See all 21 organic lawn care tips
If compost seems too complex for you, take a look at this simple guide to demystify compost.
The pop culture dictionary known as Wikipedia defines compost as a combination of food waste and brown waste that is being decomposed through aerobic decomposition into a rich black soil. As that lay definition would indicate, compost is great stuff for the lawn and garden. But how great? Let us count the ways:
Not all compost is created equally, however. Never use compost that is hot or excessively warm to the touch, or if it smells pungent or like ammonia. If you have a big project and youre not sure about whether or not you have good compost, visit solvita.com for range of compost testing products.
All successful organic gardeners or lawn care aficionados embrace the use of compost as an integral part of their program. Soil organisms are inherently regional, so the best compost is the stuff made in your own back yard, or in the surrounding community. The Environmental Protection Agency offers a useful tutorial on how to make your own gardeners' gold. Check with your local municipalitys landfill; many across the U.S. are now making compost that is either free, or inexpensive. But if you use this compost, ask a couple of key questions first:
The herbicides don't break down in the composting process and can actually remain active in the compost, thereby inhibiting the growth of your lawn, flowers or vegetables. And those biosolids in the compost? They are typically approved by the EPA, but some folks just dont like the thought of human waste in their gardening products.
Compost is the greatest stuff known to gardeners, but if you apply it to your lawn or garden as a top-dressing over the existing soil, the benefits of the compost can take a long time to work their way to the roots of the plants where they do the most good. To get the nutrients and microorganisms from the compost into the soil or onto the plants more quickly, it's beneficial to apply liquid compost, otherwise known as compost tea.
Making the tea is much like brewing a cup of tea in the kitchen. Simply put some compost in a cloth or nylon bag, soak it in water and circulate some air in the water and within 24-48 hours, you will have finished compost tea that you can use as a soil drench or as a foliar spray on the leaves of plants. For a tutorial, watch the "Brewing Your Own Compost Tea" video at safelawns.org.
Regular applications of compost tea of about a half gallon per 1,000 square feet of lawn or garden will reduce the need for additional fertilizer and generally make the lawn and garden more disease and insect resistant.
Paul Tukey is the founder of Safelawns.org. See all his Organic Lawn Care Tips.
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