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c2weech
03-20-2011, 12:44 AM
I have been doing a ton of research on organic lawn care ie. Organic lawn care manual, internet research and reading everything in this thread for sometime as I think about offering this service.

However doing my market research the question I have come up with is how do you sell customers on Compost, overseeding, compost tea. vs Organic fertilizer that the big boys offer TrueGreen and Natural Way Lawn around me.

I understand the whole soil food web thing. Though using organic fertilizer seems to be much more marketable and efficient from a business standpoint.

Also just curious why organic fertilizers are not really discussed in this forum.

Please continue to educate me :)

thanks

ParadiseLS
03-20-2011, 06:43 AM
i don't really think tukey's organic lawn care manual is all that great. i have it, i would recommend it to others, but i would recommend supplementary reading like "Teaming With Microbes", and for really serious people, more advanced soil biology books.

i agree that selling people on fertilization is a lot easier than selling them on building up their OM and teaming with microbes, so to say......unfortunately, companies are going to have to lead the way in organic lawn care and it is going to be tough for the trailblazers because there will be a smaller return on advertising dollars, and offering comprehensive programs is more trouble than just scheduling bi-monthly fert. apps. and on top of that, once it becomes popular enough, and once the other companies have seen your ads enough times and spotted your trucks and noticed that you're keeping busy, they are going to jump on your bandwagon and breeze into these new services.

on the other hand, i always try to offer the best service i know how to my customers. if they insist on not taking it, i let them just get their basic bi-monthly fert. but i really don't want to sell myself as an "organic lawn care pro" and offer them just the basics, because when the day comes that they start hearing about the newest craze in lawn care: compost tea", i want them to think, "hey, my guy has been telling me about that stuff for years, i guess i should finally listen to him". just because it won't help you expand your business when you're far ahead of the curve now, it might help you sustain a lot of business down the line when comprehensive organic programs hit the mainstream more, and it will reinforce the trust and respect your customers have for your expertise.

Smallaxe
03-20-2011, 11:39 AM
The biggest problem with compost vs. ferts is the bulky, dusty nature and the mess it can create in the customers' lawns, from their POV... People are afraid of Milorganite because, "who can trust the processing?!!??, it's full of heavy metals, I'm sure!!!"... Using food sources, for fert, is about as UNGreen and wasteful as one could imagine, but it sells to clients that think about their environment moreso than the big picture... I have always going to experiment with AACT but the compost is much easier for me than to set up spraying the microbes only...

Not sure what it was about ferts you were interestted in, but that is my take on it...

A lot of my work is in forestted areas, so ferts aren't as huge a deal to begin with, but I find that returning the clippings to the soil is the single most important aspect of maintaining a lawn in trees... My guess is that it creates a micro-system that is suitable for grass. So to me any 'organic' program means letting nature dictate the terms of our interference with turf... :)

Kiril
03-20-2011, 11:49 AM
IMO, compost (locally produced in bulk) is the only long term sustainable organic solution. I do not advocate multi-application programs when they are not needed. Whenever possible, I will recommend a single yearly application of compost and monitor the site through the growing season for any additional needed inputs.

unit28
03-20-2011, 12:04 PM
IMO, compost (locally produced in bulk) is the only long term sustainable organic solution. I do not advocate multi-application programs when they are not needed. Whenever possible, I will recommend a single yearly application of compost and monitor the site through the growing season for any additional needed inputs.

....:clapping: I like that.

Last season we had so much rain it was nuts.
All season every week. rain rain rain.

The summer of 2010 was exceptionally wet over large portions of Minnesota. Frequent, and often heavy, rainfall events, along with associated severe weather episodes, dominated the Minnesota summer weather story.

Summer rainfalls totals in excess of 14 inches were reported in many locations, topping the historical average by four or more inches (see maps below). Total summer precipitation exceeded 18 inches in some places.


how much additional N did I need? not much. Iron was added though for a 3 ap suppliment. big savings to me and the consumer, and of course environmental impacts.


What I did miss on was much needed info for organic implimentation.

JDUtah
03-20-2011, 12:23 PM
He isn't asking which one to do so much as how to market the compost vs the multi app "program"...

As you guys know... I myself blend the two by applying tiny amounts of compost in a 5 to 6 app "program"...

Smallaxe
03-20-2011, 12:26 PM
Not only excessively wet, but hot as well... Microbial activity was through the roof last summer in the Midwest... Wise LCO's could've easily reduced their thatch(real thatch) problems a great deal last year...

unit28
03-20-2011, 12:48 PM
Not only excessively wet, but hot as well... Microbial activity was through the roof last summer in the Midwest... Wise LCO's could've easily reduced their thatch(real thatch) problems a great deal last year...


well the xylem activity in the poa pratensis in my area didn't stop there. Winter covered us with deeper than average snow.

somebody throw a caveat in here quick before the bus runs completly off course.

ICT Bill
03-20-2011, 01:03 PM
I find that folks that are getting into organic lawn care like to drill down to the enth degree and then try to explain that to their customers, as soon as you say beneficial microorganisms you have lost them. but I do expect the service person to know and research better methods, you just don't need to tell your customer every detail

what does the customer expect from a service company? mostly a nice stand of turf with little to no weeds, that is the first thing that should be coming out of your mouth to a potential client, you are both on the same page at that point. your cultural practices are far off second in the conversation

you also have to get out of the "an explanation for an app every month" mode, inspection and reaction are a better way to go. Many of the folks that have been doing this a while cut the grass at the sites "ONLY" because they don't want other knuckle heads on the sites screwing up what they are trying to do long term. I know many that actually interview the customer in advance of a contract and decide whether to have them as a customer or not, if the customer does not like the terms they walk

changing your own cultural practices is it seems the most difficult task, we have been marketed to our entire lives on a 4 or 6 step program, it is difficult at best to get out of the mindset

The new norm
1. soil organic matter at 2% minimum, goal is 5% to 7%
2. fall and spring applications of a good finished compost until the goals are met, for those with cool season grasses (or Bermuda), an aggressive overseeding program at the same time
3. Compost Tea's or nutrient teas with trace elements to keep color and density through the growing season
4. soil tests to see basically how the sites are responding to the compost as a buffer, don't chase pH unless it is truly out of whack, the compost if from a good source and finished will bring the pH around to a more basic reading over time
5. try to stay away from applications that wipe everything out (fungicides, pesticides) unless truly needed, if you have to pull a chemical trigger try to bring the good guys back in as quickly as possible

Note: you actually want things like grubs in your turf and landscape, it is a sign of a balanced soil food web, these "pests" balance each other out in well functioning soil

unit28
03-20-2011, 01:09 PM
The biggest problem with compost vs. ferts is ... :)

is promoting soil activity

sustainable soil activity to be more specific

speaking of clippings c2weech check this article

http://www.mtgf.org/Clippings-S10.pdf

scroll down to micro-organisms and plant growth.
Hope this helps in marketing info.

Smallaxe
03-20-2011, 01:22 PM
He isn't asking which one to do so much as how to market the compost vs the multi app "program"...

I thouht he was asking, why we don't discuss organic fertilizers on this forum...


As you guys know... I myself blend the two by applying tiny amounts of compost in a 5 to 6 app "program"...

Hahaha, that's what's known as 'milking it'... :)

Smallaxe
03-20-2011, 01:47 PM
is promoting soil activity

sustainable soil activity to be more specific

speaking of clippings c2weech check this article

http://www.mtgf.org/Clippings-S10.pdf

scroll down to micro-organisms and plant growth.
Hope this helps in marketing info.

Hey, great website... I particularily like this section:

"Nov. For the 2.0 lb N Sept. application, an average of 75% of fertilizer
was taken up compared to 48% and 25% in Oct. and Nov.
(Fig 1 and 2).
Recommendations: Because these results suggest that N
uptake declines substantially as temperatures decrease, fertilizer
recommendations should be decreased to match N uptake capacity.
In other words, if you apply late fall N, do so at a reduced
rate, 0.25-0.5 lb N and know that not all the fertilizer will be
taken up by the plant. On high sand content soils, these rates
should be further reduced to decrease leaching."***

Here in the Midwest, I belive that the winterizer should be put down in Sept. to allow the plant to store as much energy for the winter as possible, and this article seems to suport that notion...
It also links uptake to temperature, so the same would apply to springtime applications... By the time the winter storge carbs are used up it should be warm enough to utilize N efficiantly and get it going for the season... :)

Smallaxe
03-20-2011, 01:56 PM
Getting back to the original reason for Unit28's post, I agree, this pretty much say it all... :)
"1) Maintaining the "tilth" or granular
structure of the soil which influences
water infiltration, air and water retention
and root penetration,
2) Providing a source of mineral elements
such as phosphorus, sulfur, and
essentially, along with microorganisms,the only non-applied source of nitrogen,
and
3) Providing the main source of energy
for soil micro-organisms, without which
soil biochemical activity would come to a
standstill."

c2weech
03-20-2011, 03:39 PM
i don't really think tukey's organic lawn care manual is all that great. i have it, i would recommend it to others, but i would recommend supplementary reading like "Teaming With Microbes", and for really serious people, more advanced soil biology books.

