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Monday, January 23, 2017

Compost Applied to Lawns Reduces Disease Problems and Fertilizes

Q. I have a lawn that did not do well this last summer. It browned and had a few patches that had some sort of infection and die-off.  We added compost in early fall and the lawn perked up quite a bit but it browned again considerably even though it is a fescue blend that should remain green through our winter.  I think it probably needs another application of compost at some point. When should I add compost again?
Probably summer patch disease on fescue in Las Vegas.

A. There is solid research from major universities showing that many lawn diseases are controlled by applying frequent compost applications through the growing season. To accomplish this, light applications of compost, about ¼ inch deep, should be applied monthly. This is equivalent to applying 10 to 15 cubic feet of compost per thousand square feet.
            With regular compost applications, and returning grass clippings to the lawn using a mulching mower, no additional fertilizer is needed. One or two applications of compost during the year is not often enough to maintain a healthy lawn.
Bagged compost like this one helps to reduce disease problems if applied monthly to lawns. Apply about 10 to 15 bags per 1000 square feet. Cost is usually less than $3 per cubic foot.
            To keep the lawn from browning during freezing temperatures, an application of compost is needed around Thanksgiving through the first week of December. Depending on the compost, a supplemental application of high nitrogen fertilizer might be needed.
            High levels of nitrogen inside the grass needs to be present before cold temperatures to prevent fescue from turning brown, even in our climate. If nitrogen levels are low when freezing temperatures arrive, any lawn will turn brown.
The easiest way to apply compost to a lawn is probably with a compost spreader like this one. Experienced applicators can apply it by throwing it on with a manure shovel and a raking it. Make sure you water it in immediately after applying it.
            However, most problems with lawns growing in the desert are related to watering and irrigation. Make sure water is applied evenly to the lawn from the sprinklers. Sprinklers must “throw” water from irrigation head to irrigation head.
            The second contributing problem results from the condition of the soil that can result in suffocation of grass roots. Adequate soil preparation at the time of planting is hardly ever done by professionals. This soil problem can be corrected, somewhat after-the-fact, by “coring holes” in the existing lawn once a year using a commercial, gasoline-operated, aerator.
            Make sure your irrigation system is adequate. Aerate the lawn in January/February with a gasoline driven lawn aerator. Apply 10 to 15 cubic foot bags of high nitrogen compost with a compost spreader for every 1000 square feet of lawn. Mow with a mulching mower.

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