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Smallaxe
03-23-2011, 08:17 AM
I think it might be a good time to revisit the most important aspect of "organic lawncare' and that is soil...
We are going on and on about ferts, which is the primary question, but we are not 'integrating' those ferts into the soil very well.

Compost builds soil structure and reduces the amount of ferts by providing CE sites, holds water while increasing perculation and drainage???


None of that is true, if the irrigation is improperly handled...
None of that is true, if there is a perpetual suface growing of thatch...

Soil texture and temperature would effect HOW the irrigation should be handled, but these ideas, are never thought important enough to be considered when discussing the use of ferts and reaching the point of "zero inputs"... :)

Kiril
03-23-2011, 08:47 AM
Compost builds soil structure and reduces the amount of ferts by providing CE sites, holds water while increasing perculation and drainage???

Are you asking a question or making a statement?


None of that is true, if the irrigation is improperly handled...
None of that is true, if there is a perpetual suface growing of thatch...

Soil texture and temperature would effect HOW the irrigation should be handled, but these ideas, are never thought important enough to be considered when discussing the use of ferts and reaching the point of "zero inputs"... :)

I am unsure where you are going with this. Can you expand?

Smallaxe
03-23-2011, 10:25 AM
What got me thinking of this again was the responses given to c2weech on that last thread...

It was all about fertilizers and Paradise touched on how compost can help a lawn but I don't see that there is a comprehensive program being promotted on this forum...

For exa. Kiril, I know you are one to think seriously about irrigation. But there is no real connection between compost on top of the ground and roots growing deeper in the soil and the soil actually become 'fertile' over time, at more than an inch under the real thatch layer...

So it is hard to just put it in a question, with an answer, bcause I believe we should be constructing ecosystems for turf , rather than jut throwing stuff on and concerning ourselves with what stuff is good, not good, unsustainable, etc...

The stuff itself is only secondary to the eco-system's dynamics, IMO... I think we need to look at a bigger picture by now, is all I'm saying... :)

Kiril
03-23-2011, 11:24 AM
For exa. Kiril, I know you are one to think seriously about irrigation. But there is no real connection between compost on top of the ground and roots growing deeper in the soil and the soil actually become 'fertile' over time, at more than an inch under the real thatch layer...

Surface applied organic matter will will move through the soil profile over time, even in a heavy clay. How far and how fast depends on the site and environment.

So it is hard to just put it in a question, with an answer, bcause I believe we should be constructing ecosystems for turf , rather than jut throwing stuff on and concerning ourselves with what stuff is good, not good, unsustainable, etc...

The stuff itself is only secondary to the eco-system's dynamics, IMO... I think we need to look at a bigger picture by now, is all I'm saying... :)

For me, the bigger picture is building regionally appropriate landscapes. These landscapes are naturally suited for the regional climate and soils, and by default require substantially less inputs to maintain at acceptable levels than the exotic regionally inappropriate alternative.

Smallaxe
03-23-2011, 12:09 PM
Surface applied organic matter will will move through the soil profile over time, even in a heavy clay. How far and how fast depends on the site and environment...

Here is a good place for a specific question... If that is true:

How does that happen? and what can we do to expedite that action?

Secondarily:

If there is already a real thatch problem, why does it not just encourage more roots growing into a lovely medium such as compost, right there in the thatch? Especially if a N fert is applied near that same time period?

Kiril
03-23-2011, 12:57 PM
Here is a good place for a specific question... If that is true:

How does that happen? and what can we do to expedite that action?

Soil pedogenesis. -> climate + living organisms + parent material + topography + time

Core aerating, earth worms & microbial decomposition and irrigation are probably the primarily ways to expedite the process ... irrigation (or water in the soil and water movement through the profile) being the biggest factor. That said .... there is the trade-off between conserving water and building a soil .... and you have to determine which is more important for the site in question.

Secondarily:

If there is already a real thatch problem, why does it not just encourage more roots growing into a lovely medium such as compost, right there in the thatch? Especially if a N fert is applied near that same time period?

A significant thatch layer is a real problem and as it grows in thickness, it will likely result in more roots in the thatch layer than in the soil.