Forgot to mention I do have and have read "Teaming with Microbes" I like it for its depth and detail however I like Tukey's for Comprehensiveness
i agree that selling people on fertilization is a lot easier than selling them on building up their OM and teaming with microbes, so to say......unfortunately, companies are going to have to lead the way in organic lawn care and it is going to be tough for the trailblazers because there will be a smaller return on advertising dollars, and offering comprehensive programs is more trouble than just scheduling bi-monthly fert. apps. and on top of that, once it becomes popular enough, and once the other companies have seen your ads enough times and spotted your trucks and noticed that you're keeping busy, they are going to jump on your bandwagon and breeze into these new services.

on the other hand, i always try to offer the best service i know how to my customers. if they insist on not taking it, i let them just get their basic bi-monthly fert. but i really don't want to sell myself as an "organic lawn care pro" and offer them just the basics, because when the day comes that they start hearing about the newest craze in lawn care: compost tea", i want them to think, "hey, my guy has been telling me about that stuff for years, i guess i should finally listen to him". just because it won't help you expand your business when you're far ahead of the curve now, it might help you sustain a lot of business down the line when comprehensive organic programs hit the mainstream more, and it will reinforce the trust and respect your customers have for your expertise.

I like this point you make also as far as being ahead of the curve. I see from your location you are in Ontario. I have watched the movie"A Chemical Reaction" in my research which focuses on Ontario's banning of Synthetics. From the movie it makes it seem like all of Ontario now uses compost (or at least this is what I assumed)

My question to you is this true or do many in the province use organic fertilizers now?

And now a question to all Does this sound like an accurate distinction between the two Oncanic/Natural Fertz may be natural but the lawn is dependent still on the Ferts while maybe Compost Organics promotes an Organic and probably more importantly Sustainable Lawn?


Also do you guys think that the ferts. can really be called organic?
thanks again to all the feedback thus far

JDUtah
03-20-2011, 03:39 PM
I thouht he was asking, why we don't discuss organic fertilizers on this forum...

Actually he was asking both...

...the question I have come up with is how do you sell customers on Compost, overseeding, compost tea. vs Organic fertilizer that the big boys offer TrueGreen and Natural Way Lawn around me.

...

Also just curious why organic fertilizers are not really discussed in this forum

As far as why we don't discuss organic ferts here... the conversation almost always turns into an un-pleasant argument about sustainability.


Hahaha, that's what's known as 'milking it'... :)

I don't see how this is milking it... please explain?

c2weech
03-20-2011, 04:01 PM
I guess that I am asking why you guys do not talk about organic ferts. is it because you don't believe that it is truly "Organic lawn care" and if you don't believe it is tell me why?

Explain to me as if I was a customer I suppose.

If I am a customer asking, "Why would I need to put compost and compost tea on my yard when TrueGreen offers Natural Lawn applications which are all natural organic fertilizers ?"



Thanks

I am enjoying reading the responses

JDUtah
03-20-2011, 04:20 PM
I guess that I am asking why you guys do not talk about organic ferts. is it because you don't believe that it is truly "Organic lawn care" and if you don't believe it is tell me why?

Explain to me as if I was a customer I suppose.

If I am a customer asking, "Why would I need to put compost and compost tea on my yard when TrueGreen offers Natural Lawn applications which are all natural organic fertilizers ?"



Thanks

I am enjoying reading the responses

My response would be...

"Truegreen wants to dust your lawn 5 times through the season with meals derived from bone, dried blood, feathers, corn, etc. While these sources provide nutrients they can attract other pests like rodents, birds, etc. Also, depending on the meal that they use they may not be sustainable. For instance, corn meal is probably produced from corn grown with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Not to mention that corn is a food source and me using it on your lawn can drive the price of food up.

Other organic companies want to sell you a large compost topdressing once or twice a year followed up by various 'compost tea' applications. The initial price is significant, and in my experience there are better ways to provide nutrients and weed and pest control through the season.

My program uses a locally produced compost that comes from yard waste. I apply it evenly throughout the year. This way you get the normal visit to your property which can include weed, disease, and insect control, all while providing an even application of nutrients. Now you have an organic solution available that not only feeds your soil and your grass the right way, it acts and feels just like the program that you are used to having. You do not need to front large amounts of money for compost topdressings with my program, but you can rest assured that your lawn will be green and beautiful while protecting you, your family, and mother earth."

My .02

c2weech
03-20-2011, 04:41 PM
My response would be...

"Truegreen wants to dust your lawn 5 times through the season with meals derived from bone, dried blood, feathers, corn, etc. While these sources provide nutrients they can attract other pests like rodents, birds, etc. Also, depending on the meal that they use they may not be sustainable. For instance, corn meal is probably produced from corn grown with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Not to mention that corn is a food source and me using it on your lawn can drive the price of food up.

Other organic companies want to sell you a large compost topdressing once or twice a year followed up by various 'compost tea' applications. The initial price is significant, and in my experience there are better ways to provide nutrients and weed and pest control through the season.

My program uses a locally produced compost that comes from yard waste.

Ok this brings up another good question I have for you guys because I have located a great local compost source but I got to thinking and How can we justify the compost as organic when the compost is from yard waste which includes chemically treated lawnclippings and tree and shrub clippings that have been chemically sprayed??

I apply it evenly throughout the year. This way you get the normal visit to your property which can include weed, disease, and insect control, all while providing an even application of nutrients. Now you have an organic solution available that not only feeds your soil and your grass the right way, it acts and feels just like the program that you are used to having. You do not need to front large amounts of money for compost topdressings with my program, but you can rest assured that your lawn will be green and beautiful while protecting you, your family, and mother earth."

My .02

Also do you not topdress? Only spray compost tea? It is unclear from your response above

Kiril
03-20-2011, 04:56 PM
As far as why we don't discuss organic ferts here... the conversation almost always turns into an un-pleasant argument about sustainability.

Sustainable solutions is what "organics" is all about .... and any argument to the contrary is nothing short of absurd.

JDUtah
03-20-2011, 05:01 PM
Sustainable solutions is what "organics" is all about .... and any argument to the contrary is nothing short of absurd.

I agree completely. That is why I choose not to use meals myself.

JDUtah
03-20-2011, 05:02 PM
Also do you not topdress? Only spray compost tea? It is unclear from your response above

I do not topdress. I have worked out a way to apply 50 to 75 lbs of compost per 1,000 square feet per application. I do not believe in the value of compost teas or extracts either.

starry night
03-20-2011, 08:56 PM
c2weech: I'm a little late coming to this discussion (been away).
Concerning TruGreen et al: Yes they have dry organic apps available and have test-marketed them. But at this time, IMO, they have a good thing going with the synthetics and fungicides and herbicides, etc. So as a money-makin' corporation, they have no reason to push organics. They have them if some "idiot" (in TRUgreen's thinking) wants to pay them three times more than one of their synthetic apps.

There are some of our group who have yet to post on this thread.
Some, in fact, use the various ingredients in what you are calling "organic" fertilizers even though in the long-term those ingredients would be termed unsustainable. I occasionally use soybean meal which is readily available and cheap for me. Am I stealing from cattle or pigs? I don't think so. But my core application is compost (yard waste with some manures) and composted poultry manure and maybe a wet application of molasses during the season.
There is also an ethanol plant nearby and I may look into what they do with their distillers grain.

So, c2weech, these are some other things for you to think about.

JFGLN
03-21-2011, 12:27 AM
We switched to organic fertilizers 3 years ago(SoundGro) with one app of a synthetic fertilizer in late fall. I never mentioned it to our clients. They like the results and the reasonable cost. I don't think they care that its a biosolid and I figure its better then an all synthetic program. We recommend other services, aeration, overseed and top dressing but most customers will only go for the aeration. We plan on offering compost tea this year although when I mention it to people the reaction is always "what's that?".

What's wrong with better? Not perfect. Less chemicals, more organic.

JFGLN
03-21-2011, 12:52 AM
Sustainable solutions is what "organics" is all about .... and any argument to the contrary is nothing short of absurd.

Organics - fertilizers and pest control products that are produced from natural and non-chemical materials.

Kiril
03-21-2011, 01:09 AM
Organics - fertilizers and pest control products that are produced from natural and non-chemical materials.

That does not necessarily mean it is sustainable.

JFGLN
03-21-2011, 01:28 AM
Sustainable solutions is what "organics" is all about .... and any argument to the contrary is nothing short of absurd.

How about using minimal chemicals first. Is it possible to be a moderate when considering an organic approach.

Kiril
03-21-2011, 09:26 AM
How about using minimal chemicals first. Is it possible to be a moderate when considering an organic approach.

