Friday, August 26, 2011

What do farmers know that we ignore?

When meeting with homeowners I often hear how frustrated they are with their lawns. They might be happy with their perennial or garden beds, but their lawn is just such a disappointment no matter the products they spread. The choice of installing a new lawn is always an option, but it’s expensive and often not a comfortable solution. What then is a homeowner to do?

I think it’s helpful to consider your home landscape like a farmer’s field. Consider what the farmer does in his fields that would also be useful for us to consider in our own lawns. When you consider that we rake all the leaves, clippings and other lawn debris to the curb for our local municipality to pick up and haul away to compost elsewhere (and sell back to us so we can topdress and mulch our gardens and flower beds) – our lawns have no organic matter that is being returned to them. In Mother Nature the natural life cycle involves dead plants decomposing and returning nutrients and organic matter to the soil maintaining a healthy soil composition.
For centuries farmers have tilled (aerated) their soil and spread manure and other organic materials to improve the soil health. We add soil to our gardens and beds before planting flowers and other plants and the root systems thrive. What then are we doing for our lawns to improve the soil health?

Top-dressing your home lawn with compost is similar to what a farmer does by spreading manure in his field. Adding compost to your lawn at least once per year in conjunction with aerating will being to return the organic matter to the soil and improve soil composition over time.

Yes, you can install a new lawn and bring in lots of new soil and organic matter in the short term, but eventually this organic matter will deplete and you’ll be back to just the mineral matter in your soil (sand, silt and clay). If you consider mulching your beds a necessity – why then does your lawn not receive the same consideration?

To find out more about top-dressing click here.