Smallaxe
03-23-2011, 02:44 PM
So one little step at a time:

Does it make any sense to add compost to a lawn that is heavily infested with real thatch, unless it has been aerated first?

starry night
03-23-2011, 03:53 PM
Soil pedogenesis. -> climate + living organisms + parent material + topography + time

Core aerating, earth worms & microbial decomposition and irrigation are probably the primarily ways to expedite the process ... irrigation (or water in the soil and water movement through the profile) being the biggest factor. .

But, isn't time the factor that we cannot affect. Core aeration, irrigation, etc. will improve current soils but actual soil formation (pedogenesis) from start to finish takes more than our lifetimes. Correct?

Smallaxe
03-23-2011, 04:19 PM
So one little step at a time:

Does it make any sense to add compost to a lawn that is heavily infested with real thatch, unless it has been aerated first?

:drinkup: :laugh: OK, stupid question... No headway on this subject at all... sell the fertilizers and the proaganda... why should I care??? :drinkup:

Kiril
03-23-2011, 04:21 PM
So one little step at a time:

Does it make any sense to add compost to a lawn that is heavily infested with real thatch, unless it has been aerated first?

Not really. If that thatch is that bad it needs to be dealt with either by aerating or verti-mow.

Kiril
03-23-2011, 04:31 PM
But, isn't time the factor that we cannot affect. Core aeration, irrigation, etc. will improve current soils but actual soil formation (pedogenesis) from start to finish takes more than our lifetimes. Correct?

I put that up there to define pedogenesis (per Hans Jenny's state equation) and the factors that drive it. Yes it does take a very long time to form a soil ..... but that is from parent material. In the systems we work with we typically aren't dealing with parent material but rather disturbed or mismanaged soils that are already developed. The factors I mentioned are an example of some we can directly manipulate to our advantage to help rebuild a soil and/or improve it's ability to naturally support plant growth.

ICT Bill
03-23-2011, 08:58 PM
I do believe "soil formation" the erosion of mountains or displacement of oceans over time is quite different than growing turf, shrubs, annuals or trees in an urban.suburban/Ag environment

you can apply compost as a top dress and effect change in the top 6 or 10 inches easily in one/two years, spray compost teas and provide nutrient teas and it will happen even faster

we are not talking about a 10,000 year glacial event

Smallaxe
03-24-2011, 09:26 AM
I do believe "soil formation" the erosion of mountains or displacement of oceans over time is quite different than growing turf, shrubs, annuals or trees in an urban.suburban/Ag environment

you can apply compost as a top dress and effect change in the top 6 or 10 inches easily in one/two years, spray compost teas and provide nutrient teas and it will happen even faster

we are not talking about a 10,000 year glacial event

I believe your right... Our local construction site take a mountain of mineral sand, and a mountain of mineral clay, and a mountain of compost and sells 3 levels of topsoil, for lawns and gardens...

The OP was about how we enhance that stuff... but what I'm seeing on this site we are not about organics, and giving advice about getting the compost into the soil with proper cultural practices... or accomplish any other cultural practice...

We have developed a "Program" that is just as "rigid" and "one size fits all", as TGCL has now... All with a quaint little cliche, "builds soil structure"...

Well, I tried... :)

Kiril
03-24-2011, 09:53 AM
I believe your right... Our local construction site take a mountain of mineral sand, and a mountain of mineral clay, and a mountain of compost and sells 3 levels of topsoil, for lawns and gardens...

The OP was about how we enhance that stuff... but what I'm seeing on this site we are not about organics, and giving advice about getting the compost into the soil with proper cultural practices... or accomplish any other cultural practice...

We have developed a "Program" that is just as "rigid" and "one size fits all", as TGCL has now... All with a quaint little cliche, "builds soil structure"...

Well, I tried... :)

I'm not following you Axe? This issue has been addressed by myself and others on numerous occasions. If you aren't tilling it in, the best way to get organic matter into the profile (for turf) is to core aerate and top dress with compost. From there, let the water and soil organisms do the rest.

Smallaxe
03-24-2011, 10:11 AM
I'm not following you Axe? This issue has been addressed by myself and others on numerous occasions. If you aren't tilling it in, the best way to get organic matter into the profile (for turf) is to core aerate and top dress with compost. From there, let the water and soil organisms do the rest.