Personally, I don't have a problem with limited use of chems as a means to an end. That doesn't mean continued use of them, just limited use to get a system to a point where they are not needed. Most of the time that I recommend this is when client already has chems on site so they can get rid of them. If they don't have any chems, then I will strive to build a soil management program without the use of chems right from the start.

All that said, strictly speaking an "organic" program should not use chems of any kind.
IMO you also should not use crops to feed plants (i.e. plant based meals) unless those products are destine for the landfill.

Smallaxe
03-21-2011, 10:22 AM
And now a question to all Does this sound like an accurate distinction between the two Oncanic/Natural Fertz may be natural but the lawn is dependent still on the Ferts while maybe Compost Organics promotes an Organic and probably more importantly Sustainable Lawn?...

If the lawn is still dependant on Ferts... Very good question... \

IMO, the goal should be a healthy, mature turf that requires no more inputs of any kind... We impose 'crutches' on lawns from day 1 , becuz that's where the money comes from...

Choose a variety that fits the area, raise to maturity and it will outcompete weeds, overcome disease, survive drought and prevent erosion, better than any other planting... Once we quit messing with it... :)

Kiril
03-21-2011, 10:31 AM
IMO, the goal should be a healthy, mature turf that requires no more inputs of any kind..

...... including water.

starry night
03-21-2011, 11:02 AM
...... including water.

Let's hear it for Arizona pea gravel yards. :cool2: ;)

Smallaxe
03-21-2011, 09:51 PM
Let's hear it for Arizona pea gravel yards. :cool2: ;)

Hahahaha, what does AZ have for indigenous grasses?, or anything that naturally resembles lawn.... :

ParadiseLS
03-22-2011, 12:00 AM
I like this point you make also as far as being ahead of the curve. I see from your location you are in Ontario. I have watched the movie"A Chemical Reaction" in my research which focuses on Ontario's banning of Synthetics. From the movie it makes it seem like all of Ontario now uses compost (or at least this is what I assumed)

My question to you is this true or do many in the province use organic fertilizers now?

And now a question to all Does this sound like an accurate distinction between the two Oncanic/Natural Fertz may be natural but the lawn is dependent still on the Ferts while maybe Compost Organics promotes an Organic and probably more importantly Sustainable Lawn?


Also do you guys think that the ferts. can really be called organic?
thanks again to all the feedback thus far

I will check out that movie (documentary, i assume???)

well, no, there is not an organic revolution here, and certainly compost hasn't taken over. yes, lots of companies advertise it (most of them do so just as part of an overseeding option--i.e. they stress the seeding, and mention compost as a detail of the process). what has happened is that Home Depot, etc. now offer fertilizers that do not contain any of a laundry list of chemicals. they are still the same basic water soluble sulfur-coated urea granules that are 30-0-3 or similar. are these products free of the worst chemicals? sure, but they don't exactly adhere to organic principles of sustainability or working with the soil.

yes to your last question for the reasons i just stated. compost drives sustainability. water-soluble nitrogen-boosting urea is giving the lawn methadone instead of crack. you haven't cured the addiction, you've just made it a less harmful dependency.


If I am a customer asking, "Why would I need to put compost and compost tea on my yard when TrueGreen offers Natural Lawn applications which are all natural organic fertilizers ?"

simply put: what good is fertilizer if your soil isn't adequate to absorb and process it efficiently for your lawn?

and i have saved some contracts i've seen from fert companies to show to prospective customers. the fine print always says something about the customer watering the lawn for 30 minutes every other day or other silly things. i, on the other hand tell my customers to water once a week (not at all if it got a nice rain), and that they can look forward to throwing out their sprinklers in a few years if they stick with my plan to build OM, support mycorrhizae and bacteria, and reduce apps and save money on top of all that.

c2weech
03-22-2011, 09:46 AM
I will check out that movie (documentary, i assume???)
Yes a doccumentary. http://www.pfzmedia.com/#/images/stories/screen/small/HomeDepot3.jpg Honestly I thought it was a lot better than I expected it to be. Especially living in Canada I think you will find it interesting

well, no, there is not an organic revolution here, and certainly compost hasn't taken over. yes, lots of companies advertise it (most of them do so just as part of an overseeding option--i.e. they stress the seeding, and mention compost as a detail of the process). what has happened is that Home Depot, etc. now offer fertilizers that do not contain any of a laundry list of chemicals. they are still the same basic water soluble sulfur-coated urea granules that are 30-0-3 or similar. are these products free of the worst chemicals? sure, but they don't exactly adhere to organic principles of sustainability or working with the soil.

yes to your last question for the reasons i just stated. compost drives sustainability. water-soluble nitrogen-boosting urea is giving the lawn methadone instead of crack. you haven't cured the addiction, you've just made it a less harmful dependency.Love the analogy!


simply put: what good is fertilizer if your soil isn't adequate to absorb and process it efficiently for your lawn?

and i have saved some contracts i've seen from fert companies to show to prospective customers. the fine print always says something about the customer watering the lawn for 30 minutes every other day or other silly things. i, on the other hand tell my customers to water once a week (not at all if it got a nice rain), and that they can look forward to throwing out their sprinklers in a few years if they stick with my plan to build OM, support mycorrhizae and bacteria, and reduce apps and save money on top of all that.

Paradise thanks for the response! Great info

quackgrass
03-22-2011, 12:14 PM
All that said, strictly speaking an "organic" program should not use chems of any kind.


So we should only use peasants with wooden pitch forks to turn our compost piles and horses with wood sleds to haul it right?

Because currently we use tons of chemicals, ores and fuel for the equipment to produce and apply "organics," strictly speaking of course.

Kiril
03-22-2011, 12:21 PM
So we should only use peasants with wooden pitch forks to turn our compost piles and horses with wood sleds to haul it right?

Because currently we use tons of chemicals, ores and fuel for the equipment to produce and apply "organics," strictly speaking of course.

Inputs into the system Quack ..... but then you knew that, didn't you. http://www.websmileys.com/sm/violent/sterb121.gif

FYI ... I don't advocate building landscapes that are not regionally appropriate .... and preferably require no inputs of any kind .... including labor. Guess that means you are out of a job.

JDUtah
03-22-2011, 12:34 PM
Kiril,

If you would be so willing, can you post a couple picks of these completely zero input landscapes you advocate? Thanks :)

Kiril
03-22-2011, 12:36 PM
Kiril,

If you would be so willing, can you post a couple picks of these completely zero input landscapes you advocate? Thanks :)

Drive to a naturalized area and take a picture.

quackgrass
03-22-2011, 01:26 PM
Inputs into the system Quack ..... but then you knew that, didn't you. http://www.websmileys.com/sm/violent/sterb121.gif

That's like selling an organic carrot on a styrofoam tray wrapped in cellophane, then calling it an organic product. Hypocrisy at its finest. You can keep trying to sell "organics" as sustainable by ignoring ALL the inputs, but if you want to move out of your mom's basement and get off welfare, you should cut the BS and start selling based on performance and leave out the spin.

FYI ... I don't advocate building landscapes that are not regionally appropriate .... and preferably require no inputs of any kind .... including labor. Guess that means you are out of a job.

Most of my work is environmental reclamation on mining sites, I have contracts on multiple EPA superfund sites to provide composting and native re-vegetation services. We are seeing an expansion in mining as nickel, cadmium and copper are in even greater demand, so I wouldn't worry about my job security. As long as the push for sustainable energy keeps the demand for battery and copper production high, I'll be good.

Kiril
03-22-2011, 01:37 PM
That's like selling an organic carrot on a styrofoam tray wrapped in cellophane, then calling it an organic product. Hypocrisy at its finest. You can keep trying to sell "organics" as sustainable by ignoring ALL the inputs, but if you want to move out of your mom's basement and get off welfare, you should cut the BS and start selling based on performance and leave out the spin.

I don't ignore any of the inputs quack. I assess all impacts when recommending products, which is one big reason why I don't recommend using plant based meals. Do you have something meaningful to discuss, or are you just here to throw around insults and troll for arguments?

Most of my work is environmental reclamation on mining sites, I have contracts on multiple EPA superfund sites to provide composting and native re-vegetation services. We are seeing an expansion in mining as nickel, cadmium and copper are in even greater demand, so I wouldn't worry about my job security. As long as the push for sustainable energy keeps the demand for battery and copper production high, I'll be good.

Funny ..... I though most of your work was forestry related given what you have stated on this forum on multiple occasions. I just can't keep up. Yesterday it was 10's of thousands of trees .... today it's environmental reclamation. :dizzy:

quackgrass
03-22-2011, 04:31 PM
Funny ..... I though most of your work was forestry related given what you have stated on this forum on multiple occasions. I just can't keep up. Yesterday it was 10's of thousands of trees .... today it's environmental reclamation. :dizzy:

You can subscribe to my newsletter if you really want to stay current:

http://www.anacondasuperfund.org/

Kiril
03-22-2011, 05:33 PM
You can subscribe to my newsletter if you really want to stay current:

http://www.anacondasuperfund.org/

So you are the owner of The Arrowhead Foundation? How is it you can find the time to manage 10's of thousands of trees and do this as well?

quackgrass
03-22-2011, 06:04 PM
So you are the owner of The Arrowhead Foundation? How is it you can find the time to manage 10's of thousands of trees and do this as well?

