Topdressing Lawn with Compost


Topdressing is the process of adding a thin layer of material over the surface of the turf.  Many materials can be used to do this, including sand, soil, and compost, as well as mixtures of composts and sand.  Adding thin layers of these materials over the surface of the turf makes it possible to add organic amendments and gradually change the soil without disturbing the plants that are growing.

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Topdressing with compost is primarily practiced as a means to improving turf quality. Composts are most often generated from waste materials and thus considered a recycled product.  The benefits to turf may or may not be readily observable to the compost user.  The general observation most often reported, improved turf appearance, may be attributed to a variety of specific responses caused directly or indirectly by the application of composts.  Although some impacts may be observed soon after application of compost, such as a deeper green color, other results are more subtle and not as readily observed.

The most recognized benefit of using compost is the delivery of nutrients. Composts contain a range of macronutrients and micronutrients in an organic form, which are necessary to maintain a beautiful lawn. Unlike conventional fertilizers, the nutrients in composts are not highly soluble and therefore are not readily lost during periods of precipitation.  Compost slowly releases the nutrients so that they are not taken away by moving water.  This aids in only having to do topdressing one or two times a year, much less often than with conventional fertilizers.

Going along with that is the benefit of improvements in soil structure. Soils with a high content of sand needs the organic matter to hold both water and nutrients in the soil to feed the turf.  Also, soils with a high content of clay need organic matter to aid in compaction, which yields better drainage, improving the ability of water to infiltrate into the soil.  This is a large benefit for the reduction in irrigation.  The more organic matter in the soil, the less turf needs to be watered.  This is beneficial when there are periods of drought.  The soil has absorbed and retained more water so it is able to thrive just the same during these times.

One of the more recently realized benefits of topdressing with compost is the reduction in winter damage.  The compost acts as an insulating layer between the turf and the ice and snow, reducing damage and allowing the turf to recover in the spring.

 

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