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greenskeeper44
11-11-2008, 08:00 PM
I have a lawn care company that offers both synthetic and organics. I would like to go to all organics but I am confused why synthetic fertilizers are supposedly so bad for the soil. I went to Rutgers and have a degree in turf management and we were never taught that theory. I understand how organics work but it seems silly not to use synthetic fertilizers. I know that you need to add organic materials in turf programs and that you have to feed the microorganisms through compost teas and topdressings. The thing I dont understand is why you all say that synthetic fertilizers destroy the soil and microorganisms. I know that phosphurus can be bad for waterways. Im talking about Nitrogen. I even went back to some literature by Nick Christians about fertility and I quote from his book "Like natural organic fertilizers, the carbon in urea and methyleneurea is a source of energy for microorganisms in the soil" It seems that this contradicts the belief that synthetics are bad for microorganisms and the soil. Im not saying that your wrong but Nick Christians is one of the most intelligent and respected turf professors in the world. I know pesticides are bad but why are synthetic fertilizers so bad and if I reallly need to eliminate them for an organic program?

ICT Bill
11-11-2008, 09:38 PM
One issue is the salt in fertilizers, a lot of the information is really from the Ag side, they have huge areas to cover and need the most inexpensive product they can find, all of those are very high in salts

Basically you are selecting for a very small diversity of microorganisms, only the ones that like salty soils, the salt is not kind to most of the beneficial microorganisms, nematodes, worms, bacteria, fungi do not do well in that environment. it is the wrong food for them to thrive

If we move to the landscape side instead of Ag. the other issue is, by feeding the plant directly the fertilizer melts into the first 2 or 3 inches of soil, the roots of the plant go no where else. not great for drought resistance, We are not building soil organic matter and supporting the microorganisms that can get nutrient cycling going in the soil

This is what we are trying to do, get the soil food web going so that it can support itself and the plants that have their roots in it, nutrient cycling is the key. fertile soil that feeds the plant instead of fertilizer that feed the plant directly

If you can get organic matter above a minimum of 2%, preferably 5 to 7% and support the microbes with compost teas you no longer will need fertilizers

I know many lawn and landscape companies that have not used fertilizers in over 15 years, none, zero, zip. They have some of the best clients in their areas, top dollar. I know one that has a client that pays $750,000.00 a year to take care of their property. there has not been a old style fertilizer on the property for over 10 years, it is truely a beautiful site

But I rant

the answer to your question is ........... you are unable to get nutrient cycling going with old style fertilizers, compost and compost teas no problem

greenskeeper44
11-11-2008, 10:11 PM
That makes sense but I guess my big problem with going completely organic is that you have to use some type of nitrogen source until the microorganisms and organic matter has built up in the soil so they cycle the nutrients themselves and organic fertilizers are so expensive and no one wants to pay more for the higher service. They want to protect the environment but if it cost $15 more per treatment then they could care less. I really want to do this I just need help in figuring out how to make it more economical. I tell people that you will be using less inputs over time but that doesnt make sense for me if i dont have to come back and apply something to make money. Just need help in making it happen next year

Kiril
11-11-2008, 11:24 PM
Responsible use of synthetic ferts is not going to do that much damage. Nothing wrong with bridge programs, and in some cases, may be your only choice. It doesn't pay to be 100% organic if you have zero clients.

That being said, your goal with any program should be low/no inputs.

Barefoot James
11-12-2008, 12:13 AM
Just keep using synthetics. They are great organics suck - don't use them, they don't work. Use what you know and are trained to do....LOL:laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh:.

dtally
11-12-2008, 02:43 AM
One question to consider. Who waters the grass lands and who fertilizes the forest? Organics. Ever seen a ChemLawn truck in ther woods or grass lands, other than maybe to take a #$%#.

dtally
11-12-2008, 03:12 AM
"Bridge Products" is a good way to go. Nutrients Plus has some really good products as well as a page you can work up a program and cost. Bill's ICTea (123 Tea) is a great product. The main objective is to increase the organic matter in the soil, a source for food and living area for the good guys.

I have been using organics for two growing seasons on mainly cool season lawns, and have had unbelievable results. Cost is an issue, and you have to really keep up with the numbers. With synthetic prices rapidly on the rise, it want be long that organics will be cheaper. Somewhere I read that 2010 or it may have been 2009, that 10% of the households will be organic. Thats 1 in 10 homes, how many on your street?

One thing that I have noticed, which may make little difference ,is that the organic lawns (no pun intended) seem to grow very evenly. No high growth areas and no suppressed areas. One selling point is that an organic lawn uses much less water... some say 30% to 60% less. My lawn has had nothing on it but organics for over two years and I only watered my lawn 3 or 4 times the entire year, and in SC it was a drought year. Other lawns in my neighborhood died. Actually my lawn has had nothing but organics...new construction and the good old SC red dirt (clay).

I started top dressing this year on a few selected lawns, mine included. What can I say... best lawns in the bunch. Great color, thick turf and very moist blades of grass.

