Compost blending pre-application

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by JDUtah, Apr 24, 2009.

  1. JDUtah

    JDUtah LawnSite Silver Member
    from UT
    Messages: 2,636

    The story is, I am applying compost as my fertilizer throughout the year. I am blending it with various things to get a better turf response out of it. Last Friday I had some locked gates and had extra. It sat over the weekend, and by the time I got to it Monday it had ammoniated some of the urea. It smelt like ammonia, not too strong, but it was there. It was about 37% moist.

    It was grade "A" certified yard waste compost that I had purchased. Plenty mature. Test results were 1.2%N - .5%P - .7%K. At my application rate (25 lbs dry weight per 1,000) that is only .3 lbs N per K. I blended in 1.5 lbs urea per 25 lbs dry weight which brought me to 1.02 lbs N per 1,000 sqft.

    I am not concerned about my compost blends being too hot to apply as I know exactly what I am putting down, and exactly the rate at which I am applying it. I was just wondering if anyone has seen an ammoniated media that was surface applied, like my compost, harm a lawn (or the biology in the soil). So far neither seems to be a problem.

    Another thing I am watching is N response. I am curious just how much N I lost from it escaping as Ammonia gas during, and shortly after, application. The organic matter and moisture in the compost should hold on to some/most of it, I would think.

    My blend is always mixed the day of, or day before, the application. Again, by the time I could use this stuff the urea had already started to be mineralized. I was curious if I would get a faster response because of this 'head start' so I tested it on a plot.

    So far there is no difference between the ammoniated compost and the urea compost areas. Time and observation will tell me how safe and effective I am when using slightly old blends like this. So far so good. :)

    I am also considering applying the compost and then applying the urea (or the other way around). It seems I would loose more N to the atmosphere this way though, and my applications wouldn't be as effective. Not to mention the time spent in the field double applying it.

    So what are your thoughts and experiences? Ever seen damage where .7 lbs of soluble N was ammoiated before a surface application and damaged the lawn? What concentration of ammonia is known to cause harm to turf (KBG, sometimes fescue)? Which application method do you think would minimize volatilizing (pre-mixing or double applying)?

    Everything can always be improved. One process potentially leads to 3 other possibilities. Gotta love Kaizen and the questions it brings. What are your thoughts?

    Thanks in advance! :waving:
  2. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    I thought the last thread was overthinking rotted OM... This is going to a whole new level? Just wondering... :)
  3. JDUtah

    JDUtah LawnSite Silver Member
    from UT
    Messages: 2,636

    It isn't that hard to calculate and blend everything. I don't think it is overkill. The same stuff has to be done with registered fertilizer (synthetic AND organic).

    Knowing exactly what you are putting down, and how to control what you put down, is the foundation of a responsible landscape management program IMHO. Even with an organic program.

    I do not consider it overthinking at all. I will gladly admit it is going to a whole new level though. At least when it comes to manufacturing your own ferts. Like I said, purchased ferts already consider/calculate/determine these things.

  4. DeepGreenLawn

    DeepGreenLawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,372

    my thoughts...

    It seems to me that the urea you added and sat for a time was beginning to recompost. The microbes began to break it down there for letting off the ammonia smell.

    As far as it hurting the lawn... I wouldn't think anything would have really changed other than the total amount of urea available due to either cycling it into the compost or lost to evaporation.

    If you put the compost down straight away it is not tight enough to be able to produce the amount of heat that takes place in a pile. Its low density then keeps the pile cooler, the microbes I guess are unable to work as fast (this part I am speculating) and therefore the urea is not broken down and still soluble(?) for the plants.

    Does this make since? Spread it out and it is no different than adding urea to your lawn, put it in the compost pile and it begins to be broken down. Tree and others have mentioned adding urea to compost piles to speed up the process, we all know the more N in the pile the faster the reaction so it seems to me you just gave the microbes something new to break down...
  5. growingdeeprootsorganicly

    growingdeeprootsorganicly LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 766

    are you using 46-0-0?
  6. JDUtah

    JDUtah LawnSite Silver Member
    from UT
    Messages: 2,636

    Yeah the microbes had fun with the new food. :)

    No noticeable heat from it though, prolly because it was in containers (no thermal mass?)

    feed grade 46-0-0

    I am hunting for various high N organic sources at the moment, urea in the meantime.
  7. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    It seems to me that going with compost because it is a natural process that occurs in undisturbed forest and prairie, is a wise course of action. We mimick the natural process and work with the natural process to grow healthy plants naturally.
    This is just my opinion of course, but it appears to me that we are trying to improve upon nature again. That the greenup that compost generates is not adequate for turf. We want a High N to really make the stuff grow as if we are producing forage crops.

    Adequate N seems natural and healthy to me. High N seems we are back in the synthetic mindset and we are producing blades at the expense of the overall health and wellbeing of the plant and the soil.
  8. dishboy

    dishboy LawnSite Fanatic
    from zone 6
    Messages: 6,170

    .69 lbs of N from urea + compost per K. in the spring. I am glad I don't mow your lawns as you are in the Chemlawn N rate area for a spring application. What kind of growth are you seeing?
  9. DeepGreenLawn

    DeepGreenLawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,372

    True, very true, and I agree completely YET there are still customer expectations out there.

    As I said before too... I only use the high N to get a kick start... not continually, if I have a lawn that is way behind on ferts then I don't see much of a choice at the beginning unless we want a crappy looking lawn for a few years and after a few months customers get tired of paying for a crappy looking yard no matter how well you manage their expectations. Especially here where organics is a new concept and I am the "pioneer" as all other "organic" companies apparently are frauds from what my customers are telling me... me not all but the major majority. I have yet to find a true organic company other than my own and neither have my customers. I am not 100% organic but my customers understand that and I make it very clear the reasons I use synthetics. They still appreciate the truthfulness and understand. They are just happy that I am even working toward and organic program...
  10. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,335

    Problem is with your situation you will NEVER know exactly what you are putting down.

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