OK... now that's clear...
What we have from this thread so far is:

The only time compost will be helpful is when you can get it into the soil profile, by mechanical means... Compost doesn't not help reduce real thatch, but may actually contribute to it...

Kiril
03-24-2011, 10:32 AM
The only time compost will be helpful is when you can get it into the soil profile, by mechanical means... Compost doesn't not help reduce real thatch, but may actually contribute to it...

I don't agree. As I already said, if you have a significant layer of thatch, you need to address it. This is an issue of turf health, not about getting organic matter into the soil profile. Top dressing compost will help breakdown thatch as it will help keep moisture and temperature at levels that are more conducive to faster decomposition as well as introduce more microbes into the system.

The issue here is time with respect to turf health. Do you have the time to naturally breakdown the thatch layer by top dressing and/or using a simple sugar like molasses in combination with fixing whatever cultural problems that are contributing to the problem, or should you mechanically remove it now? This is a judgment call only you can make on a site by site basis. Will a compost application help build the soil if there is thatch layer .... yes. Is it going to magically make a significant thatch problem go away overnight .... no

starry night
03-24-2011, 11:07 AM
Hey Smallaxe. I can't recall that you posted much during the winter......now all of a sudden you are everywhere (ubiquitous, even). Did you just come out of hibernation? :)

Smallaxe
03-24-2011, 11:55 AM
...Will a compost application help build the soil if there is thatch layer .... yes. Is it going to magically make a significant thatch problem go away overnight .... no

This was one thing we agreed upon earlier in this discussion, when you said:

"A significant thatch layer is a real problem and as it grows in thickness, it will likely result in more roots in the thatch layer than in the soil. " (In response to compost possibly causing roots to grow at the surface rather than below)

So in this case we would be adding to the 'real thatch" problem by using compost without aeration... what with 'real thatch" being the layer of living and dead, roots and stems covering the actual soil, and all....

I'm not looking for a 'magical solution' , just a real world strategy in correcting 'real thatch' and building soil structure and fertility...

My theory with 'real thatch'... impervious 'real thatch'...
Using sugar/molasses to speed digestion of dead material. Dry lawn thoroughly, each time b4 allowing irrigation. This would open pores even in the real thatch that would allow water carrying OM particulates deeper into the soil...

Now without sidestepping the issue, with "too many factors", can you say whether "in general", this is a wise strategy, or not???

Smallaxe
03-24-2011, 11:58 AM
Hey Smallaxe. I can't recall that you posted much during the winter......now all of a sudden you are everywhere (ubiquitous, even). Did you just come out of hibernation? :)

Yeah, hibernation... This was a rough winter and it continues... I know it is hard for anyone to believe, but it actually got me into a 'bad mood' for a while... :)

Kiril
03-24-2011, 12:21 PM
This was one thing we agreed upon earlier in this discussion, when you said:

"A significant thatch layer is a real problem and as it grows in thickness, it will likely result in more roots in the thatch layer than in the soil. " (In response to compost possibly causing roots to grow at the surface rather than below)

So in this case we would be adding to the 'real thatch" problem by using compost without aeration... what with 'real thatch" being the layer of living and dead, roots and stems covering the actual soil, and all....

I'm not looking for a 'magical solution' , just a real world strategy in correcting 'real thatch' and building soil structure and fertility...

My theory with 'real thatch'... impervious 'real thatch'...
Using sugar/molasses to speed digestion of dead material. Dry lawn thoroughly, each time b4 allowing irrigation. This would open pores even in the real thatch that would allow water carrying OM particulates deeper into the soil...

Now without sidestepping the issue, with "too many factors", can you say whether "in general", this is a wise strategy, or not???

Axe .... you are trying to combine two entirely different management issues into one. The first issue is thatch. Assess your turfs thatch layer (if it exists) and determine if it is a problem. If it is, identify the potential factors that are leading to it, and change those factors. If the thatch is significant, you need to address the thatch now, not later. This is why I said top dressing compost on a significant layer of thatch doesn't really do any good, because it doesn't address the issue in a timely fashion.

The other issue is improving your soil using compost. This is an entirely different issue and should be treated as such.

