Hey Everybody!

Let’s talk some COMPOST, shall we!

Compost is such an effective, versatile tool in the world of erosion and sediment control.  Sadly though, it seems that it is often misunderstood, misued or too quickly dismissed.  A lot of that might be due to a lack of good information out there.  So, here at WatchYourDirt and Dirt Time, we thought we’d do our part and try to add some quality information to the mix.

So, we took some really good Compost-centric excerpts from our video and Erosion Draw Software libraries to give you a sampling of what those educational tools have to offer.  The video comes from the ‘Big Cover Up’ episode of our Dirt Time video series, while all the other information is taken from the Erosion Draw software tool.

ErosionDraw is a great tool that covers tons of erosion and sediment control techniques, giving not only the full information (description, advantages, disadvantages, comparisions, installation, etc.) but, ErosionDraw also gives access to the full CAD drawings as well.

If the information below looks good to you.  You may want to give our videos and software a quick look 🙂




A compost blanket is a layer of compost designed to prevent erosion, especially rills and gullies that may form under more traditional methods of erosion control. In many cases, a compost blanket can be more effective at vegetation establishment, weed suppression and erosion control than an Erosion Control Blanket (ECB) or Hydroseeding. Compost blankets can be applied by hand, conveyor system or compost spreader; however, the most cost-effective and efficient method is the use of a pneumatic delivery system, i.e. a compost blower truck.


A compost blanket is used on slopes to prevent raindrop erosion and in some cases, to increase infiltration rates. A trademarked form of a compost blanket, the Rexius EcoBlanket™ increased infiltration rates and decreased sediment delivery by 99% as compared to bare soil, in a study conducted by the San Diego State Erosion Control Laboratory (Rexius). The success of compost blankets is dependent upon the blanket not being undermined by water; this can be accomplished by keying in the top of the blanket, or the use of a compost berm or sock at the top of the slope. When applied correctly, compost blankets provide nearly 100% surface coverage. (Faucette, 2002)


  • Compost blankets can be more effective than ECBs, because they come in better contact with the underlying soil, reducing the chance of rill formation. (Faucette, 2002).
  • Compost is organic, biodegradable, renewable, and can be left onsite. This is particularly important near streams.
  • Compost has been shown to suppress weeds. Over two growing seasons, the mass of weeds on compost blanket plots was 1/3 of the amount on the control plots (Glanville, 2003)


Conditions Where Practice Applies

Compost blankets are usually used on slopes of 2H:1V or gentler, but can be used on slopes as steep as 1H:1V, with consideration given to the length of slope and depth of application (AASHTO). Adding components such as a tackifier, or using compost blankets in conjunction with other techniques can increase the allowable steepness of the slope to be treated. Compost blankets should be extended 3-6 feet over the top shoulder of the slope to prevent water from getting underneath. Compost blankets should not be applied in areas of concentrated flow, and can be used in conjunction with compost berms or socks.
Blankets can be applied in a variety of thicknesses from ½” to 4”, depending upon the intended purpose. As a general rule, the more precipitation an area receives, the thicker the application.


Compost Specifications

There are many types of compost, all with different properties, so it is best to determine what application the compost is being used for. Compost can be derived from feedstocks, biosolids, leaf and yard trimmings, manure, wood, or mixed solid waste, and must be treated with heat to remove pathogens and destroy noxious weeds.

One of the most important criteria for quality compost is the temperature it was “cooked” at and the duration of composting. For instance, California Compost Regulations require that “windrowed compost” be kept at 131°F for 15 days and turned 5 times. Compost manufactured in bags is referred to as “in vessel” which the regulations require be kept at 131°F for only 5 days. Quality compost will then be cured for 60 days (D.Carvalo, personal communication, 2004).

Click Here for California Department of Transportation Specifications for Compost Blankets



Compost blankets can be applied in a variety of ways, however the most efficient and cost-effective way is through the use of a pneumatic blower truck.

