It has been seven years since we built our new home here in North Carolina, arriving from Maryland excited about the opportunity to create a beautiful lawn to complement our beautiful home.
Well, after our initial year of very hot weather, which caused the wonderful lush sod the contractor had installed to become dry and sparse, I found out how challenging it is to maintain a lawn of cool season grass in the south.
I asked the contractor why my lawn had so many bare spots. He said fescue does not spread to fill in bare spots and it requires a lot of water to establish roots.
So after three summers of extreme heat and drought wreaking havoc on my lawn, I began with the “tried and true” method of applying fertilizer, lime, and various other chemicals in an attempt to rejuvenate the fescue. Four years later, I was still filling in spots that did not want to grow grass in an effort to develop that nice, lush lawn all “do-it-yourselfers” strive for.
It became apparent that applying various fertilizers and way more water — which cost more than I ever imagined — was not providing the results I wanted.
After joining the McGill team last year, I attended seminars about the use of compost on turfgrass to build the organic matter in soils, helping turfgrass establish deep root systems with limited or no chemicals. I became excited when speaking with our many customers and hearing their success stories, with one landscaper stating: “McGill SoilBuilder compost grows grass on concrete.” Now, I didn’t believe our product was that impressive, but I couldn’t wait to find out for myself.
Getting the lawn of our dreams
After convincing my wife that I had not given up turning our lawn into the green gem of our dreams, I ordered a load of our compost and, with her help, spent an unseasonably warm Saturday morning in early March spreading the compost with nothing but a shovel, wheelbarrow, and rake.
I had rented a lawn plug aerator the weekend before to prep the yard by opening small plug holes that would be filled with the compost. After we spread our wonderfully screened and easy-to-handle compost, I over-seeded the following day and watered in, as directed.
We have obtained the results that I have been striving for the past seven years — without the use of harmful chemicals. I had great germination results with the seeding and the turfgrass has greened up amazingly, but the main thing I have been working to achieve — to establish a thick root system — is now reality.
I am looking forward to the water savings that compost has been shown to provide (25-50 percent less water use, according to the research). I feel much more comfortable not having to add various chemicals, because compost provides slow release of nutrients for years of benefit. And if we ever build another home, I now know that applying a thin layer of topsoil does nothing to prepare the soil for growing a good stand of turfgrass. Instead, to get the beautiful lawn we want, we’ll add a couple inches of compost BEFORE we lay sod or seed to add organic matter and build healthier soil.
EDITOR’S NOTE: When he’s not concentrating on his lawn, Gary works as McGill’s compost sales and marketing manager for its U.S. operations.