I wouldn't hesitate to top dress compost on a turf that has a shallow thatch layer. In fact, having some thatch is beneficial with respect to water management. Now if you have a significant thatch layer, applying compost on that isn't going to deal with the thatch problem now .... which is what needs to take place. That said, it will still be beneficial towards both reducing your thatch and building your soil.

Your real world solution is if you have a significant thatch layer, mechanically remove it, and change your cultural practices to keep that thatch under control.

How do you do this outside of changing the obvious factors that lead to it? Top dressing compost is one way to manage your thatch layer. Applying molasses or any simple sugar or CT is another. Your goal is to keep your thatch decomposition rates just below the rate it is accumulating at.

OrganicsMaine
03-24-2011, 12:47 PM
This was one thing we agreed upon earlier in this discussion, when you said:

"A significant thatch layer is a real problem and as it grows in thickness, it will likely result in more roots in the thatch layer than in the soil. " (In response to compost possibly causing roots to grow at the surface rather than below)

So in this case we would be adding to the 'real thatch" problem by using compost without aeration... what with 'real thatch" being the layer of living and dead, roots and stems covering the actual soil, and all....

I'm not looking for a 'magical solution' , just a real world strategy in correcting 'real thatch' and building soil structure and fertility...

My theory with 'real thatch'... impervious 'real thatch'...
Using sugar/molasses to speed digestion of dead material. Dry lawn thoroughly, each time b4 allowing irrigation. This would open pores even in the real thatch that would allow water carrying OM particulates deeper into the soil...

Now without sidestepping the issue, with "too many factors", can you say whether "in general", this is a wise strategy, or not???

I would say that yes, your theory with real thatch will work. However, as Kiril has stated, it won't work quickly enough. As I'm sure you know, thatch is just the beginning of many other problems with a stand of turf, and also the result of poor cultural practices. Just putting compost down won't do the job, especially if the layer is too thick. I would say that using sugar/molasses would work, but if you are trying to correct a problem, aeration would speed that process up a ton, in addition to a topdressing of compost. If the layer is super thick, triple aerate or power rake the lawn, then do your thing.

As Kiril said, you need to address the thatch first, most likely using a mechanical solution to go along with your cultural practices.

I'm also right there with you on the winter being sh*tty. We've been above 60 once this year. Last year I was out working for 3 weeks already. Nothing is ready here now.

Smallaxe
03-24-2011, 12:51 PM
I had separated the use of compost and the discussion of 'real thatch'... I had commented that compost would not help the reduction of real thatch and that we agreed on that point... That completed the discussion of compost at that point...

Then I switched to a question dealing only with 'real thatch' and proceeded to ask a straight forward question in dealing with the thatch itself, i.e. "Sugars and thoroughly drying the surface, b4 watering again"

That was the question put forth in the last post...

"Is my theory valid or not?" ... :)

OrganicsMaine
03-24-2011, 01:11 PM
I would say that your theory is valid. However, in the real world of keeping customers happy, then you may not get the results you need in a reasonable amount of time. By adding the aeration, I think that you could reduce that time and get it into the acceptable range. I would also double aerate it to really open it up, and it wouldn't hurt to add some aact to really jump start the process.

Think warm sun and green grass!:)

Kiril
03-24-2011, 01:23 PM
Then I switched to a question dealing only with 'real thatch' and proceeded to ask a straight forward question in dealing with the thatch itself, i.e. "Sugars and thoroughly drying the surface, b4 watering again"

That was the question put forth in the last post...

"Is my theory valid or not?" ... :)

To maximize the rate of decomposition you should not allow the thatch to dry much below field capacity. Other than that the "theory" is valid.

Smallaxe
03-24-2011, 05:16 PM
Thanks for the responses. .. :)

Now that we have gotten rid of the 'real thatch', it would be nice to keep it under control and build the soil structure and CE capacity...