  • Prepare the slopes by removing loose rocks, roots, clods, stumps and debris over 2” in diameter.
  • Trackwalk slopes if feasible before application.
  • For very steep slopes, compost berms can be installed at intervals over the compost blanket in much a similar manner as Straw Rolls.



For MUCH MUCH more information on Compost Blankets and Berms including CAD design drawings, pick up a of Erosion Draw software!! 

For more video, you can purchase our ‘Big Cover Up’ DVD or go all out and get the Dirt Time Ultimate Set – which contains our Big Cover Up episode, as well as Compost applications in 3 other episodes.

Tons of information is right at your finger tips – all available through the WatchYouDirt and the WatchYourDirtStore.

Any questions or comments, give us a ring in the comments below!

Last Year Greg Balzer asked for more documentation we might have re: the placement of seed under, over or incorporated with 2-3″ thick Compost Blankets.  These photos  (also see “Malaysians Visit Shasta College) show the results of our 2nd “scientific” trials and is my 5th actual experience,  On this plot little trial we used both Native grass (the entire results will be published) and commercial rye.  

These photos (below) show our first Shasta College trials – can you tell which side of the plot had seed under and which side had seed on top ?

I know, these studies used relatively large seed, Elymus glaucus, Nassella pulchra, Lymus triticoides, Rye etc,   BUT please remember we also used the Blower Trucks (the seed is incorporated into compost while blowing on) using the widely diverse “Canadian Reclamation Blends” for three Huge and different geoclimatic area in Alberta and the vegetative establishment was phenomenal.  See the Hinton Projects on Dirt Time.

Also remember, these trials use “REAL Compost” (cooked, turned, aged, certified) instead of some wood chips, Hydropost-type biosolids, wood mulch etc. that many people seem to confuse with real compost!!  NO, I think that any idea out there that “thick (2-3” layer) Compost Blankets will “smother” the seeds is anecdotal only and based on all of our previous knowledge about seed planting depth – Compost apparently doesn’t behave as we would expect with regards to seed depth!!  Until somebody does some trials with smaller seeds, forbs, etc, I am going to “fall back” on my experience in Canada and say the seed size is not a factor either.

Also, also, In my opinion the very best application is applying the compost blanket, and seed, and mychorrizae, and biosol, and TACKIFIER in one step using the Express Blower Trucks because the materials are really well calibrated and the way uniform mixing occurs in the hose.  

Also, I should point out:  No, I do not have a financial interest in Finn/Express Blower nor Compost.  

As an added bonus see the cool “living walls” from Kiwi land.


Hi All

Time to blog the results of our, almost year-long, Hydromulch Study conducted at the Erosion Control Training Facility in Redding, CA.  

We were testing whether thick applications of Hydromulch would in fact “smother” or hinder seed establishment.

We used Nassella pulchra, Elymus Glaucus and I think 1/3 Leymus triticoides (these are relatively large grass seeds but widely used in No. CA.).  

We did uniform soil prep (trackwalking), put the seed down uniformly UNDER (not with) the hydromulch and then covered with all kinds of commonly used hydromulches – Soil Guard, Flexterra, TeraMulch, hydrostraw, and the cotton mulch (NAG).

We documented NO discernible ill effects from higher rates.  Actually just the opposite!!!  

This winter had such intense storms it was very unusual and the lower rates of hydromulch resulted in quite a bit more erosion – one more storm and I predict the seed and slopes would have been lost on the 2000#/ac applications.

What is most significant is that we also applied a compost blanket 2″ thick.  There was NO reduction of seed establishment, if fact the compost blanket grew the BEST grass, by covering seed with 2″ of compost.

This finding is consistent with all my experience in putting down compost blankets with the Compost Blower machine – Hilltop Burn Dump (2005), Alberta DOT Pembina River 2006 and 2008.

Hope you enjoy and hope this paper somewhat “lays to rest” the notion that Compost Blankets at 2″ will smother seeds.   

We must, as EC Specialists, find a balance between veg establishment and effective erosion control during the establishment period.  Good luck   




BUT:  What say you?  What’s been your experiences and/or opinions?  Leave some comments below and let’s get some conversation going!


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