As treegal would say, compost, compost, compost.

This is the place to get all the help you need, great people, great products and more knowledge about organics that one can digest.

Kiril
11-12-2008, 04:11 AM
One selling point is that an organic lawn uses much less water... some say 30% to 60% less.

Organic lawns don't use less water .... give it some thought ... think soil.

MaineFert
11-12-2008, 08:34 AM
dtally,
Thanks for the plug! Nutrients PLUS are a great way to incorprate organic matter into a lawn care program, as well as compost teas and topdressing. Like Bill said, if you can get the nutrient cycling going and the soil food web working, you will need less inputs of synthetic nitrogen over time. We are practicing this method with our lawn care clients as well and it has worked out really well, and has been cost effective.

Jim Allen
Nutrients PLUS

ICT Bill
11-12-2008, 09:13 AM
Organic lawns don't use less water .... give it some thought ... think soil.

Maybe a better way to say it is: they perform better in drought conditions

Dtally's own experience is that he watered much less, reasons? probably deeper roots (cooler soil) and organic matter that holds water and builds perosity i.e. holds water longer in the soil profile. Because the soil is in better shape so is the plant in it

greenskeeper44
11-12-2008, 09:42 AM
Thanks guys for the info I wanted to use both but I was worried if I was using some synthetic fertilizers that they would be destroying what I was trying to build up through organics. Im going to email my soils professor and see what he has to say about it.

Barefoot whats wrong with a little friendly competition? You have nothing to worry about by the time I figure this stuff out and convince people to do it youll have thousands of customers and be on the beach somewhere!

Your yard looks sweat. How many renovations were you able to do this year?

Smallaxe
11-12-2008, 10:21 AM
In my lawns, spring time looks good, so add compost and Milorganite in May/June. Summer comes and they go into survival mode and not the greatest color because it is hot and dry.

More Milorganite and compost as the weather cools and the rains come back. Once again looking green and happy.

However, this year in October, the lawn started to FADE. This year I broke down and put down a synthetic fertilizer as a last ditch effort. I wish I would have made that decision earlier , because I think it was kind of late, however the extension agent believes it is, right on time.

If you do have to add synthetic, do it as a winterizer. It is the most important time of year to add fert. You should easily get by with 1 fall app., then, maintain with organics during the season.

What do you think about water on turf? What is OVER-irrigation in your view?

Kiril
11-12-2008, 10:23 AM
Maybe a better way to say it is: they perform better in drought conditions

Yes

probably deeper roots

Perhaps or maybe higher root density

(cooler soil)

Don't see why.

and organic matter that holds water and builds perosity i.e. holds water longer in the soil profile.

Not sure I agree with all of this. Organic matter will hold water and build porosity but neither of these necessarily lead to holding water longer in the profile. Better porosity will lead to better drainage, therefore leading to less water in the soil. Clay will hold water far longer than OM, however a good portion of that water will not be available to the plant.

My point -> given an equal set of conditions, 3" of turf will transpire x amount of water regardless it being organically or synthetically fertilized. If someone has research that shows something to the contrary I would be interested in seeing it.

Smallaxe
11-12-2008, 10:32 AM
Clay will hold water far longer than OM, however a good portion of that water will not be available to the plant.

My point -> given an equal set of conditions, 3" of turf will transpire x amount of water regardless it being organically or synthetically fertilized. If someone has research that shows something to the contrary I would be interested in seeing it.

I still say that equal flower pots super-soaked with equal plants sitting side by side on a deck somewhere; with the only difference being the soil mix, then leaving them to dry, would be a valid research project for this particular question.

greenskeeper44
11-12-2008, 11:14 AM
That would be an intersting study. While at Rutgers the USGA did similar studies with putting green mixes but these were sand profiles mixed with different amounts and different kinds of organic materials.

ICT Bill
11-12-2008, 11:36 AM
I can tell you from experience that if you add too much compost to the potting soil it never dries out and the roots rot, even with vermiculite in the mix. Too much OM is too much

greenskeeper44
11-12-2008, 11:45 AM
Bill your exactly right. At the golf course we are constantly trying to get rid of organic matter (aeration 4 times a year and sand topdressings every 2 weeks) becuase too much will create drainage issues and disease problems. We were always taught 5% organic matter was a dangerous level to be at.

ICT Bill
11-12-2008, 12:42 PM
Interesting, I was having this very conversation this morning with a golf course super in florida
Sports turf is a different animal than lawn and landscape

It actually depends on the practices used, the practices taught historically and advanced in the field, that statement is true. There are however more and more sports turf managers that are restricted by the use of water, fertilizer and pesticides, many that have gone completely away from historical practices taught

Don't get me wrong turf still needs Macro and Micro nutrients and occasionally there are pest or disease infestations that cannot be controlled any other way than by strong pesticides or herbicides.