ParadiseLS
03-24-2011, 07:58 PM
since you mentioned me....i take it for granted in this forum that either

a) the people here are doing treatments and seeding and aeration, but not mowing, clean-ups and dethatching so much, in which case talking about irrigation and thatch (along with proper clean-up and mowing strategies) is kind of moot. my company does the whole shebang. so we certainly have a 'comprehensive program' if you wish to call it that. and i frequently receive contracts back where i disagree with the services requested by the customer and tell them i will switch one service for one that they need more seriously, or tell them that they either need to spend an extra $xyz to make their program sensible, or else i will just refund their $abc so they aren't throwing money away on results they will not get.

or b) the companies are doing dethatching and everything else, in which case, i know they are pimping those services hard every Spring. do a clean-up, power rake the lawn, aerate, mulch all the thatch and leaves from the clean-up, plus throw in an application of granular dehydrated compost and fert. meals/CGM if you use them......you're on the fast lane to a profitable season!

furthermore, i think thatch and irrigation don't really apply to organics per se. they are issues that are handled very similarly in both the organic programs and the conventional programs. thatch: rake that crap up, aerate, add compost in the organic program, and speak to customer about mowing and irrigation habits for improvements. in the conventional program, rake it, aerate it, add fertilizer so as to spark surging grass growth taller and thicker, and talk to the customer about mowing and irrigation habits.

well, the only difference there is that the organic program calls for compost to ensure long-term benefits that will ultimately prevent the conditions for thatch to build, whereas the conventional program is about correcting symptoms and getting the grass green and lush in time for the weekend. well, that is already the difference between organics and conventional programs. the existence of thatch hasn't really altered our mindsets about how to proceed with our programs. and the way to treat the short-term symptoms of the thatch are all the same. so what's to really talk about here?

Smallaxe
03-25-2011, 08:53 AM
since you mentioned me....i take it for granted in this forum that either

a) the people here are doing treatments and seeding and aeration, but not mowing, clean-ups and dethatching so much, in which case talking about irrigation and thatch (along with proper clean-up and mowing strategies) is kind of moot. my company does the whole shebang. so we certainly have a 'comprehensive program' if you wish to call it that. and i frequently receive contracts back where i disagree with the services requested by the customer and tell them i will switch one service for one that they need more seriously, or tell them that they either need to spend an extra $xyz to make their program sensible, or else i will just refund their $abc so they aren't throwing money away on results they will not get.

or b) the companies are doing dethatching and everything else, in which case, i know they are pimping those services hard every Spring. do a clean-up, power rake the lawn, aerate, mulch all the thatch and leaves from the clean-up, plus throw in an application of granular dehydrated compost and fert. meals/CGM if you use them......you're on the fast lane to a profitable season!

furthermore, i think thatch and irrigation don't really apply to organics per se. they are issues that are handled very similarly in both the organic programs and the conventional programs. thatch: rake that crap up, aerate, add compost in the organic program, and speak to customer about mowing and irrigation habits for improvements. in the conventional program, rake it, aerate it, add fertilizer so as to spark surging grass growth taller and thicker, and talk to the customer about mowing and irrigation habits.

well, the only difference there is that the organic program calls for compost to ensure long-term benefits that will ultimately prevent the conditions for thatch to build, whereas the conventional program is about correcting symptoms and getting the grass green and lush in time for the weekend. well, that is already the difference between organics and conventional programs. the existence of thatch hasn't really altered our mindsets about how to proceed with our programs. and the way to treat the short-term symptoms of the thatch are all the same. so what's to really talk about here?

I was addressing a specific issue about soil structure, not business models(yours or anyone else's)... You were simply an example of conversation with c2weech, that showed we should push our knowledge of the science a little further along... but you see how well that worked out... :)

ParadiseLS
03-25-2011, 12:30 PM
ok, i re-read your posts. you want a) more comprehensive information to handle all possibilities. and you want some answers specifically about thatch.

1. i think it's been said over and over, organics is about adapting and changing, so that's why there isn't a specific program you can apply one-size-fits-all. i use a broad program and make adjustments at my own discretion. is that a comprehensive program? yes. but it must be made clear that i have discretion for changing it.

2. with regards to molasses, i don't think that speeds up thatch decomp. molasses is food. OM is food. if the thatch dries out it is going to be a feedlot for the bacteria. when you introduce sugars, it's like serving the bacteria chips and beer when you really want them to snack on the platter of veggies. yes, if the bacteria population expands, then that means more bacteria to feed on the thatch after the molasses is gone. but i don't think it would be necessary. maybe i will be corrected though, i honestly have not put too much consideration into this before.

also, i think power raking and aerating is better margin and therefore better bussiness

Kiril
03-25-2011, 02:20 PM
yes, if the bacteria population expands, then that means more bacteria to feed on the thatch after the molasses is gone.

