Compost is spread over existing turf to improve soil and growth capacity
Enhances the overall appearance of the existing turf
Using compost in conjunction with turf maintenance allows for existing turf to engage in nutrient and water savings, and reduction of soil-borne diseases allowing for a reduced use of pesticides. This process is the most impactful when coupled with the addition of aerification procedures, and can be utilized with both cool and warm season grass species.
So how does it work?
The first step in the process of compost as turf maintenance is to ensure that the existing grass is mowed to preferred or slightly lower height. After the grass is properly cut, the area must be core-aerated with deep hollow tines, creating large holes for compost to fill. This part of the process should be done about 4 to 5 times over the entire area in both directions. If compaction is a problem, 8 to 10 passes with the aerator may be optimal.
Fine compost can then be applied evenly at about ¼ to ½ of an inch over the turf’s surface. If the turf’s height is below 1 inch, compost should be applied at a lower rate. Additionally, the grass from the turf must be dry, as compost will stick to the grass if wet. There are various types of equipment that can be used to successfully apply compost to the turf, including a farm manure spreader with rear flails, or a large fertilizer spreader with rear spinners. If possible, the best mechanism to use during this process would be specialized turf top dressers with rear rotating brushes and blower trucks. Lastly, the area should be dragged through with a mechanism like a weighted chain-link fence or a rake to fill in the aeration holes with compost. Seeding can be applied before or after the placement of compost. Once this process is complete, the area must be watered sufficiently.
Some of the information in this article came from the Compost Research & Education Foundations’ Compost Use Applications - A Return on Investment (ROI) factsheets. The full set of factsheets can be found here.