existing microherd which then feed the plants (e.g. grass). Alfalfa Pellets, Cracked corn, Corn meal, Cotton seed meal, Soy Bean meal, etc. You can buy it at feed stores in 50 LB bags and use 10-20lbs per thousand square feet. I have been following this approach successfully for over a year now. I don�t use any synthetic fertilizer.


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

Yes, read Kimmsr's link to the Soil Food Web Primer. That was the first comprehensive explanation of how soil really works. Before that it was only speculation about the soil microbes. Until the 1990s only a dozen could be grown in the laboratories. Then DNA testing showed there were tens of thousands of microbes. Later DNA testing shows 100,000 species of microbes. The microbes we're talking about are bacteria, fungi, microarthropods (teensy insects), and protozoa.

Normally in Nature, plants and animals die on the surface of the soil. The surface of the soil is filled with microbes which only decompose stuff that falls on the surface. They are specialists and do not work underground. Some of the stuff that dies on the ground washes into the soil - blood for instance. Just under the surface are other microbe species that handle this specialty. Furthermore, the upper level species do biological things analogous to peeing, pooping, sweating, shedding, spitting, etc. There are other specialist microbes which decompose the byproducts of other biological processes. There are still other specialist microbes which process the biological byproducts of the byproduct specialists. The food chain in the soil is so complicated it is referred to as the Soil Food Web. The key to starting the process going is to supply real food to the surface of the soil, not buried under the surface. Somewhere in that food web a product is produced which is plant food. It takes about 3 full weeks from the time you apply fertilizer to the surface for the plant food microbes to have produced enough. Then the grass greens up and becomes dense. Most of us do not care to slaughter animals and spread their remains over the surface of the soil, so we opt for ground up grains. Corn (sort of popular), wheat (hardly popular at all), alfalfa (very popular), soybean meal (very popular), cottonseed meal (not very popular), and any other ground up nut, bean, or seed containing protein makes a good fertilizer for the soil microbes. Even used coffee grounds make a fertilizer. You can get them in gold, 30-pound bags at Starbucks.

Regarding livestock rotation: there is a different school of thought that is taking hold in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and in parts of Mexico and elsewhere around the world. Rather than two, three, or four pastures, farmers and ranchers are going with 15 to 30 different pastures. Animals are let in only after the grass has fully matured. That might mean gone fully to seed. Grass gone to seed has traditionally been thought of as inedible, but when the animals come in hungry, it disappears. Depending on how fast the rest of the pastures are growing the animals might be left in one pasture until the grass is gone. If the grass is growing fast, they will be pulled when the next pasture is ready. When you have 15 to 30 pastures to choose from, it can be complicated. The idea is to keep the animals completely off the pastures while the forage is regrowing. The rest of this program suggests you only put into the system what benefits the biology of the system. One thing that is recognized as harmful to the system is deworming medicines. Ivermec is the main name brand but there are others. Dewormers are poisonous to dung beetles. If farmers would stick to treating only the wormy animals, then it might not affect large population of dung beetles. But farmers are being told to prevent worms by treating all the animals every month - thus increasing the sales of dewormers. Once you go to routine monthly injections, all the dung beetles will die out. When you stop with the deworming, some of the animals go to the slaughter house early because they have parasites, but not all get them. Once you have culled the herd of all the parasite prone animals, you have better genetics and will continue to breed healthier animals. Also once you stop with the dewormers, the dung beetles return. One Central Texas rancher reported seeing the early morning sky black with clouds of dung beetles flying in. Another one has documented the speed with which his manure is processed by the beetles. He took pictures from the time the cow's tail went up until the manure pat was gone. He used an irrigation flag to locate the pat. The total time it took until there was nothing but a wet spot was 24 hours. And he has noticed that when his animals leave one pasture to move into another, 24 hours later there are no piles of manure to be found. Where does the manure go? If you're still reading you know the answer. It gets buried by the dung beetles. Those beetles dig a hole up to 3/4 inch across and 6 to 10 feet deep. When it rains, and even when it pours for days on end, these ranchers report they have zero erosion and no runoff. While neighboring ranches spend tens of thousands to rebuild their washed out roads, the ranches with the dung beetles don't have those costs. So they don't have the cost of the dewormer meds; don't have to buy the manure shredders and spreaders; don't have to pay to house, insure, and repair that equipment; and don't have to repair their roads from the weather. In addition they don't have to irrigate their pastures because several feet of rain can be captured in the dung beetle holes during one thunderstorm. If you had several hundred beetle holes per square yard, you could dump 4 inches per hour on that and not see runoff.

