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View Full Version : Me + Chemical Plant = Good?


JDUtah
08-18-2008, 08:47 PM
I know it's the organic forum but I was wondering what you easterners might have to say...

I might work to get a job with a chemical company in Baltimore, MD. Now before you jump the gun on 'chemicals', it is a sustainable resource company that takes byproducts from metal manufacturing and turns them into usable chemicals; water treatment chemicals, and yes even agricultural iron products. So it might be chemicals, but it totally follows the ideal of turning a waste stream into a product. I think I would like the job.

Now this is where I would like the input..

I love growing things too much to walk away from landscape maintenance. Utah is offering a good chance for me to make a difference because the lack of organic practices out here AND the very poor soil (1% SOM for example). I think Utah would be a pretty good market once I got my niche going...

But, I was wondering how you think an organic program would fair in Baltimore compared to Utah. The soil might not need as much help out there? (might not be a good thing) An easier 'organic' market though? I don't know... Anyone familiar with the Baltimore area and willing to share some insight?

Thanks!

phasthound
08-19-2008, 12:12 AM
JD,
You'll suffer more from culture shock than from "organic" shock. :)

JDUtah
08-19-2008, 12:20 AM
Haha, Thanks for the heads up Phasthound.

LawnTamer
08-19-2008, 12:34 AM
I would jump on it. Seriously. I only know of a few who have tried marketing organic programs here, and they haven't had a big response. The typical homeowner here has 2 objectives from their lawn care provider;
1. Make my lawn look as good as/better than the neighbors.

2. For as little $ as possible.

In 16 years of doing lawn apps here, I have had exactly 1 request for an organic program. I gave them a price that was about $7 more per app than a synthetic program, and they said, "Oh, never mind, I'll just do the normal program."

I'm not saying it couldn't be done, but with the instability in the economy, I would opt for a guaranteed paycheck.

JDUtah
08-19-2008, 12:45 AM
Hmmmm, good info from a local experienced friend... advice deeply noted. Thanks LawnTamer.

Kiril
08-19-2008, 02:19 AM
Organic programs should not cost more. If they do, your not doing it right.

treegal1
08-19-2008, 03:45 AM
Organic programs should not cost more. If they do, your not doing it right.I thought I was the only one saying that, hurry and duck for cover.:laugh:

Prolawnservice
08-19-2008, 03:47 PM
Organic programs should not cost more. If they do, your not doing it right.

I know with TG's program that is the case, however what she does is beyond what most do. Several professional organic providers have told me, it costs more. From my own experience it costs more, and has a lower profit margin. Could you expand on the above thought a little?

growingdeeprootsorganicly
08-19-2008, 04:20 PM
I know with TG's program that is the case, however what she does is beyond what most do. Several professional organic providers have told me, it costs more. From my own experience it costs more, and has a lower profit margin. Could you expand on the above thought a little?

with poor soils from the get go especially!
kiril please explain how to do this if you would?

DeepGreenLawn
08-19-2008, 04:52 PM
I checked my prices with my local synthetic fert supplier and then compared them to prices of my organic fert provider and found that the organic ferts were cheaper by about 20 cents I believe.

I was comparing a 4-3-2 organic fert I believe to a 32-0-4 synthetic? So they aren't identical but it seems that they are the "typical" generic everyday ferts for both companies. Plus... the 4-3-2 is a better choice with the stresses we have going on right now anyways due to droughts and heat and all. I know there are other synthetic ferts with lower/different numbers and properties but the organic fert is also 50% OM and that makes me happy anyways.

I went and put out a bid today... haven't officialy changed my prices yet but it was a "minimum" yard, I raised my synthetic price and kept the organic price about the same. I have an added charge for organics due to the extra time and effort and "know how"(?) that goes into it. Not really a throw and go type deal, a lot more involved it seems.

I am actually thinking about having everyone go organic and just keep one process down rather than offering a synthetic and organic program.

growingdeeprootsorganicly
08-19-2008, 05:09 PM
deepg,
can you explan to me how you are comparing prices between organic verse synthedics?
you do under stand that you don't get the same s.f coveage , right?

