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Friday, June 2, 2017

Compost and Steer Manure Not the Same on Lawns

Q.  Recently you recommended applying compost to lawns. I am confused if you mean steer manure. How often do you recommend doing this? When should I do my first application? My lawn is approximately 1,000 square feet. How much compost should I buy?

A.  Compost is very different from steer manure.  Steer manure in a bag is dried, poop from cows broken apart mechanically so it’s easy to use.  Compost can be made from animal manure like steer, horse, rabbit or chicken, even human, or entirely from plants.  But it takes time to make it
Composting breaks down manure much faster when compared to Mother Nature doing it au naturel.  Both Mother Nature and composting create a very rich ingredient, the gardener’s “black gold”, which is a valuable addition to vegetable gardens, fruit trees, ornamental trees, shrubs and even lawns.

Steer manure bought in a bag is raw and not composted.  When manure is not composted, it has not yet released its “black gold” that is so valuable.  In its raw state, steer and other animal manures may cause damage to plants if applied incorrectly.  Bagged steer manure is cheap and tempting to use.  But use it with caution.

Research done at Cornell University clearly demonstrates the best compost to use on lawns is made from an urban waste, called municipal solid waste in engineering and science lingo. If composted correctly, compost made from municipal solid waste is a very valuable resource.
We have a big environmental problem with solid and liquid waste coming from cities.  In Nevada, this urban waste is buried in landfills.  In other states putting it in landfills is no longer permitted.  In these states, municipal solid waste is required, by state law, to be put to beneficial use; much of it made into compost.
Compost made from biosolids

University research regarding lawn diseases and compost from municipal solid waste is very clear.  This type of compost not only fertilizes the lawn but helps it fight several diseases including several that damage tall fescue in our climate.

Apply this type of compost evenly over the lawn, about 1/8-inch-deep, equivalent to 11 cubic foot bags applied to 1000 square feet of lawn.  Use a compost spreader to apply it.
Compost spreader

Apply it monthly during the growing season.  In our climate, I would start applying it in February until May. I would avoid applying it during the hottest months of June, July and August.  Resume applying it September, October, November and December.

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