No, I give the construction updates for the newsletter, nobody owns the arrowhead. However, I do own 2 companies and a share of one other. The two I own are a landscaping company and a composting facility. The other share is an environmental engineering company. I own the division of it that does the revegetation work on EPA contracts.

How do I find the time? Employees, but you will find that I disappear from here once the ground thaws.

phasthound
03-22-2011, 06:41 PM
Kiril,
What exactly is it that you do that compares with the positive impact of quackgrass' on the environment?

Kiril
03-22-2011, 09:13 PM
How do I find the time? Employees, but you will find that I disappear from here once the ground thaws.

You mean the time you have to come on here to troll and insult people?

Kiril
03-22-2011, 09:15 PM
Kiril,
What exactly is it that you do that compares with the positive impact of quackgrass' on the environment?

You know what I do Barry.

phasthound
03-23-2011, 10:59 AM
I know you spend a great deal of time on these forums. I really do not know what impact you are having in the world.

Kiril
03-23-2011, 11:40 AM
I know you spend a great deal of time on these forums. I really do not know what impact you are having in the world.

I see .... so now I have to justify why I spend time at my desk during the day? Does everyone here have to demonstrate they have a positive impact on the environment before posting on this forum .... or are you just singling me out? FYI .... since you apparently are supporting Quack here .... I'm not the one who promotes using chems on an organic forum, nor am I throwing around personal insults.

But since you feel it is important that I must establish a positive impact here you go.

My business is now mostly resource management .... primarily irrigation, secondarily soils, thirdly native habitat restoration. So let me break that down for you Barry just so we are crystal clear.

I help my clients use water resources in the most efficient and effective manner to meet the goals of the site. Potable water is the single most important natural resource on the planet .... and these water resources are becoming increasingly scarce.

I also help my clients manage/move their site soils towards a more long term sustainable system. That means building a naturally fertile soil that is relatively self-sustaining. Soil is the second most important natural resource on the planet .... and our arable land is degrading at an alarming rate.

And lastly .... I help my clients to restore the native habitats that were destroy as a result of development. This not only speaks to building healthy ecosystems on a regional level, but it also speaks to site IPM. Mitigating loss of natural habitats and maintaining species diversity is arguably the third most important natural resource on the planet.

Is that good enough for you Barry .... or do I need to explain why I spend time at my desk every day? :rolleyes:

JDUtah
03-23-2011, 11:48 AM
He is always right even if he is wrong Barry. That's what he is. Of course, we all knew that. :)

Kiril
03-23-2011, 12:09 PM
He is always right even if he is wrong Barry. That's what he is. Of course, we all knew that. :)

Not true JD. If I am shown to be wrong I will man up, admit the mistake, and apologize. That is in contrast to people like you, quack, and others, who will endlessly argue a point even after being shown they are in error. Pretty much every time this occurs these people change the conditions of the point or statement they initially made in an attempt to either cover up the fact they were wrong .... or just some flailing effort to be right because they can't admit they are wrong. When that fails, then the personal and professional insults and insinuation start. Sound familiar JD ..... or do I need to quote some of your posts (and others) to demonstrate this is the case?

How about this thread as an example.

You can keep trying to sell "organics" as sustainable by ignoring ALL the inputs, but if you want to move out of your mom's basement and get off welfare, you should cut the BS and start selling based on performance and leave out the spin.


Hmmmmmmm .... and that wasn't even a result of me correcting bad information.

phasthound
03-23-2011, 12:52 PM
I see .... so now I have to justify why I spend time at my desk during the day? Does everyone here have to demonstrate they have a positive impact on the environment before posting on this forum .... or are you just singling me out? FYI .... since you apparently are supporting Quack here .... I'm not the one who promotes using chems on an organic forum, nor am I throwing around personal insults.

But since you feel it is important that I must establish a positive impact here you go.

My business is now mostly resource management .... primarily irrigation, secondarily soils, thirdly native habitat restoration. So let me break that down for you Barry just so we are crystal clear.

I help my clients use water resources in the most efficient and effective manner to meet the goals of the site. Potable water is the single most important natural resource on the planet .... and these water resources are becoming increasingly scarce.

I also help my clients manage/move their site soils towards a more long term sustainable system. That means building a naturally fertile soil that is relatively self-sustaining. Soil is the second most important natural resource on the planet .... and our arable land is degrading at an alarming rate.

And lastly .... I help my clients to restore the native habitats that were destroy as a result of development. This not only speaks to building healthy ecosystems on a regional level, but it also speaks to site IPM. Mitigating loss of natural habitats and maintaining species diversity is arguably the third most important natural resource on the planet.

Is that good enough for you Barry .... or do I need to explain why I spend time at my desk every day? :rolleyes:

Thanks for the explanation, no need to get so defensive about someone asking you to speak about the good work you do.

starry night
03-23-2011, 12:54 PM
Are we all supposed to take sides now? Maybe a poll will work.

Kiril
03-23-2011, 01:00 PM
Thanks for the explanation, no need to get so defensive about someone asking you to speak about the good work you do.

Please stop with the patronizing Barry. It is pretty damn clear that was not your intent, nor have I ever seen you ask that question to anyone on this forum until now.

Kiril
03-23-2011, 01:02 PM
Are we all supposed to take sides now? Maybe a poll will work.

Why bother? Everyone hates me because I want to keep the information flow on this forum and others on this site credible and accurate. Hell .... I'll vote against myself just so I can get the honor of being the most hated person on the organics forum. :laugh:

NattyLawn
03-23-2011, 01:33 PM
Please stop with the patronizing Barry. It is pretty damn clear that was not your intent, nor have I ever seen you ask that question to anyone on this forum until now.

That's because you're not a potential customer.

starry night
03-23-2011, 02:38 PM
As I have mentioned before on this forum, my college education is in journalism and I pay strict attention to word usage. I have been on this forum for a couple years and have noticed that in large measure Kiril chooses his words carefully. Many disagreements have ensued when others read something into his posts that really isn't there.......instead of by the words he has used. This thread is an example of that. He used the words "strictly speaking" when he suggested that an organic approach would not use any chemicals. All of a sudden, he is being attacked as being a nihilist who doesn't live in the real world. But if you take everything he says in context you see that he is as realistic as anyone else on here.

Granted, there are days when Kiril seems to have "gotten up on the wrong side of the bed." Who hasn't?

So, read what he writes instead of what you want to think he is saying.
Just my two cents on this subject.

Dchall_San_Antonio
03-24-2011, 01:42 AM
I have been doing a ton of research on organic lawn care ie. Organic lawn care manual, internet research and reading everything in this thread for sometime as I think about offering this service.

However doing my market research the question I have come up with is how do you sell customers on Compost, overseeding, compost tea. vs Organic fertilizer that the big boys offer TrueGreen and Natural Way Lawn around me.

I understand the whole soil food web thing. Though using organic fertilizer seems to be much more marketable and efficient from a business standpoint.

Also just curious why organic fertilizers are not really discussed in this forum.

Please continue to educate me :)

thanks

c2weech I think your instincts are exactly correct. It appears that some Rodalians have occupied this forum and made convincing arguments for compost and compost tea to the exclusion of real, protein-based fertilizers like corn, wheat, soy, cottonseed, and alfalfa. Any argument in favor of sustainability should be directed to a forum where someone gives a rat's rear end. Organics in the Lawnsite context has absolutely nothing to do with sustainability. Lawnsite is a forum about profitability. The organic forum is a place to explore ways toward that end knowing the competition is from companies who really, REALLY don't care about sustainability. If someone wants to start a forum promoting sustainability, please approach the administrators.

Compost is the single most expensive thing you can put on a client's lawn. In my neighborhood the raw materials cost $35 per yard plus delivery. In order to compete, most of the yards I see with "compost" have substituted something that smells more like fresh manure than compost. Furthermore they have the grass buried in it. What is happening is the neighbors will point at that lawn for the next two weeks as the source of the stink in the neighborhood...and then the grass will die from smothering. Those lawn companies cannot stay in business like that. The will have nothing to mow. That grass may come back toward the end of 2012 but more like 2013 before they see a dense turf again. But even if it was used in a proper amount, the cost of materials is about $50 per 1,000 square feet. Add in your fees and you can't compete. Your clients don't have to be geniuses to see the economics of having TruGreen come out for a heck of a lot less and get some serious fertilizer.

If you want to compete, you absolutely have to offer fertilizer, not microbes.

