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The Story of Compost

 From low places to high

Governor Martin and First Lady Katie O’Malley may not be aware that in 1985 I tried to convince the gardeners in charge of the state properties in Annapolis to apply compost to the turf. The idea was met with great resistance because the gardeners thought it would take too much time, and they did not believe it would improve the turf.
    We’d already been turned down in higher places.
    During the Carter administration, those of us doing research with biosolids compost and developing uses for the compost discovered many benefits to using compost on lawns. In addition to rotting the existing thatch, the compost appeared to make lawns more resistant to diseases. Less water was needed to keep the turf green during prolonged periods of drought. Aerating the lawn after the compost is applied also encourages deeper rooting of grasses making them more drought-resistant. Compost also serves as a slow-release fertilizer.
    To gain more publicity on the many benefits of compost in the landscape, we contacted the White House gardener and requested permission to top-dress the White House lawn with biosolids compost. Despite our convincing arguments, the gardener in charge of the White House grounds refused to allow its use claiming potential odor problems.
    Deciding to approach President Carter directly, we made biosolids compost out of peanut hulls in place of wood chips, for we knew he was a peanut farmer. Despite our best efforts at making compost using materials familiar to the president, the White House gardener still refused to have it applied.
    Thank heavens times have changed. Here in Annapolis, Government House lawn is now green with compost.

Manure as Compost?

    The manure of cows, llamas, alpacas, chickens or pigs can be incorporated into the garden as soon as it drops to the ground. Not so with horses. Horses are not as thorough in digesting grasses, hay and grains as are other farm animals. As a result, their manure contains high levels of carbon in undigested hay and grain hulls. Many seeds in the manure remain viable.
    Horse manure must first be composted. Composting of horse manure requires the pile be kept moist and turned at least monthly. Do it right and the composting process generates heat that will kill any weed seeds in the horse buns. Horse manure compost is ready to use when nothing is recognizable and it has an earthy odor.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at [email protected]. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

Gardening through the Seasons

Fans of The Bay Gardener will want the bound volume of his wisdom. Enough Said: A Guide to Gardening Through the Seasons, compiled by the Annapolis Horticulture Society, is on sale for $20 at Greenstreet Gardens in Lothian and at Grauel’s Office Supplies in Deale. For direct orders — [email protected] — add $6 postage. The Bay Gardener will inscribe your book and send it by return mail.