Iowa Capitol lawn compost will improve soil, water quality

Iowa State Capitol. (Photo: Caroline Cummings)

The Iowa State Capitol grounds will be getting compost added this week in an effort by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and other state agencies to improve soil quality and reduce water runoff into the Des Moines river.

The soil quality restoration project at the capitol with serve as a demonstration for the rest of the state.

“This is a great example of a high traffic area where we can show a practice and how it functions at a local scale," said Steven Konardy, who works with watershed improvement section of the Iowa DNR.

The $24,000 EPA-sponsored program will aerate the land leaving holes for the organic compost, which will be spread throughout five acres of West Terrace of the Capitol this week.

The compost, Konardy said, will make the grass become healthier—and greener—and will help infiltrate more water into the ground, reducing runoff.

"This practice helps build up a healthier soil so that rain water trickles into and below the clay layer instead of running along top of it.”

Konardy notes that it's a small-scale project; however, he's hoping it could help spark statewide effects.

“By showing it at the small scale, we can show the effects that it will have on the big scale," he said. "If we take soil quality restoration and do it on every lawn in the state of Iowa we may see some benefit from that for sure.”

Local Iowans throughout the state don't necessarily need a contractor, like the Capitol project is using, to apply a similar practice to their own backyards.

“[With] a couple of wheel barrow loads of compost and a shovel, you can get the job done.”

As for the bad smell often associated with compost, Konardy said it'll be fairly odorless.

"It's going to have more of an earthy smell like a walk through the woods not so much a dirty, garbage smell."

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