Archive for Monday, March 19, 2012


Fix-It Chick: Use compost for lawn, garden

March 19, 2012


Compost is mixture of decomposing organic matter and micro-organisms traditionally used as a soil amendment for lawns and gardens.

Combining compost with existing soils improves soil structure, increases water retention, adds nutrients, stabilizes pH, and reduces erosion.

There are several easy ways to incorporate compost into your garden or existing landscape.

  • For new garden areas, spread 3 inches of compost over the garden surface and till in 6 inches to 8 inches deep.
  • For existing garden spaces, spread 2 inches of compost over the garden surface and till in 4 inches to 6 inches deep.
  • If a no-till method is preferred, spread compost 1 inch to 2 inches thick and cover with 2 inches to 3 inches of straw or mulch to prevent excessive weed growth and increase moisture retention.
  • For new lawns, spread compost 3 inches to 4 inches thick and till in 5 inches to 6 inches deep.
  • For existing lawns, spread compost 1/2 inch deep and water in. Spreading compost too thick will interfere with the grass’s ability to undergo photosynthesis. Compost may also interfere with the pH balancing effects of soil amendments such as lime or sulfur. Add compost after these fixing agents have had a chance to work, approximately two to four weeks, depending on the specific type of soil amendment used.
  • For new and existing trees, shrubs and plants, spread 1 inch to 2 inches of compost around each plant base and cover with mulch, if desired. Keep compost 6 inches to 12 inches away from tree trunks to avoid damage to the tree. When planting trees or shrubs, do not mix compost into the planting hole. If the soil in the hole is more nutrient rich than the surrounding soil, roots will not grow out, but instead will encircle the nutrient rich soil, and the plant will essentially become root-bound.
  • For potted plants, mix 1/3 compost with 2/3 soil before planting.
  • For existing potted plants and all vegetation, including lawns, a nonaerated compost tea can be made and used as a liquid fertilizer. To make compost tea, fill a 5 gallon bucket loosely with finished compost, or wrap compost in a burlap bag and place in bucket. Fill the bucket with water and set aside. Stir the mixture daily. In 7 to 10 days, the compost tea can be strained and sprayed or poured onto existing vegetation. When using compost tea on edible vegetation, avoid spraying leaves and foliage.

— Linda Cottin can be reached at


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