DeepGreenLawn
08-19-2008, 05:17 PM
I am basing it down to the price per sq ft. I figure the coverage per bag, then take the price, divide that by the coverage per K and I get my price per K, basic math. I do the same for the organic and wah lah.

Am I wrong in this?

A synthetic bag covers so many sq ft at such a price per bag as does the organic. I take that cost per K and compare, it may take more bags of organic to cover an area but it still all comes down to the per K.

JDUtah
08-19-2008, 05:29 PM
Deep, knowing your supplier and reading some things... there are some things you should understand...

Results with the organic stuff you plan to use did compete with synthetic fertilizers when tested. It even lasted longer too... BUT those tests were done putting down 2 lbs nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, with every fertilizer tested...

The rate that the organic fert company gave you only puts down around .6 lbs of Nitrogen per 1,000. So they are actually telling you to put down only 1/4 of what was used during their tests.

Basically you are prolly being mislead. Sorry. If you want your results to compete with synthetics, double the application rate.. and double your cost... no longer cheaper...

Doing your own compost can be price effective IMO... but you gotta do that right... I can put down 1 lb N with compost for $2.50 to $4.00 materials per 1,000 from a green waste compost purchased at $20/yard. Turn that $20 out into $100 in per yard of compost and you are making money to use teh compost...

DeepGreenLawn
08-19-2008, 05:37 PM
hmmm.... we shall see....

that is a little disapointing...

but at the same time...

crap............

well if nothing else... it will still be the proper fert for the conditions that we are currently in so I can use it now... I will have to do some thinking for next spring...

One of my big issues with the compost is the actual putting it down... I have used cut up plastic bats (scoops), shovels, wheel barrels... I don't know... maybe I can invest in a machine for this purpose... I know I need a screen to screen the compost itself, that is in the works, I have kind of put everything on hold until I can get this other stuff in... so it comes down to having a secure land space to make it, the thought of the farm owner being able to tell me not to come back at anytime is not very comforting, and the proper way to apply it.

No, I can't use manure spreaders or the big spreaders used for golf courses, these are an avg lawn size of 5K, and the newer lots are only getting smaller.

growingdeeprootsorganicly
08-19-2008, 05:41 PM
jd,
thank you for making it clearer

JDUtah
08-19-2008, 07:33 PM
Np deep roots.

DGL, I'll send you a PM of my spreading ideas...

Kiril
08-20-2008, 12:35 AM
kiril please explain how to do this if you would?

To answer both your questions, I don't follow a "chemical" type program. I add compost once or twice a year and that is it. On bridge programs I'll fertilize when I seed at ~ 1/3 the recommended rate. That is usually the only time needed, unless a need becomes apparent during the growing season for one reason or another. Junk soil needs more inputs in the beginning obviously, hence the reason for bridge programs. What most people don't realize is the importance of proper water management, and how that affects a sites needs, but that is not the question.

In short I don't "fertilize" because everyone says you have too. I fertilize when I see a need for fertilizer. Once you have your soil in good shape, that need diminishes. Keep in mind, these are my regions soils I am referring too, which in many places are class 1 & 2 soils when irrigated.

So my "program" for a single year costs less than $100 in materials on a 1/2 acre lot (larger than average) to "fertilize" and over seed in the fall.

I might help to know that I don't approach landscape management like I would agriculture. I'm not (nor are you) growing crops, so what I do for a landscape is ONLY what is required to meet the aesthetic expectations of the client. I don't need optimum fertility, or optimum nutrient cycling, or optimum microbial populations, I only need what is required to keep the plants happy and relatively disease free.

Last but not least, I don't do maintenance anymore (with the exception of 1 property that I have kept because they are like family). What I do is manage properties, and when management/consulting work is slow, irrigation work pretty much fills up the rest of my time. Basically, there is no need for me to apply compost, CT, or ferts 10 times a year so I can make money. :)

treegal1
08-20-2008, 02:42 PM
freaking awesome !!!!!! a few questions if you don't mind please???

