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Throwback Thursday: February 1994

March 27, 2014 -  By

Feb.-1994Spring has sprung. At least that’s what our calendars tell us.

Even as it’s yet to be in the air, the masses are preparing for the warm weather to come.

For me, this means looking up the best deals for a pedicure to show off my new sandals. For landscape professionals, this might mean giving customers the best deal to let you get dirt under your nails, digging in their soil.

Which is why this week I pulled the cover story from the February 1994 issue of Landscape Management. Titled “Rebuilding the soil” by then-Senior Editor Ron Hall, the article hits on the benefits of using compost to rejuvenate or create nutrient-rich soils.

In 1994, commercial compost manufacturers were gearing up for the Green Industry to feed into its product, Hall writes and spotlights a few landscape professionals who already jumped on the bandwagon.

Thomas Taylor, landscape manager at the University of Delaware, said he had purchased nearly 5,000 cubic yards of compost for construction and reconstruction of turfgrass areas on campus. The benefits, he said, is it’s inexpensive; easily available in bulk; carries a uniform texture and quality; and is deliverable with minimum notice to reduce on site storage and odors.

One of Taylor’s biggest compost projects included the removal of the top 8 inches of existing silt/loam soil on the football field and replacing it with loamy/sand soil amended with compost. He did a similar procedure to the lacrosse field using 400 yards of compost.

Rob McCartney, horticulturist and grounds manager at Sea World, said the primary reason he used compost was for its color. The darker-than-coffee-grounds hue makes floral displays “pop,” McCartney said.

Ed McCoy, a soil scientist at The Ohio State University, provided some insight on the science of compost, noting it buffers the soil from excessive drought, increases microbial diversity and provides a cation exchange capacity for the soil.

He ventured into the downsides of compost, too, answering how much organic matter is necessary to create optimum turfgrass growth.

“There is a point of diminishing return as you add more and more peat (or compost) to the system to essentially where you have a full organic soil, and you really don’t get much additional benefit,” McCoy said.

His recipe for optimal growth: Use a ratio of about 30 percent sand, 40 percent soil and 30 percent compost.

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About the Author:

Former Associate Editor Sarah Pfledderer is a West Coast-based contributing editor for Landscape Management.

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