Strictly speaking, organic lawn care does not use chemicals. For practical purposes; however, nobody is speaking that strictly. You'll have to discuss where your client lives along the line from full chemical program to a full organic program. Nobody is looking over your shoulder like the USDA looks over the shoulder of farmers and ranchers making an organic claim. If your client agrees to a full organic fertilizer program with occasional spot spraying of chemical weed killers, then that is his choice. I believe you can make money on a full organic program IF the client cooperates with watering and mowing. If they do not cooperate, you might have to hire people from India to come pull weeds for you. But I don't think you could have a chance of making money on a compost only program. Every day you'd be out hustling five $150 per 1,000 square foot compost jobs to new clients. With a real fertilizer program, you can keep a stable base of clients for which you apply relatively low cost fertilizers several times per season.

Re: low input lawn
Anyone who would like to see pictures of a very low input lawn, search the Internet lawn forums for a homeowner going by the handle of bpgreen. He lives in northern Utah and has a lawn full of native prairie grasses. He mows them like a lawn and it looks like a lawn. If you can find the pictures you'll be disappointed because it looks like your lawn or anyone elses lawn. Some of the grass varieties go dormant in the winter but some don't. It's a lawn. He never fertilizes and only waters under extreme drought conditions. He might water 5x per season in a dry year.

dishboy
03-24-2011, 08:04 AM
That's because you're not a potential customer.

Now that's pretty funny !.

dishboy
03-24-2011, 08:11 AM
c2weech I think your instincts are exactly correct. It appears that some Rodalians have occupied this forum and made convincing arguments for compost and compost tea to the exclusion of real, protein-based fertilizers like corn, wheat, soy, cottonseed, and alfalfa. Any argument in favor of sustainability should be directed to a forum where someone gives a rat's rear end. Organics in the Lawnsite context has absolutely nothing to do with sustainability. Lawnsite is a forum about profitability. The organic forum is a place to explore ways toward that end knowing the competition is from companies who really, REALLY don't care about sustainability. If someone wants to start a forum promoting sustainability, please approach the administrators.

Compost is the single most expensive thing you can put on a client's lawn. In my neighborhood the raw materials cost $35 per yard plus delivery. In order to compete, most of the yards I see with "compost" have substituted something that smells more like fresh manure than compost. Furthermore they have the grass buried in it. What is happening is the neighbors will point at that lawn for the next two weeks as the source of the stink in the neighborhood...and then the grass will die from smothering. Those lawn companies cannot stay in business like that. The will have nothing to mow. That grass may come back toward the end of 2012 but more like 2013 before they see a dense turf again. But even if it was used in a proper amount, the cost of materials is about $50 per 1,000 square feet. Add in your fees and you can't compete. Your clients don't have to be geniuses to see the economics of having TruGreen come out for a heck of a lot less and get some serious fertilizer.

If you want to compete, you absolutely have to offer fertilizer, not microbes.

Strictly speaking, organic lawn care does not use chemicals. For practical purposes; however, nobody is speaking that strictly. You'll have to discuss where your client lives along the line from full chemical program to a full organic program. Nobody is looking over your shoulder like the USDA looks over the shoulder of farmers and ranchers making an organic claim. If your client agrees to a full organic fertilizer program with occasional spot spraying of chemical weed killers, then that is his choice. I believe you can make money on a full organic program IF the client cooperates with watering and mowing. If they do not cooperate, you might have to hire people from India to come pull weeds for you. But I don't think you could have a chance of making money on a compost only program. Every day you'd be out hustling five $150 per 1,000 square foot compost jobs to new clients. With a real fertilizer program, you can keep a stable base of clients for which you apply relatively low cost fertilizers several times per season.

Re: low input lawn
Anyone who would like to see pictures of a very low input lawn, search the Internet lawn forums for a homeowner going by the handle of bpgreen. He lives in northern Utah and has a lawn full of native prairie grasses. He mows them like a lawn and it looks like a lawn. If you can find the pictures you'll be disappointed because it looks like your lawn or anyone elses lawn. Some of the grass varieties go dormant in the winter but some don't. It's a lawn. He never fertilizes and only waters under extreme drought conditions. He might water 5x per season in a dry year.

Sanity at last. Add o the cost of compost the Farm truck and $7,000 dollar spreader.

starry night
03-24-2011, 09:56 AM
With all due respect Mr. Hall:

I am not a Rodalian and I'm probably in agreement with you in many ways.
I haven't been around since the beginning of this forum, few have, but I believe you were the founder. However, I am offended that you would think to dictate or determine what this forum is supposed to be about. I notice you haven't posted since May 2009.

Sustainability?
Who are you to say it is off-topic?

As for compost, are you suggesting that it is not the best possible feed for turf?
Almost everyone that I read on this forum is in agreement that it is the best, IF........
The possible disadvantage is its lack of availability at a reasonable cost to some in certain geographic areas. But that is true of proteins, as well.
When recycling of our green resources (manures, yard wastes, food wastes) becomes common, then we will all have a ready and less expensive input for our lawns.

In the meantime, compost will be the basis for my lawn care business and I WILL be making a profit and competing well vs. TruGreen et al.

Smallaxe
03-24-2011, 10:14 AM
.... Re: low input lawn
Anyone who would like to see pictures of a very low input lawn, search the Internet lawn forums for a homeowner going by the handle of bpgreen. He lives in northern Utah and has a lawn full of native prairie grasses. He mows them like a lawn and it looks like a lawn. If you can find the pictures you'll be disappointed because it looks like your lawn or anyone elses lawn. Some of the grass varieties go dormant in the winter but some don't. It's a lawn. He never fertilizes and only waters under extreme drought conditions. He might water 5x per season in a dry year.

For Wisco, the low input natural lawn is 'June Grass'... Never fertilized, never watered, cousin of KBG, and constantly abused by farm machinery...

Good article Dchall...

Kiril
03-24-2011, 10:21 AM
Compost is the single most expensive thing you can put on a client's lawn. In my neighborhood the raw materials cost $35 per yard plus delivery.

I have to disagree here. When we are looking at increasing SOM, bulk is king. Compare the cost of any other organic based product you can find on the market, buy it in bulk, compost it and measure your end quantity, then see where you come out financially in comparison to a comparable amount of compost.

Around these parts, Feather meal costs $35/50 lbs before shipping and tax, CGM at $60/65 lbs as opposed to $35/yard for high quality compost. If I need 2 acre-inches of stable organic matter (C:N of ~13-15) to bring my SOM to an acceptable value (5-10%), I think it is pretty clear which one of the three will be the most cost effective and marketable.

Kiril
03-24-2011, 10:38 AM
The possible disadvantage is its lack of availability at a reasonable cost to some in certain geographic areas. But that is true of proteins, as well.
When recycling of our green resources (manures, yard wastes, food wastes) becomes common, then we will all have a ready and less expensive input for our lawns.

In the meantime, compost will be the basis for my lawn care business and I WILL be making a profit and competing well vs. TruGreen et al.

Availability is a key factor obviously even if compost is a universal product. As you know, some people have access to cheap bulk sources of feed meals, others do not. Same applies for compost. There are those that might be able to break even on the bulk to cost ratio problem .... but most cannot.

Personally I feel if people are not selling a "program" that is designed to build a more fertile soil and move the site towards a more sustainable and closed system (i.e. reduced inputs), then you are not really "organic" regardless of what product you are using.

Smallaxe
03-24-2011, 10:55 AM
...Personally I feel if people are not selling a "program" that is designed to build a more fertile soil and move the site towards a more sustainable and closed system (i.e. reduced inputs), then you are not really "organic" regardless of what product you are using.

Agreed... we are just selling "A Program"... that's all the thinking we are capable of... :)

Tim Wilson
03-24-2011, 12:14 PM
Personally I feel if people are not selling a "program" that is designed to build a more fertile soil and move the site towards a more sustainable and closed system (i.e. reduced inputs), then you are not really "organic" regardless of what product you are using

I agree. This has to be the direction in the Americas and other areas where resources have been wasted. For some it may be about pure money, no matter the ethics involved. It is a choice.

If you want to compete, you absolutely have to offer fertilizer, not microbes.

I'm sure Dave knows that it is primarily microbes which deliver nutrients from organic fertilizer to grass and other plants. In certain cases one may need to bolster the soil microbial population in addition to using the sorts of fertilizers mentioned by Dave. Quality (vermi)compost is one of the most complete and rounded 'fertilizers' available. As Kiril has mentioned it has the benefit of adding organic matter in larger amounts than the other fertilizers listed but it also carries with it the dormant and active forms of the microbes necessary for mineralizing the nutrients.

I understand the whole cost issue and (vermi)compost becomes highly cost effective when one is able to make it themselves. As for applying it inexpensively, if one is resourceful, a mix of (vermi)compost and water can be applied through a hose using a gas or electric trash pump. You can apply molasses or fish hydrolysate, etc. at the same time (I know these are not sustainable). This is similar to liquid compost extract (LCE) except without separating the solids from the liquids. The farmers in my area apply manure using this method. Dave: this does stink but compost does not.

dishboy
03-24-2011, 12:59 PM
I have to disagree here. When we are looking at increasing SOM, bulk is king. Compare the cost of any other organic based product you can find on the market, buy it in bulk, compost it and measure your end quantity, then see where you come out financially in comparison to a comparable amount of compost.

