Grass ♥ Poop

We were on the road a lot this past winter driving to area horse barns and hauling their stall clean-outs back to our farm.  Every time we headed out, we came back to the farm and plopped a huge pile of pee-soaked sawdust, wood shavings, and manure on our land.  And we got this stuff for free!  The piles broke down over the winter into deep, black, sweet-smelling compost.  We’re spreading the piles now, and I imagine our burned-out soil is getting drunk off this stuff!  

But I’m still thinking about the spring equinox on March 20th.  I had heard that grass starts to “wake up” right around then, so yearning for a sign of spring, I took a pasture walk to go see.  I came upon the compost piles and every one of them had a wide ring of dark green grass around them!  I ran back to the house to get the camera.  As you can see in the picture below, compared to the rest of the grass in the field, the grass in the ring is darker, thicker, and taller.  Even better, most of last year’s dead grass has melted away.  We were REALLY excited about this because it was such a change from last year when we watched the grass barely survive competition from superweeds in inhospitable compacted dusty soil.  This goes to show what compost can do for burned-out soil and starving grass.   

ring around the compost 3/20/2010

So what exactly caused this bloom of health?  It’s not moisture because the not-so-great-looking grass received the same amount.  It’s not organic matter, because the compost hasn’t worked into the ring’s soil yet.  I think it’s the bugs.  Compost is alive with bugs of all sizes, and it’s probably the smallest bugs – microbes –  that are responsible for the dark ring of healthy grass.  Microbes are soil’s great recyclers.  They take nutrients such as carbon (C) and recycle them into available forms that plants can use.  This could explain why the carbonaceous dead grass from last year is disappearing in the healthy ring.  Maybe microbes are recycling it into nutrients that the grass can use.  And this grass definitely needs nutrients!   

So grass obviously loves poop.  And I think poop definitely loves grass back.  Microbes want a place to thrive—to live (‘n eat) in the soil community and help grass grow.  Grass flourishes with the added nutrients and supports the microbes in return with its healthy root systems.  Microbes and grass are in a very loving relationship, just in time for some spring fever.

This post is part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday.

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