The practice of managing the turf is changing whereby organic matter is now your friend and you are trying to support a balanced and diverse microbial population. Rather than getting soil porosity by using sand you are trying increase the fertility of the soil thereby promoting aggregation and porosity.

The issue with sand is that water and fertilizers run right through the profile, by changing the equation we can use much less fertilizer inputs with the same result.
It is a very complicated subject, obviously that was the quick qnswer

Tim Wilson
11-12-2008, 01:47 PM
I can tell you from experience that if you add too much compost to the potting soil it never dries out and the roots rot, even with vermiculite in the mix. Too much OM is too much

I better tell my potted plants because I've successfully grown them in straight vermicompost as a potting soil many atime. Properly made compost should double as soil (IME)

ICT Bill
11-12-2008, 03:12 PM
I better tell my potted plants because I've successfully grown them in straight vermicompost as a potting soil many atime. Properly made compost should double as soil (IME)

I can hardly say that my backyard pile is proper, typical issues with a backyard pile, not enough mass sometimes, improper C:N ratio other times. sometime just static composting, meaning it just sits there. can't get around to turning it when it should be, etc

I'm getting better at it, a lot better than I was a few years ago

growingdeeprootsorganicly
11-12-2008, 07:00 PM
groundskeeper,

id suggest keeping your N ppm low and apply more often if you can?, find the highest quality made N with low impurity's and change your N sources up every once in awhile?

Smallaxe
11-12-2008, 07:24 PM
One local nursery used to do plant installs with all compost instead of topsoil.

Properly cured compost that is allowed to dry between waterings works fine for most things. I have used it for garden seedlings indoors. Both straight and with vermiculite for years. Damping off is not a problem if you keep the surface dry and the rootzone stays moist.

LTL
11-12-2008, 10:52 PM
Yes



Perhaps or maybe higher root density



Don't see why.



Not sure I agree with all of this. Organic matter will hold water and build porosity but neither of these necessarily lead to holding water longer in the profile. Better porosity will lead to better drainage, therefore leading to less water in the soil. Clay will hold water far longer than OM, however a good portion of that water will not be available to the plant.

My point -> given an equal set of conditions, 3" of turf will transpire x amount of water regardless it being organically or synthetically fertilized. If someone has research that shows something to the contrary I would be interested in seeing it.

I don't think it has to do with the soil entirely but with the physiology of the plant itself. The more N the plant receives the thinner the cell wall. When stressed (heat and drought) the cell wall will break down not allowing the plant to hold water. The thicker the cell wall the better the plant will do with stress. I'm just getting started with organics but it seems a lot more N is applied with synthetics than with organics.

Kiril
11-12-2008, 10:59 PM
The discussion is not about a particular nutrient, but chems vs. organics.

My point -> given an equal set of conditions, 3" of turf will transpire x amount of water regardless it being organically or synthetically fertilized. If someone has research that shows something to the contrary I would be interested in seeing it.


The more N the plant receives the thinner the cell wall. When stressed (heat and drought) the cell wall will break down not allowing the plant to hold water. The thicker the cell wall the better the plant will do with stress.

References?

Smallaxe
11-13-2008, 08:58 AM
Another way to look at it is surface area. The more surface area - the more water it can hold. Clay and silt/om do better than sand. I don't have any reference that address this particular idea and would probably have to conduct my own experiments to verify unexpected results anyways.

Cowpies in the pastures demonstrate that OM added to grassy soil will get greener, larger, survive drought longer than the grass that did not recieve the benefits of the cowpie. The effect will continue for years. When I am plagued with difficult questions I 'reference the cowpie'. :)

Charcoal is even better in that 1 gram reportedly can have a surface area up to 400m2. Imagine if water filled every nook and cranny of that stuff.

Kiril
11-13-2008, 09:05 AM
http://www.cmg.colostate.edu/gardennotes/261.pdf

Smallaxe
11-14-2008, 09:33 AM
...Not sure I agree with all of this. Organic matter will hold water and build porosity but neither of these necessarily lead to holding water longer in the profile. Better porosity will lead to better drainage, therefore leading to less water in the soil. Clay will hold water far longer than OM, however a good portion of that water will not be available to the plant.

My point -> given an equal set of conditions, 3" of turf will transpire x amount of water regardless it being organically or synthetically fertilized. If someone has research that shows something to the contrary I would be interested in seeing it.

Your web address seems to agree with what we are saying.
Unless you are simply saying that fertilizer A will not change the ET rate anymore than fert. B would?!?!

Building the physical structure and texture of the soil is more important for plant growth than a test of nutrients. [Bad soil will waste nutrients as well as water.]
Organic ferts., aid in the building of soil structure - turning a clayey soil into a clay loam soil. In that regard Organic Soils have greater drought resistance than Synthetic Soils.

I think their irrigation advice is still a little high, at least for Wisco - but I love this statement:

"...Without seasonal adjustments on the irrigation controller the lawn will be overirrigated
in the spring and fall by about 40%. This springtime overirrigation is a primary contributing factor to iron chlorosis."