Homeowners and landscapers desiring to install new sod often use compost to enrich the topsoil in preparation for the new bed of grass. One of the easiest ways to compost before putting in new sod goes by the name of sheet composting. This simple, low-maintenance composting method requires the homeowner to spread compost materials out in a sheet across the soil. Elizabeth Stell, author of “Secrets to Great Soil,” suggests spreading your sheet composting materials approximately 6 months prior to sod installation to give the organic materials enough time to decompose completely before you lay down the sod.
Collect a mix of carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich organic matter for your sheet compost layers. Aim for approximately one-quarter to one-half of your composting materials to be high in nitrogen, which includes sources such as cow manure, fresh yard waste, vegetable peels and fruit scraps. Provide the remainder of your organic waste in the form of carbon-rich materials, such as dead leaves, shredded newspaper, sawdust and straw.
Shred or cut large pieces of organic waste into 1-inch-diameter chunks to decrease your composting time. Mix the organic waste thoroughly to blend the nitrogen and carbon waste together. Sprinkle the composting materials across your bare yard soil in a 2- to 4-inch layer. Cover the compost with a thin layer of straw to make it more attractive.
Spray water across the surface of the compost with your garden hose to moisten the organic waste. Use enough water to make the compost about as wet as a wrung-out sponge. Let the compost sit for approximately 6 months to give the decomposing bacteria adequate time to break down the organic matter completely.
Till the finished compost into the top 2 to 3 inches of soil in preparation for the sod installation. Use a hoe to minimize soil compaction, and mix the finished compost thoroughly with the soil to provide your new sod with the most beneficial mix of organic matter.