That would be the general idea ... increase the microbial population density with the intent/hope that it will increase the rate of decomposition.

ParadiseLS
03-25-2011, 03:11 PM
That would be the general idea ... increase the microbial population density with the intent/hope that it will increase the rate of decomposition.

my problem with this is that, decomp on the soil surface is going to be fairly slow. finely mulched grass clippings decompose quickly because they are shredded into infinitesimally small bits. serious thatch is a woven bundle of dry crap sitting up on the surface. simply spraying some molasses, or suitable meals isn't necessarily going to make life wonderful for the microbes.

when the thatch is a real *****, it is sitting up half an inch or more in the grass and microarthropods are going to have to shred that stuff. fungi can only attack it from the bottom to try to open it up for bacteria. if you're going to be spraying teas, molasses, meals, etc. i would think off the top of my head that a protozoa soup would be more beneficial as these little buggers will chew up the thatch and make it easier for the bacteria to get involved.

let's just run through a cost example. let's say i'm dealing with 3000 sq. ft. of lawn with considerable thatch.

power rake it: $30-50
aerate it: $30-50
mow the lawn, mulching thatch & grass at 3-3.5" tall: $20-30
PACKAGE DEAL: $85 for one man hour

customer responsibilities: give a deep watering to the lawn, a second in 3-4 days if lawn is not shooting up by about an inch at that time. instruct them going forward on proper irrigation and mowing techniques, and recommend compost and anything else that suits their particular situation.

NET EARNED: $80 (lost $5 to gas for mower, aerator, dethatcher)
TIME CONSUMED: 1 hr


so, run through a package dealing with teas/meals/molasses, etc. that would rectify the thatch problem within a week or two (customers probably don't want to hear about "in the long run..." they want a green, lush lawn at most within 3-4 weeks). so, what is the process, what is the cost?

Kiril
03-25-2011, 03:37 PM
my problem with this is that, decomp on the soil surface is going to be fairly slow. finely mulched grass clippings decompose quickly because they are shredded into infinitesimally small bits. serious thatch is a woven bundle of dry crap sitting up on the surface. simply spraying some molasses, or suitable meals isn't necessarily going to make life wonderful for the microbes.

when the thatch is a real *****, it is sitting up half an inch or more in the grass and microarthropods are going to have to shred that stuff. fungi can only attack it from the bottom to try to open it up for bacteria. if you're going to be spraying teas, molasses, meals, etc. i would think off the top of my head that a protozoa soup would be more beneficial as these little buggers will chew up the thatch and make it easier for the bacteria to get involved.

let's just run through a cost example. let's say i'm dealing with 3000 sq. ft. of lawn with considerable thatch.

power rake it: $30-50
aerate it: $30-50
mow the lawn, mulching thatch & grass at 3-3.5" tall: $20-30
PACKAGE DEAL: $85 for one man hour

customer responsibilities: give a deep watering to the lawn, a second in 3-4 days if lawn is not shooting up by about an inch at that time. instruct them going forward on proper irrigation and mowing techniques, and recommend compost and anything else that suits their particular situation.

NET EARNED: $80 (lost $5 to gas for mower, aerator, dethatcher)
TIME CONSUMED: 1 hr


so, run through a package dealing with teas/meals/molasses, etc. that would rectify the thatch problem within a week or two (customers probably don't want to hear about "in the long run..." they want a green, lush lawn at most within 3-4 weeks). so, what is the process, what is the cost?

Please read my posts in this thread. I already stated if a thatch layer is significant it needs to be dealt with mechanically by either core aerating or verti-mowing .... verti-mowing being the preferred method obviously. My comment on the molasses was merely to offer up a possible reason as to why it works, not a suggestion or recommendation that it be used to mitigate a significant thatch problem.