To answer both your questions, I don't follow a "chemical" type program. I add compost once or twice a year and that is it. On bridge programs I'll fertilize when I seed at ~ 1/3 the recommended rate. That is usually the only time needed, unless a need becomes apparent during the growing season for one reason or another. Junk soil needs more inputs in the beginning obviously, hence the reason for bridge programs. What most people don't realize is the importance of proper water management, and how that affects a sites needs, but that is not the question.
visual need or is there some other way you determine???
In short I don't "fertilize" because everyone says you have too. I fertilize when I see a need for fertilizer. Once you have your soil in good shape, that need diminishes. Keep in mind, these are my regions soils I am referring too, which in many places are class 1 & 2 soils when irrigated. that should be a mantra!!!! the fert you use is that something organic or??? we cheat and use some soy or LOCAL alfalfa ( almost wild grown) is yours the same ?????

So my "program" for a single year costs less than $100 in materials on a 1/2 acre lot (larger than average) to "fertilize" and over seed in the fall.
don't say that they wont believe you, LOLOL just kidding!!

I might help to know that I don't approach landscape management like I would agriculture. I'm not (nor are you) growing crops, so what I do for a landscape is ONLY what is required to meet the aesthetic expectations of the client. I don't need optimum fertility, or optimum nutrient cycling, or optimum microbial populations, I only need what is required to keep the plants happy and relatively disease free.

Last but not least, I don't do maintenance anymore (with the exception of 1 property that I have kept because they are like family). What I do is manage properties, and when management/consulting work is slow, irrigation work pretty much fills up the rest of my time. Basically, there is no need for me to apply compost, CT, or ferts 10 times a year so I can make money. we still have a lot of start ups, and they need the inputs alot, some of the older 2-3 year yards are holding there own with a lot less. do you see a similar trend with your area???

I have graduated from doing the maintenance also, the tree side of things and Arboriculture, are my thing that I will hold on to for a long time( as long as I can do it physically)and the organic aspect of it gets me and my guys out in the field more often to manage the landscapes? are your managed property's full service and farmed out with subs and or in house contractors????

does your management include adding and or redesigning the land scape too include more natives and water conservation methods???? is this an up sell or just part of the whole package??? thanks for any answers you give in advance, I realy do appreciate your input!!!:waving:

Kiril
08-21-2008, 12:52 AM
visual need or is there some other way you determine???

Once I understand how the site works, visual determination, unless something stumps me.

that should be a mantra!!!! the fert you use is that something organic or??? we cheat and use some soy or LOCAL alfalfa ( almost wild grown) is yours the same ?????

I use whatever is available. If that means using up whatever chems the client has hanging around (GASP) so be it. No point in wasting it, and with a bridge program you can stretch a partial bag of fert a long way. When no "extra" fert is available, compost is my first choice, then whatever else I can put my hands on cheaply. I absolutely abhor using bagged products, but I will if I need to. The soils around here are so good, many times all you need is an irrigation adjustment and some compost. Iron is usually the biggest problem due to high pH and water management. At times I have used alfalfa feed products, but I try my best to avoid it. The local bulk "compost" around here has plenty of N (not finished properly), so many times I can get away with nothing more than compost additions to address most nutrient problems.

we still have a lot of start ups, and they need the inputs alot, some of the older 2-3 year yards are holding there own with a lot less. do you see a similar trend with your area???

Sand is a whole other world .... don't have the problems you do out here. Clay content in most of the soils around here runs from 40-60%. OM is by far the most needed amendment, but due to the clays and parent material, I can get away with less inputs than you would need. Depending on the initial status of the site, a "stable" site can range from 2-5 years depending on historical abuse.

are your managed property's full service and farmed out with subs and or in house contractors????

Both, but I try to limit my involvement to consulting and developing programs, however I will do the work as well if needed. Good help is hard to come by out here and I am not afraid to get my hands dirty .... in fact I do every day. :)

does your management include adding and or redesigning the land scape too include more natives and water conservation methods????

ABSOLFRIGGENLUTELY!

is this an up sell or just part of the whole package???

I do a complete site assessment (plants, irrigation - primary, soils - secondary) and make recommendations that will bring the site closer to a sustainable habitat. The way I see it, put all the cards on the table and let the client decide what direction they want to take. I also don't look for "accounts". If they want me one time, or once a year, doesn't matter to me. I have always (and will always) recommend the most economical and sustainable solution to the client, even if it means not getting the job.

treegal1
08-21-2008, 08:09 AM
thanks, that is what i was after...thanks again!