Turf & Rec

Features Agronomy
Compost topdressing a valuable part of lawn care


January 28, 2014
By Mike Jiggens


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The beneficial results of compost topdressing make it a fundamental part of a professional and sustainable lawn care program.

Many lawn care companies are apt to have several questions about topdressing with compost. Ecolawn Applicator, manufacturer of broadcast, self-propelled compost spreaders/topdressers, has addressed a number of common inquiries about topdressing with compost with the goal of building healthy soils and growing healthy lawns.

Compost significantly increases soil’s water retention, improves the overall soil structure, stimulates microbial activity, breaks down thatch, and neutralizes the soil’s pH. It is an ideal natural, slow-releasing soil amendment which contains everything turf needs to thrive.

When topdressing with compost, the lawn should ideally be first mowed to a height of two inches. Perform, if necessary, soil aeration by coring and re-seed as needed. Fill the topdresser’s hopper with compost and propel the unit to the farthest area of the lawn.

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Spread the material in a consistent pattern. Repeat the process until the entire lawn is amended. Water the area consistently for the next two days. For open areas, such as large lawns, 15,000 square feet per hour can be covered, using about seven cubic yards of compost. For congested areas, such as those with trees, shrubs and flowers, about 8,000 square feet per hour, using four cubic yards, can be expected.

Price the service according to how much compost is needed to topdress the lawn. Using the usual quarter-inch application rate, follow the guidelines to determine cubic yardage.

For topdressing, application rate is one cubic yard per 2,000 square feet.

For turf renovation, after aerating and re-seeding first, application rate is a maximum of one cubic yard per 1,000 square feet.

Multiply the cost of the compost, including delivery, by four or five, depending on the area to determine final price:

• For area of more than 10,000 square feet, compost cost x 4

• For area less than 10,000 square feet, compost cost x 5

It is suggested that common sense be used to determine what the market can bear.

Topdressing can be done any time during the growing season although it’s not recommended during extreme heat waves. As a general rule, it is recommended a compost topdressing application of about a quarter-inch at least once a year.

Two factors that determine the frequency of topdressing, however, are the amount of usage a lawn gets and the type of soil in which it is growing. Poorly-structured soils may benefit from more applications.

Only quality compost should ever be used. It must have a fine texture and a homogeneous structure, allowing it to fall between the grass blades. It must be well screened and have a high content of stable organig matter. Quality compost must also be weed seed-free.

For efficient and quick application, the compost’s moisture content must be maintained at an average of 50 per cent.
For residential lawns, topdressing soil should contain at least 75 per cent compost for best results.