Learn how topdressing your lawn with organic compost will liven up your lawn, literally!
Healthy soil teams with earthworms and insects large enough for us to see as well as billions of tiny organisms and beneficial bacteria and fungi that go about their work unseen. These organisms, bacteria and fungi have a mission; to feed and support plants. Plants, in turn, provide the food – leaves and other plant parts – on which soil organisms, bacteria and fungi feed. It’s a symbiotic relationship; a cycle that occurs, mostly unnoticed, in forests and meadows not managed by man.
Lawn, on the other hand, is a managed landscape. It is mowed and raked and cleared of fallen plant material plus it gets played on, walked on and driven on by people, mowers and tractors. All this activity eventually compacts the ground and depletes the number of organisms, bacteria and fungi available to feed and support lawn grasses.
Spreading just a quarter-inch of compost over existing lawn, commonly called topdressing, replenishes organisms, bacteria and fungi to the soil. With time, as soil organisms move to and through the lower soil layers, compaction diminishes and soil structure improves. A compost topdressing will also supply enough nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (the N-P-K ratios on fertilizers) that most home lawns need.
Good compost is decayed brown plant materials such as autumn leaves, twigs, wood chips and green plant materials like kitchen scraps, cut plants, bagged grass. These blended materials are broken down, by the same organisms, bacteria and fungi found in healthy soil. When the process is complete you have compost with a fresh, earthy smell and a chocolate brown color.
Before adding compost, or any soil enhancement, it’s best to first obtain a soil test. The University of Connecticut does soil testing – read more here. While waiting for your test results research compost sources.
Not all commercial composts are made strictly from plant materials though, some include animal manures or sewage sludge. To determine what went into any compost you buy, either ask your supplier or read the bag labels.
If you are really interested in digging deeper into the topics of healthy soil and compost read Teaming with Microbes, A Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels & Wayne Lewis.
At Grillo Services we produce and deliver bulk organic compost by the truck load. Those of you that only need a small amount of compost can look to The Little Compost Company; they produce and bag 100% organic compost in quantities from one to fifty pounds. Shipping is done all over the country. Be sure to check them out if you want quality compost, and need just a little bit.
By Joene Hendry, an Accredited Organic Land Care Professional (AOLCP) who designs and maintains gardens in the southeastern Connecticut River valley and blogs about gardening in Connecticut at https://www.joenesgarden.com.
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