Around these parts, Feather meal costs $35/50 lbs before shipping and tax, CGM at $60/65 lbs as opposed to $35/yard for high quality compost. If I need 2 acre-inches of stable organic matter (C:N of ~13-15) to bring my SOM to an acceptable value (5-10%), I think it is pretty clear which one of the three will be the most cost effective and marketable.

Can you help me out here. Dealing in sq ft(1000sq ft) how many yards of compost would it take to raise the soil from 3% to 4%. Also short of doing a soil analysis is there a government or other site that would list SOM for soils in a particular county or region.

Not to debate which is better or even suitable,just noting your pricing above, those who search hard will find 5-3-2 chicken manure around $6/40lbs or 300 a ton.

phasthound
03-24-2011, 01:54 PM
Compare the cost (product, shipping, labor) to a large LCO:
22 tons of biologically active (tested by SFI) composted poultry manure, air dried and in spreadable granular form delivered at $8.50/50lb bag applied at up to 20lbs/1000 with the amount of compost (tested?) delivered and labor costs to topdress the same area at 1/4 inch.

I know the results of both (if it's good compost properly applied) will be similar.

Kiril
03-24-2011, 02:17 PM
Can you help me out here. Dealing in sq ft(1000sq ft) how many yards of compost would it take to raise the soil from 3% to 4%.

http://virginiadot.org/business/bu-compost.asp

Also short of doing a soil analysis is there a government or other site that would list SOM for soils in a particular county or region.

http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov/app/HomePage.htm

Not to debate which is better or even suitable,just noting your pricing above, those who search hard will find 5-3-2 chicken manure around $6/40lbs or 300 a ton.

Those numbers were simply an example of pricing for several meals available from an organic supplier in my area.

Kiril
03-24-2011, 02:19 PM
Compare the cost (product, shipping, labor) to a large LCO:
22 tons of biologically active (tested by SFI) composted poultry manure, air dried and in spreadable granular form delivered at $8.50/50lb bag applied at up to 20lbs/1000 with the amount of compost (tested?) delivered and labor costs to topdress the same area at 1/4 inch.

I know the results of both (if it's good compost properly applied) will be similar.

Go ahead and crunch the numbers for us Barry. My source of compost is organic certified at $35/yard delivered.

Kiril
03-24-2011, 03:50 PM
Compare the cost (product, shipping, labor) to a large LCO:
22 tons of biologically active (tested by SFI) composted poultry manure, air dried and in spreadable granular form delivered at $8.50/50lb bag applied at up to 20lbs/1000 with the amount of compost (tested?) delivered and labor costs to topdress the same area at 1/4 inch.

I know the results of both (if it's good compost properly applied) will be similar.

Barry .... do you have anything yet?

It will cost me $28 in materials (delivered to the site) to cover 1000 sqft at 1/4" application depth. That is 0.8 yards of material.

How much will it cost me to get 0.8 yards of the product you mentioned delivered to the job site?

phasthound
03-24-2011, 04:47 PM
Barry .... do you have anything yet?

It will cost me $28 in materials (delivered to the site) to cover 1000 sqft at 1/4" application depth. That is 0.8 yards of material.

How much will it cost me to get 0.8 yards of the product you mentioned delivered to the job site?

It will cost nothing to bring the 20lbs/1000 needed as it will fit on the seat of the vehicle that also has one man and a push spreader to do the job.

Kiril
03-24-2011, 04:52 PM
It will cost nothing to bring the 20lbs/1000 needed as it will fit on the seat of the vehicle that also has one man and a push spreader to do the job.

That is not the question I asked Barry. I can also fit a 20 bag of compost on the seat of my truck for considerably less than the cost of the product you mentioned. What is the cost comparison on a equivalent volume basis per 1000? You can forget about the shipping if you want.

phasthound
03-24-2011, 05:03 PM
That is not the question I asked Barry. I can also fit a 20 bag of compost on the seat of my truck for considerably less than the cost of the product you mentioned. What is the cost comparison on a equivalent volume basis per 1000? You can forget about the shipping if you want.

Reread my post.

Kiril
03-24-2011, 05:09 PM
I'll just make some assumptions so we can get a comparison.

Compost at $35/yard ~= $1.30 per cubic foot.

Assuming a 50 lb bag is 1.5 cubic feet, that is 18 bags/yard of product.

The cost of 18 bags of product using the price provide ($8.50/50 lb bag) = $153

Net cost difference on a volume basis = $118 more expensive for the bagged product per yard of product.

phasthound
03-24-2011, 05:44 PM
Appling the product I mentioned at 20lbs/k will produce the same healthy green turf that is as drought tolerant and disease resistant as applying 0.8yds/k of compost.

Compost is great, no doubt about it. I know it can be a good choice for some smaller LCOs. Will the lawn care industry embrace it as standard procedure. I don't see that happening.

dishboy
03-24-2011, 09:48 PM
Appling the product I mentioned at 20lbs/k will produce the same healthy green turf that is as drought tolerant and disease resistant as applying 0.8yds/k of compost.

Compost is great, no doubt about it. I know it can be a good choice for some smaller LCOs. Will the lawn care industry embrace it as standard procedure. I don't see that happening.

I'm thinking 20 lbs is good for around 10-14 weeks then it's a do over. I think the compost @ 1/4" would have longer legs , don't you? Personally I would be all over the compost if I had the appropriate spreader and access to a quality compost that allowed me to compete with myself.

Kiril
03-24-2011, 09:51 PM
Appling the product I mentioned at 20lbs/k will produce the same healthy green turf that is as drought tolerant and disease resistant as applying 0.8yds/k of compost.

You can't be serious Barry? The product you mentioned is compost .... the product I mentioned is compost. How can you say 20 lbs of your compost product will perform any better or worse than 20 pounds of my compost product? Also, I am curious if you willing to put that "guarantee" in writing? If you are you might have a new client.

Furthermore, why would anyone in their right mind try to compare less than 1 cubic foot of compost to more than 21 cubic feet of compost? It is a disingenuous comparison at best.

phasthound
03-24-2011, 10:51 PM
I'm thinking 20 lbs is good for around 10-14 weeks then it's a do over. I think the compost @ 1/4" would have longer legs , don't you? Personally I would be all over the compost if I had the appropriate spreader and access to a quality compost that allowed me to compete with myself.

Twice a year at this rate works well. Again, bulk compost does a great job, but it is far too costly and labor intensive for the overwhelming majority of LCOs. I'm only aware of smaller companies doing compost topdressing.

Kiril
03-25-2011, 11:23 AM
Twice a year at this rate works well. Again, bulk compost does a great job, but it is far too costly and labor intensive for the overwhelming majority of LCOs. I'm only aware of smaller companies doing compost topdressing.

As I demonstrated in my price break down, when applying the two products at the same rate, it is considerably more expensive to use a bagged product over a bulk product.

In order for you to just break even, you would need to realize a savings in labor that is equivalent to the difference in cost. IMO, the difference in labor to apply 20 lbs of a pellet product vs. 20 lbs of a non-pellet product is negligible and you will not make up that difference in cost between the two products.

c2weech
03-25-2011, 12:32 PM
c2weech I think your instincts are exactly correct. It appears that some Rodalians have occupied this forum and made convincing arguments for compost and compost tea to the exclusion of real, protein-based fertilizers like corn, wheat, soy, cottonseed, and alfalfa. Any argument in favor of sustainability should be directed to a forum where someone gives a rat's rear end. Organics in the Lawnsite context has absolutely nothing to do with sustainability. Lawnsite is a forum about profitability. The organic forum is a place to explore ways toward that end knowing the competition is from companies who really, REALLY don't care about sustainability. If someone wants to start a forum promoting sustainability, please approach the administrators.

Compost is the single most expensive thing you can put on a client's lawn. In my neighborhood the raw materials cost $35 per yard plus delivery. In order to compete, most of the yards I see with "compost" have substituted something that smells more like fresh manure than compost. Furthermore they have the grass buried in it. What is happening is the neighbors will point at that lawn for the next two weeks as the source of the stink in the neighborhood...and then the grass will die from smothering. Those lawn companies cannot stay in business like that. The will have nothing to mow. That grass may come back toward the end of 2012 but more like 2013 before they see a dense turf again. But even if it was used in a proper amount, the cost of materials is about $50 per 1,000 square feet. Add in your fees and you can't compete. Your clients don't have to be geniuses to see the economics of having TruGreen come out for a heck of a lot less and get some serious fertilizer.

If you want to compete, you absolutely have to offer fertilizer, not microbes.

