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Help, Compost Top Dressing Burned/Yellowed Yard

Posted by rkdjc 5 (My Page) on
Wed, Sep 4, 13 at 18:31

This weekend I decided to spread a 1/4" layer of compost (com-til plus) over my yard to add organic matter since recent soil test indicated <2% OM. As you can see from the photo each area where I dumped a wheel barrel load before spreading has yellowed significantly. Temperatures were around 85 at peak of day during top dressing and the piles sat for no longer than an hour before being fully raked into lawn. I deep watered in compost after application to wash any salts and have watered twice daily to moisten overseeding.

What do you think caused burning?

Will it revive with water and time or do you think it's toast and needs renovated in those areas?

Any further suggestions?

Thanks in advance, I hope I didn't try and take one step forward and actually take a couple backward.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Help, Compost Top Dressing Burned/Yellowed Yard

Compost is not all its cracked up to be. I consider it an antiquated method for doing organic gardening. Back before we knew how many species of microbes lived in the soil (and compost), it was the only game in town. It bridged the time when all anyone used was fresh manure until now when the organic fertilizers are based on grains.

Where do you live?
What kind of grass do you have?
When were the last two times you fertilized and what did you use?
Have you used any insecticide or herbicide in the past month? If so then what?
What was your watering regimen for the summer (frequency and duration)?

Do you have any thoughts about why your lawn looks pockmarked in the foreground?

Is your lawn that lumpy or is that an optical illusion?


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RE: Help, Compost Top Dressing Burned/Yellowed Yard

Where do you live? Central Ohio
What kind of grass do you have? 55% KBG, 30% fescue, 15% rye
When were the last two times you fertilized and what did you use? 4-6 weeks, Milorganite
Have you used any insecticide or herbicide in the past month? If so then what? No
What was your watering regimen for the summer (frequency and duration)? Twice a week, 30 minutes per zone

Do you have any thoughts about why your lawn looks pockmarked in the foreground? The burn/brown spots are where compost piles were spread from wheel barrel before raking

Is your lawn that lumpy or is that an optical illusion? Illusion, likely from discoloration from top dressing


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RE: Help, Compost Top Dressing Burned/Yellowed Yard

Good. We can rule out fertilizer burn and damage from other chemicals. That leaves hot compost, smothering and disease as possible problems.

Did your compost smell incredibly wonderful? Or did it have any overtones of musty, rank, dank, sour, ammonia, or anything else that wasn't perfectly fresh? Was it warm to the touch? Did it have any pieces of wood or other material you recognized as not being completely decomposed? If the compost was fresh enough that you would feel very comfortable plunging your nose into a heaping handful of it, then we can rule out immature compost. If the compost was not finished composting, the heat from the compost process can literally cook the grass when it sits there. It would look kind of crispy and very dried.

How long did the compost sit on the grass? Did you drop the wheel barrows on one day and finish scattering the piles the next day? Some grasses can smother quickly when buried under a pile of something. Smothered grass usually just looks wilted.

Can you see any yellow or brown lesions or spots on the blades of the dead looking grass? Sometimes when you cut off the oxygen to grass for long enough disease can get started.

Pockmarks are not the brown grass. In the lower left quadrant of the photo there are hundreds of very dark spots that look like holes in the turf. Are they illusions from the grass? Is the grass tufted so that it would cast shadows like that? I could be tufts of rye or fescue thriving in a sea of KBG that is recovering from summer dormancy.


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RE: Help, Compost Top Dressing Burned/Yellowed Yard

The compost smelled fairly fresh, not rank but not totally sweet either. When I was breaking up some clumps from the delivery I did notice they were warm to the touch. As such, I think your suspicion of hot compost may be correct. If that's the cause, the piles sat for no longer than an hour before being raked out to about 1/4" coverage. Do you think the grass has a chance to survive in those areas with continued care? I did a double aeration before top dressing which I think may result in that pockmarked appearance you reference. Thanks for the feedback.


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RE: Help, Compost Top Dressing Burned/Yellowed Yard

I would overseed those areas this month. The KBG will come back fine, but the fescue and rye will not.

Sounds like your compost was not finished composting. Most compost dealers try to push it out the door before it's ready.


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RE: Help, Compost Top Dressing Burned/Yellowed Yard

From the pic it looks very ugly. It seems like patches here and there. The beauty of your house is reduced because of this.
You can wait for a few more days to see if it becomes the same way again. Best and easy way is renovating your lawn with artificial turf. No need of adding chemicals to maintain it . The maintenance is quite easy.
And if you are ready to buy a turf by Village Green. This has a vibrant green color which looks like natural grass. It requires minimal water and fertilizer. It is also suitable by all climatic conditions.

See this image, village green turf is used in cricket grounds. Then why cant we use it our gardens.

Here is a link that might be useful: Perfect garden


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RE: Help, Compost Top Dressing Burned/Yellowed Yard

My first thought was unfinished compost, too. But you are where you are, so do this. Go down to the crowns of some of the plants and give them a fingernail scrape. If they are green and turgid, the topgrowth is injured but the plants are still alive. Then just keep watering -- deeply and infrequently. Give the grass an inch of water per week, preferably in two separate waterings.


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