A division of Walker Aero Environmental LLC / J-V Dirt + Loam

Resurrect Your Lawn


Do you have to keep your lawn drenched to keep it half alive?  Is your lawn yellow even if you water?  Does it green up, just to die back?  Compost can help fix that.


If you bought your house new in Austin, you probably noticed that the builder installed your sod just a day or two before closing and advised you to "water the hell out of it."  Why?  Austin area builders spread the least amount of the cheapest soil they can get, since it is hidden, and in one day the yard will no longer be their problem: it will be your problem.  The soil they use is not much better than infield dirt, and is not conducive to healthy turf.  It is practically devoid of organic matter, which means it cannot retain water: water either sheets right off of it, or runs right through it. 


Compost Benefits

Compost:

  • Nurtures your plants
  • Conserves water and protects from drought
  • Improves soil structure 


Nurture Your lawn: plant nutrition.

Compost can reduce or eliminate your use of synthetic fertilizers:

  • Compost contains all the essential plant nutrients, including micro-nutrients such as iron and manganese that are often absent in synthetic fertilizers. 
  • Compost bacteria break down mulch and plant debris (and even nitrogen from the air) into plant available nutrients. 
  • Compost releases its nutrients slowly, over several months or years. 
  • Compost balances both acid and alkaline soils, bringing pH levels into optimal range for nutrients availability. 
  • Soil enriched with compost retains fertilizers better than lifeless soil does, reducing runoff and water pollution.

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increase beneficial soil life and improve soil structure 

  • Compost promotes the growth of beneficial microorganisms, insects, and worms, which support vigorous plant growth.
  • Compost reduces the need for chemical pesticides because it contains beneficial microorganisms that protect your plants from diseases and pests. 
  • Compost helps bind clusters of soil particles (aggregates).  Soil rich in aggregates is full of tiny air channels and pores that hold air, moisture, and nutrients like a sponge, allowing you to water and fertilize less. 
  • Compost helps sandy soil retain water and nutrients that would normally wash right though.
  • Compost breaks up tightly bound particles in clay soils, allowing roots to spread, water to drain, and air to penetrate.
  • Beneficial insects, worms, and other organisms are plentiful in compost-enriched soil; they burrow through the soil keeping it loose and well-aerated.
  • Compost makes any soil easier to work and cultivate 


compost protects from drought:

use less water and still get better results

The frequency and intensity of irrigation needed to keep plants healthy may be reduced because of the drought resistance and efficient water use characteristics of compost.2


Compost helps reduce irrigation by improving the soil's ability to hold water

Sustained plant growth requires slow release of water into the soil. Healthy plants in a moist bed rich in organic material need watering less frequently.3  But how much water you use is linked to the percentage of organic matter in  the soil.  Organic matter holds a lot of water, thus, the amount of organic matter in a soil directly influences the availability of water to a crop over time.  Soil scientists report that for every 1 percent of organic matter content, the soil can hold roughly 1.5 quarts of water per cubic foot of soil. Increasing the organic matter content from 1 to 2 percent would increase the volume of water to 3 quarts per cubic foot of soil.  However, organic matter in droughty soils breaks down so rapidly that getting above 2 or 3 percent is difficult to do, but getting to 2 to 3 percent have major positive impacts.4


In addition to supplying the soils with beneficial microorganisms, compost also provides important structural component to gardens.  Compost reduces soil crusting, which helps with water absorption and penetration into the soil.5  In clay soils, water tends to run off the surface, and in sandy soil the water runs straight through.  However, compost retains the water in micro-aggregates composed of soil and clay particles held together by "glues" produced by bacteria and fungi.  In turn, these micro-aggregates are bound into larger aggregates by root hairs and fugal hyphae.  Water is trapped in these aggregates and released slowly to surrounding plants.6  The addition of compost in sandy soils can facilitate moisture dispersion by allowing water to more readily move laterally from point of application.7  In short, compost encourages the formation of soil clusters that soak up water and hold it like a sponge.8  The sponge-like nature of compost means that rain or irrigation water will be absorbed and stay in your soil -- where your plants need it -- instead of trickling off int the gutter.9


measuring results:  how effective is compost at holding water?

A 1994 study by A. Maynard found that a 3 inch layer of leaf compost rototilled to a 6 inch depth increased water holing capacity 2.5 times that of a native sandy soil and provided almost a 7 day supply of plant available water. In a 2000 study, Maynard found that increasing the water holding capacity of the soil by adding compost helped all crops during summer droughts by reducing periods of capacity of water stress.


A test in in Colorado showed that one hundred pounds of average Denver soil, which is a 1- by 10-foot row tilled 6 inches deep, mixed with one pound of compost will hold an additional 33 pounds, or four gallons, of water. Add five pounds of compost to that soil, and it will hold nearly 200 pounds, or 25 gallons, of water.[1]  [1] http://www.denverwater.org/Conservation/TipsTools/Outdoor/UsingCompost/


Different soils benefit differently from compost.  The table below, published by the Denver Water Utility, shows the relationship between the percent of compost and the amount of water that can be retained by four soil types.