Strictly speaking, organic lawn care does not use chemicals. For practical purposes; however, nobody is speaking that strictly. You'll have to discuss where your client lives along the line from full chemical program to a full organic program. Nobody is looking over your shoulder like the USDA looks over the shoulder of farmers and ranchers making an organic claim. If your client agrees to a full organic fertilizer program with occasional spot spraying of chemical weed killers, then that is his choice. I believe you can make money on a full organic program IF the client cooperates with watering and mowing. If they do not cooperate, you might have to hire people from India to come pull weeds for you. But I don't think you could have a chance of making money on a compost only program. Every day you'd be out hustling five $150 per 1,000 square foot compost jobs to new clients. With a real fertilizer program, you can keep a stable base of clients for which you apply relatively low cost fertilizers several times per season.

Re: low input lawn
Anyone who would like to see pictures of a very low input lawn, search the Internet lawn forums for a homeowner going by the handle of bpgreen. He lives in northern Utah and has a lawn full of native prairie grasses. He mows them like a lawn and it looks like a lawn. If you can find the pictures you'll be disappointed because it looks like your lawn or anyone elses lawn. Some of the grass varieties go dormant in the winter but some don't. It's a lawn. He never fertilizes and only waters under extreme drought conditions. He might water 5x per season in a dry year.


Thanks for the post and getting the debate back on track. I stopped reading with all the name calling and bickering that was going on.

Just to get more facts on the topic is there talk of Organic Fertilizers in the fertilization forum?

I love the idea behind the compost Soil health management and am going to implement it this year on my parents lawn as a test pilot.

Though I am still leery of the business feasibility of it and want more info on organic ferts. aspect.

phasthound
03-25-2011, 12:45 PM
As I demonstrated in my price break down, when applying the two products at the same rate, it is considerably more expensive to use a bagged product over a bulk product.

In order for you to just break even, you would need to realize a savings in labor that is equivalent to the difference in cost. IMO, the difference in labor to apply 20 lbs of a pellet product vs. 20 lbs of a non-pellet product is negligible and you will not make up that difference in cost between the two products.

True, but that is not what my discussion is about.

Smallaxe
03-25-2011, 01:03 PM
Thanks for the post and getting the debate back on track. I stopped reading with all the name calling and bickering that was going on.

Just to get more facts on the topic is there talk of Organic Fertilizers in the fertilization forum?

I love the idea behind the compost Soil health management and am going to implement it this year on my parents lawn as a test pilot.

Though I am still leery of the business feasibility of it and want more info on organic ferts. aspect.

Just observe in your parents lawn, as to how much less N you need, for each app and the fewer apps that are required... Then understand ... WHY...

Perhaps you already do... :)

ICT Bill
03-25-2011, 05:18 PM
Thanks for the post and getting the debate back on track. I stopped reading with all the name calling and bickering that was going on.

Just to get more facts on the topic is there talk of Organic Fertilizers in the fertilization forum?

I love the idea behind the compost Soil health management and am going to implement it this year on my parents lawn as a test pilot.

Though I am still leery of the business feasibility of it and want more info on organic ferts. aspect.

I would be curious in the area you are in what is the typical soil organic matter of your soil, just east of you in IL in some places it is 9% to 10%, not much compost needed in those instances

ParadiseLS
03-25-2011, 05:48 PM
I would be curious in the area you are in what is the typical soil organic matter of your soil, just east of you in IL in some places it is 9% to 10%, not much compost needed in those instances

might as well tell him.....

dig down about a foot and pull up a core of soil to that depth. stick it in a 1L jar with a couple cups of water and a tablespoon of calgon. shake the jar like crazy so it mixes into the water well, then set it down and come back a day later. the different particulates will settle to the bottom of the jar at different rates, starting with sand, and ending with the OM, which should actually float around for awhile longer. measure the depth of the different particles and you've figured out your soil composition.

of course, you might want to try this several times at different points in the lawn and get an average of the measurements. that's a simple way to get a good idea of where you are starting from, and a great project for elementary school science!

c2weech
03-26-2011, 11:52 AM
I would be curious in the area you are in what is the typical soil organic matter of your soil, just east of you in IL in some places it is 9% to 10%, not much compost needed in those instances

Lets say the lawn/soil does have a high % of OM. Does that make compost top dressing useless then? Because without the ferts they have been applying or even before they started using ferts (only used ferts about the past 7years) the lawn sure was not very good.

What method would be suggested?

Thanks

ParadiseLS
03-26-2011, 02:44 PM
Lets say the lawn/soil does have a high % of OM. Does that make compost top dressing useless then? Because without the ferts they have been applying or even before they started using ferts (only used ferts about the past 7years) the lawn sure was not very good.

What method would be suggested?

Thanks

supposing the om% is reasonable, you would still probably want to topdress once in the spring for good measure. but you could definitely get away with just doing a couple apps of compost tea/extract and forgetting about the bulky compost. also, in a case whee OM is high, you might think about a basic soil test: pH, NPK, Mg, Ca, CEC, etc.

until your bacteria populations are built up, the OM isn't really immobilizing the nutrients for you, so they are leaching--maybe a little less intensely due to better soil structure, but nevertheless occurring.

until you fungal populations (as well as actinomycetic bacteria) are spreading through the soils, and mining deep into the rhizosphere for minerals, it can be tough to expect good balance of nutrients and minerals in the soil. as you build the soil OM% and build the microbial populations, you establish a system where the fungi are mining the nutrients for you, the bacteria are scooping up and immobilizing what is lost, and you are just dealing with surface issues and a couple CT apps to maintain a healthy diversity in the rhizosphere.

JDUtah
03-26-2011, 07:02 PM
I'll bite... but remember, it is easy to be a critic, and idiotic when you criticize something you were not willing to do yourself.

Break down for a basic 1 ton pickup operation...

Compost
Average lawn: 5,000 sqft
Depth: 1/4"
Compost per lawn: 4 yards
Compost cost per yard: $25
Material cost per yard: $100
Labor time per lawn (2 man crew): 1 hour
2 man hours @ $18 labor cost per man hour: $36
Average travel time per lawn (including material pick up): 1.5 man hours
Travel time cost @ $18 per man hour: $27
Avg travel distance per lawn (including material pick up): 20 miles
20 miles @ 10 miles per gallon: 2 gallons
2 gallons @ $3.50 / gallon: $7

Total lawns completable in 8 hour day: 4
Total cost of application: $100 + $36 + $27 + $7 = $170 per 5,000 sqft lawn



Meal
Average lawn: 5,000 sqft
Pounds per 1,000 sqft: 20
pounds per lawn: 100
Cost per pound: $0.75
Material cost per yard: $75
Labor time per lawn (1 man crew): .41 hour
Man hours @ $18 labor cost per man hour: $7.38
Average travel time per lawn: .3 man hours
Travel time cost @ $18 per man hour: $5.40
Avg travel distance per lawn: 8 miles
8 miles @ 10 miles per gallon: .8 gallons
.8 gallons @ $3.50 / gallon: $2.80

Total lawns completable in 8 hour day: 10
Total cost of application: $75 + $7.38 + $5.40 + $2.80 = $90.58 per 5,000 sqft lawn

Let's see...
4 per day @ 170 dollars cost per lawn managing 2 employees
10 per day @ 91 dollars per lawn managing 1 employee

Kiril
03-27-2011, 12:20 AM
I'll bite... but remember, it is easy to be a critic, and idiotic when you criticize something you were not willing to do yourself.


Is there anyone on this forum that can actually make a realistic comparison? You CANNOT compare 1/4" application of compost to an application of 20 lbs of compost, or meal. Unbelievable! :wall

Smallaxe
03-27-2011, 08:04 AM
Lets say the lawn/soil does have a high % of OM. Does that make compost top dressing useless then? Because without the ferts they have been applying or even before they started using ferts (only used ferts about the past 7years) the lawn sure was not very good.

What method would be suggested?

Thanks

If you are one of those high OM areas, as Bill suggestted you might be... You could actually have a muck soil... In with case, air to the roots may be a problem, and N being lost to anaerobic conditions...

Jab a spade into the ground about 6" and open it up enough to see the soil profile... Do this when it is reasonably moist... If you see different colors layered in, you will want to note what textures you are dealing with at each layer... Also just how thick and deep the root of the grasses are...

Most soils will need a N boost, but today we waste a lot as well... Once you learn your soil's best culture, you can fertilize much more effectively... Whether organic or synthetic...

Kiril
03-27-2011, 09:55 AM
until your bacteria populations are built up, the OM isn't really immobilizing the nutrients for you, so they are leaching--maybe a little less intensely due to better soil structure, but nevertheless occurring.

SOM has a pH dependent charge which is not directly dependent on bacteria. Bacterial populations might have an impact on nitrogen leaching (increase or decrease it), but beyond that they (bacteria) will have little overall impact on nutrient leaching.

until you fungal populations (as well as actinomycetic bacteria) are spreading through the soils, and mining deep into the rhizosphere for minerals, it can be tough to expect good balance of nutrients and minerals in the soil.

