The first layer of soil, often referred to as topsoil, is the portion of the lawn that grass and other plants use to get their nutrients. If those nutrients become depleted, the entire look of the lawn and landscaping may suffer. Compost can help restore some of those nutrients and bring balance back to the topsoil. Those looking for a cheap supplement to fertilizer may find compost to be a very useful tool.
Compost is nothing but decaying matter, most likely matter that comes from plant sources, though it is not limited to that. Compost can be made in an enclosed bin, or even an open-air box. Some people may put worms in their compost, but if it is accessible, earthworms often are drawn to such areas, which helps increase the organic matter produced. Compost does not cost anything, but does require some additional time.
Once you have started a compost bin, it will likely take 30 days before the first batch is ready to be used. During this time, you should constantly be adding new material. It should also be turned every three days to every six weeks, with more frequent turning leading to faster composting times. Composting is also likely to be accelerated when temperatures are hotter.
Once you have a sufficient enough amount of soil, there are a number of ways you can apply it to your lawn. If you have an established lawn, apply it once a year, typically in the spring or fall, in a layer up to 1/2 inch thick. If you have a new lawn or have areas where grass has not been planted yet, till approximately 4 inches of compost into the first 5 inches of topsoil.
Many feel that the use of compost in the topsoil may be enough, but that is not always the case. In some situations, you may need to use compost and a fertilizer, be it a natural fertilizer or a synthetic. Compost tends to release its nutrients over time, whereas fertilizers can either be quick release or delayed release, depending on the product chosen. The best way to determine if compost is meeting all your needs is to have the topsoil tested.
Though the advantages of compost are numerous, the disadvantages may discourage some people from trying. For example, compost areas can sometimes produce an undesirable odor. Further, they take more time than simply adding fertilizer, as attention must be paid to them every few days to achieve a maximum level of effectiveness.