How long can you sustain this approach to rotation? One rancher I talked to has been doing it for 20 years. He has the cost of his animals down to about $15 per animal because he no longer buys seed, fertilizer, medicine, herbicide, insecticide, dewormers, hormones, or supplemental feed. Even in Texas with the periodic droughts we've had, he has been increasing his stocking density until he's running about double what his neighbors are doing. Their expenses keep climbing and his keep going down. Their land keeps deteriorating and his keeps improving. The last thing he got rid of was cowboys. Rather than having a 3,000 acre ranch, he has pastures that are only 50 acres. With 300 cow/calf pairs on 50 acres, when the grass is gone, the mamas have learned to line up to move into the next pasture. There is no need for a round up because all the animals are lined up right in front of you.


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

Wow! I'm glad to see this old thread become so active again. I've learned a lot from all of you. Thanks for the input! Dchall, your ideas are so close to the sheet composting my family practiced when I was young and living on a small truck farm. Nothing was buried, nothing composted in piles, just spread on a fallow portion of the fields and then turned under a few weeks before planting time. It seemed to work well.

If you had an old lawn to renovate (mostly weeds and compacted clay and probably very acidic, (yes I will do a soil test) what would you recommend to improve the texture of the soil and to get the food web off to a good start? We moved last fall and plan to start the lawn renovation next month. I know we will have to probably redo (at least overseed) it in the fall since spring is not the time to establish fescue here.


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

The Soil Food Web needs organic matter to live on, so the best thing anyone can do is add organic matter to their soil. Whether that is compost (which does have some of the microbes that become part of the SFW) or grains (aka animal feed), or shredded leaves that once vegetative material needs to be put into the soil.
Some soils will need that OM tilled in first, especially if the soil is lacking in oM, while others seem to accept any OM that is simply spread on the surface.


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

Well folks - this has been very intresting and it appears that this years lawn will take on a whole new aspect.I will probably be introuble for purchaseing the tree sprayer but I know it will work for de-mildueing the house since I can mix a large quanty of spray and finish the job in one day. My thanks go out to everyone, especially dchall,for your input in this.Next year I will probably change my name to "GREEN GRASS in AL". One last question - how much annimal feed? Was 10 to 20 lbs per thousand sq ft a accurate amount? Again, Thanks..........


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

How much? 10 pounds is probably too light. I used 10 pounds of corn meal for years and my grass continued to get thinner. I wasn't really paying attention. One of the gurus on another forum was trying a mass application approach to improve his organic content in one season. He applied soy (very high protein) and/or Milorganite every weekend. By the end of the season he had applied over 1,000 pounds per 1,000 square feet. If he did that in 25 applications, that was about 40 pounds per 1,000 square feet every weekend. Last year I applied 40 pounds per 1,000 of corn GLUTEN meal every month (not weekend). My grass improved tremendously over what had been happening in previous years. This year I would like to cut back but my wife already has me spreading CGM. Our winter was like spring, so we have a lot going on already.


 o
RE: Compost tea on lawns

If you are going to use animal feed to your soil then you need to add enough, per square foot, yard, etc., to add to or build up the amount of organic matter in your soil. That means you need to know what is there now. That means you need to look closely at your soil. That means soil tesitng.


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the Organic Lawn Care Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here