Using Compost On Existing Lawns
Established lawns love compost. In a perfect world (translate with a big budget), a 1/2 inch layer of compost spread over the whole lawn every year or two is guaranteed to improve the overall health of the grass plants, making they grow more thickly. Compost helps grass plants to be more drought resistant and insect and disease resistant. Lawns treated with compost do not have to be fertilized and watered quite so frequently, and lawn care is therefore less time consuming.
Now back to reality. Few of us have the money or the time to produce enough compost to cover the whole lawn every year, or even every two years. So what is the point here. We are suggesting that when you have a “problem area” in the lawn, compost should be the first tool you consider in your plan to improve the situation. Areas of the lawn in serious shade will do better if they get a layer of compost from time to time. Heavily traveled areas of a lawn is going to withstand the abuse if some compost is added. While it sounds a lot like a Jewish mom describing the benefit of chicken soup, compost can never hurt and it almost always helps when some part of the lawn is in stress.
The best time to spread compost on the lawn is the fall, but early spring is almost as good. The best way to get it into the soil is to aerate the lawn at the same time the compost is spread--either before spreading or afterwards. If aerating is not possible, the compost will still find its way down below the surface of the soil. The worms and microorganisms around the surface will carry it down and it will disappear in a matter of weeks. In all cases, a half inch layer is ideal; a quarter inch layer will still do good stuff.
Fungal Problems On Lawns -- Some of the fungal diseases that are common on lawns such as dollar spot, brown patch, or fusarium patch can sometimes be handled by compost if they are caught early. As soon as symptoms are apparent in patches or sections of the lawn, spread about 1/2 inch of finished compost over the infected area. Do not water the area for a few days. Then if no rain has occurred for several days, lightly water the affected area in the morning sometime before noon. This gives the treated patch a chance to dry off before nightfall. Many fungal diseases like dark damp conditions like those found at night after the lawn is watered in the evening and is not able to dry off before dark. If the fungal disease persists for more than two weeks, it may be necessary to use a safe fungicide to deal with the problem.