You want fungal associations with your roots (mycorrhizal) in order to bring nutrients from outside the rhizosphere (i.e. the bulk soil). The rhizosphere is a very small zone around the root, it does not represent the bulk soil.

Dchall_San_Antonio
03-28-2011, 10:00 AM
Just to clarify a few thoughts and answer a couple questions. Sorry but this is a long post.

I am not a Rodalian and I'm probably in agreement with you in many ways.
I haven't been around since the beginning of this forum, few have, but I believe you were the founder. However, I am offended that you would think to dictate or determine what this forum is supposed to be about. I notice you haven't posted since May 2009.

Dictate is such a negative word. But essentially you are offended that the person who set up a forum would have the gall to determine what his own forum was all about? I am making a note your interesting point of view.

I have not posted in a long time because the forum became self moderating. I am not a lawn care professional. I am a subject matter expert on the care and feeding of soil microbes. When the forum first started, it needed to be moderated. There was one member who could not post without becoming very negative about organics. I suggested several times to him that we were well versed in the problems with an organic lawn care business and that we were looking for solutions. After several weeks I pointed him out to the forum owner and he banned the guy. Since then the forum has moved along with a much more level head. The discussions were on topic and without conflict. I can tolerate some banter when y'all are discussing relevant topics.

Before this forum was established the Lawnsite conversations about organic care were horribly misinformed. If you folks think you have issues with each other now, you would be aghast at the flame wars back then. My purpose in setting up this forum was to 1) provide a separate place for discussions about organic lawn care, 2) bring a little bit of modern science to the discussions, and 3) to turn the discussions toward ways to make a profit. At the time compost was thought to be the only practical organic amendment. The organic fertilizers at the time were very high priced and nobody understood how they worked. Everything about organic care was much more expensive than Lesco, so it was hard to make a business out of it. I should also point out that the distinction between compost and fertilizers was an issue then as well.

Sustainability?
Who are you to say it is off-topic?

Uh, I'm the guy who set up the forum. I will agree that sustainability is an acceptable topic for this forum. In fact is it much more on topic in this forum than any of the others at Lawnsite; however, for those who believe sustainability is a superior business objective to profitability, then I would suggest there are other forums (not Lawnsite) to discuss sustainability issues. The primary difference between Lawnsite and GardenWeb (or any of a number of other forums) is this is the one where the members are in the lawn care service industry to make a profit. This is not the Hairy Armpitted Earth Mothers of Oregon Forum where we protect the world from evil peat moss miners. GardenWeb has forums where they discuss general topics like sustainability. If you can make a case to show me that a business model with sustainability as the prime tenet will lead to a higher profit over the long run, then there is a case for it. For now I am unaware of how that would work. Furthermore I think sustainability is a red herring that distracts the conversation away from how to make a business work selling organic lawn care.

As for compost, are you suggesting that it is not the best possible feed for turf?
Almost everyone that I read on this forum is in agreement that it is the best, IF........

Only a believer in the great Rodale methods of gardening would make that statement. Those definitely worked but nobody really knew why until the mid 1990s. Now that we understand the science, I hereby declare that to my knowledge, compost is not the best possible [organic] feed for turf. Compost is likely the best source of microbes. Compost is the best source of decomposed protein. Compost is probably the best source of humus. Compost weighs the most if you are trying to measure bulk organic material. Compost has the unique ability to retain moisture. Compost has the unique ability to capture, store, and release ammonia gas from the decomposition of protein underneath it. But when you are looking at a feed, then materials where the protein content is higher will give better performance per pound of material.

The highest ratio of protein per pound is probably feather meal followed by blood meal. After that it is fish guts and then you get into the grains. The problem with feather meal is it takes months for it to decompose. They are now selling predigested feather meal (hydrolized). I have not used it but it has to be better than just the feather meal. Blood meal is a hot product. Where feathers take months to decompose, blood decomposes nearly overnight. That makes blood meal nearly useless except in very small quantities. Fish works if you can get it at reasonable prices. But fish smells as it decomposes so it would be best buried...as the Pilgrims found out from their indigenous companions. That brings us to the grains. Of all the grains, soy bean meal is the highest percent by weight of protein. I have seen incredible lawns fertilized with SBM from unmarked brown bags. If you have a way in your state to apply from unmarked brown bags, then I highly suggest you try soybean meal at 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Apply more at your own risk. It can get a little "whiffy" in higher doses. But it will turn a lawn very dark green. If the lawn is not made of bunch grasses, it will really thicken it, too. After SBM you get corn gluten meal, alfalfa pellets, cottonseed meal, corn meal, and coffee grounds. You can apply those at higher rates than SBM without the odor.

In the meantime, compost will be the basis for my lawn care business and I WILL be making a profit and competing well vs. TruGreen et al.

Good for you! If you have not already done so, you might open a thread to discuss how you make a profit with a compost-only operation. That was the original question. How do you price the product? Is it a material that smells fresh or stanky? What equipment do you use? How many repeat clients do you have? How often do they repeat? What are the keywords that sell your service? How many new clients do you get per week? Are there any special issues with a compost only operation?

I have to disagree [with the idea of using grains] here. When we are looking at increasing SOM, bulk is king.

I was never talking about increasing SOM. I was talking about making a profit. If you are selling the idea of increased SOM to your clients, more power to you. I would be a little shy about selling something I could not guarantee. Selling a dark green color is the direction I would go.

Personally I feel if people are not selling a "program" that is designed to build a more fertile soil and move the site towards a more sustainable and closed system (i.e. reduced inputs), then you are not really "organic" regardless of what product you are using.

You have a noble goal but your definition of organic differs from mine. I'm sure mine differs from many others. I will not fault you for that. There are as many different definitions of organic as there are for vegetarian. To paraphrase your statement in terms I see as important for this forum: If you are not selling a program designed to make a profit, then you will not be in business very long regardless of what products you are selling. As I have said above, I don't see sustainability as component of making a client happy with a lawn service nor as a component of profitability. I could be wrong and am open to ideas on that.

For those interested in the topic of native grasses which take no maintenance, here is the list. Western Wheatgrass, Streambank wheatgrass, Crested wheatgrass, Sheep fescue, Blue grama, Strawberry clover, and the ever popular Buffalo grass (particularly the Tech Turf and UC Verde varieties). These are full sun turf materials which perform very well in the high desert soils and climate of the southwest USA. Some are bunch grasses. But if you are in the business of applying fertilizer, these take none, so keep that in mind.

Kiril
03-28-2011, 11:02 AM
I was never talking about increasing SOM. I was talking about making a profit. If you are selling the idea of increased SOM to your clients, more power to you. I would be a little shy about selling something I could not guarantee. Selling a dark green color is the direction I would go.

That is the primary goal (or should be) of an organic program, to increase SOM, not to simply use an organic product in place of a synthetic one. I sell solutions, not green grass. My business is centered around saving my clients money and building a sustainable, low input system. In areas where irrigation is required, building this type of system is even more critical. IMO, if profit is the only motivation, then people are catering to a fad instead of a realistic solution that will have a lasting impact on this industry as a whole.

You have a noble goal but your definition of organic differs from mine. I'm sure mine differs from many others. I will not fault you for that. There are as many different definitions of organic as there are for vegetarian. To paraphrase your statement in terms I see as important for this forum: If you are not selling a program designed to make a profit, then you will not be in business very long regardless of what products you are selling. As I have said above, I don't see sustainability as component of making a client happy with a lawn service nor as a component of profitability. I could be wrong and am open to ideas on that.

I don't think I would go so far as to call it noble .... rather more realistic. There are more ways to generate a profit than just selling a program of spoon feeding of organic products to potential clients. If a LCO finds he/she is losing money by building a sustainable system, then it is time to diversify.

..... my 2 cents worth.

jonthepain
03-28-2011, 08:50 PM
I'm the guy who set up the forum. ...[about] how to make a business work selling organic lawn care.



I'd like to thank you for doing that. And also Smallaxe, JD, Kiril, Barry, Paradise, Bill, Maine, and the many others that contribute regularly here.

I've started and moderated many forums over the years, and it's often a frustrating task.

So I really appreciate what you've got here. It has helped me with my business immensely.

thanks again,
jon

phasthound
03-30-2011, 07:37 PM
Just to clarify a few thoughts and answer a couple questions. Sorry but this is a long post.


Thank you David for one of the best posts I've seen on this forum.

Tim Wilson
03-30-2011, 08:22 PM
There are as many different definitions of organic as there are for vegetarian.

There is a very good word for those who claim being a vegetarian includes fish and chicken. It is stupid. - Albert Epstein

phasthound
03-30-2011, 08:27 PM
There is a very good word for those who claim being a vegetarian includes fish and chicken. It is stupid. - Albert Epstein

Tim, you made my day. Thanks for the laugh!