Topdressing usually occurs in the spring and fall of the year and guess what spring is just around the corner. I have been topdressing my lawn with compost for many years and will do it again this year. As we learn more about the nature and value of Humus we understand it’s capacity to really improve the soil which in turn makes for healthier turf grass. Turf grass managers who are spreading compost are moving in that direction at a higher rate. It has been a slow growth process but it is seems to be gaining traction as home owners become more aware of it’s benefits and the fact that putting too many chemicals on their turf grass makes the grass dependent on those chemicals and when it rains if the soil is not able to absorb the water its runs off into local tributaries carrying all the residual chemical with it. Now we have created another issue, the pollution of our water. Guess when you may find these chemicals again if you live in a town with city water? Maybe in your faucet.
When we begin to realize the benefits of spreading more compost and less chemicals we finally become part of the solution to keeping the gift of this earth in a more healthy state.
How does the compost help our soils? According to an article in Cornell Turf Grass times Compost;
• Helps Control Thatch
• Provides Nutrients
• Helps the Soil Retain and Release Nutrients
• Helps Suppress Disease-Causing Bacteria and Fungi
• Improves the Turf Root System
These advantages are due to the living organisms in the compost, as well as the partially degraded materials that provide compost’s bulk. When compost is further degraded by microorganisms in the soil, it becomes humus, a gel-like mixture of soil minerals, remnants of microbes, and organic matter.
What’s so Great About Humus?
Humus and partially degraded organic matter retain water in a surface film that is still available to plants’ root hairs, even after the free water has drained away from the root zone. Humus will continue to break down slowly over time, as weather conditions, nutrient availability and populations of microbes change.
Can Humus Change Soil Texture?
Yes! Humus causes aggregates, or larger particles to form in the soil. This results in a coarser texture if the soil is composed of clay, silt, or loam – a better soil for plants that is more friable, looser, and drains more freely. The small grass root hairs will grow into the humus and organic matter, taking advantage of the added nutrients, beneficial microorganisms, and retained water. A larger root system can support healthier top growth.
What’s the “Bottom Line?”
Continued top-dressing with compost will improve turfgrass stand, reaction to drought and resistance to disease. The overall health of the turfgrass, plus its increased root surface area, will reduce the necessity for chemical pesticide applications. Healthy turfgrass requires less maintenance.