Smallaxe
03-25-2011, 08:41 PM
my problem with this is that, decomp on the soil surface is going to be fairly slow. finely mulched grass clippings decompose quickly because they are shredded into infinitesimally small bits. serious thatch is a woven bundle of dry crap sitting up on the surface. simply spraying some molasses, or suitable meals isn't necessarily going to make life wonderful for the microbes.

when the thatch is a real *****, it is sitting up half an inch or more in the grass and microarthropods are going to have to shred that stuff. fungi can only attack it from the bottom to try to open it up for bacteria. if you're going to be spraying teas, molasses, meals, etc. i would think off the top of my head that a protozoa soup would be more beneficial as these little buggers will chew up the thatch and make it easier for the bacteria to get involved.

let's just run through a cost example. let's say i'm dealing with 3000 sq. ft. of lawn with considerable thatch.

power rake it: $30-50
aerate it: $30-50
mow the lawn, mulching thatch & grass at 3-3.5" tall: $20-30
PACKAGE DEAL: $85 for one man hour

customer responsibilities: give a deep watering to the lawn, a second in 3-4 days if lawn is not shooting up by about an inch at that time. instruct them going forward on proper irrigation and mowing techniques, and recommend compost and anything else that suits their particular situation.

NET EARNED: $80 (lost $5 to gas for mower, aerator, dethatcher)
TIME CONSUMED: 1 hr


so, run through a package dealing with teas/meals/molasses, etc. that would rectify the thatch problem within a week or two (customers probably don't want to hear about "in the long run..." they want a green, lush lawn at most within 3-4 weeks). so, what is the process, what is the cost?

OK, this is where it is good to distinguish the different between 'real thatch', and the dead grass that most people think of as being 'thatch'...

Dead grass is an excellent source of nutrient and humus that every plant in creation thrives in... This dead, dry stuff as you call it needs to be digested for the purpose of nutirent cycling... That is just the beginning... :)

'Real Thatch' in the context of Turf... is the layer of living and dead grass roots and stems that grass succumbs to when too much N and H2O is applied Too Often...

From this Jumping off point, there is sensible way of turning this chaos into a properly managed lawn...

If you are expecting income from 5-7 apps per year, that grows grass from the basis of 'real thatch', no one will ever see what soil has to do with it... :)

ParadiseLS
03-26-2011, 02:18 AM
i know exactly what real thatch is. it's not lush, supple growth. we are specifically discussing problematic thatch issues, not a little bit of surface root growth. when it gets serious, that crap is relatively dry, dead and tangled into a mess, mixed in with dead/dormant grass on the surface. (fine, some of the root systems might be living, but they are generally going to be under severe stress)

also, just to nitpick, thatch isn't a symptom of "too much water too often". rather it is too LITTLE water, too often....if you're giving too much water, it is going to seep into the soil and the roots will chase deeper in chase of it. of course, watering too much too often is going to cause it's own separate problems, but that's besides the point.


From this Jumping off point, there is sensible way of turning this chaos into a properly managed lawn...

If you are expecting income from 5-7 apps per year, that grows grass from the basis of 'real thatch', no one will ever see what soil has to do with it... :)

i am not sure what exactly you are trying to say here. perhaps if you restate, maybe it is lost in translation as can happen on web forums.

i agree there is a sensible way for turning the chaos into a proper lawn--i mentioned my methods in my previous post. i am asking you or someone else to give me a specific program that beats it, both in providing the quick turnaround that a customer will demand/expect, and in terms of reasonable cost to them, and reasonable profitability to me as the contractor. maybe you have a better plan than me, but until you lay it out for me, i'm convinced that i am dealing with the problem "sensibly", afford-ably, profitably, quickly....

Smallaxe
03-26-2011, 09:04 AM
[QUOTE=ParadiseLS;3956968]i know exactly what real thatch is. it's not lush, supple growth. we are specifically discussing problematic thatch issues, not a little bit of surface root growth. when it gets serious, that crap is relatively dry, dead and tangled into a mess, mixed in with dead/dormant grass on the surface. (fine, some of the root systems might be living, but they are generally going to be under severe stress)

also, just to nitpick, thatch isn't a symptom of "too much water too often". rather it is too LITTLE water, too often....if you're giving too much water, it is going to seep into the soil and the roots will chase deeper in chase of it. of course, watering too much too often is going to cause it's own separate problems, but that's besides the point...QUOTE]

There is a reason I specify 'real thatch', when I talk about thatch... maybe I should call it 'impervious black thatch'... Read This short paragraph, go to the website and look at the picture and read a little more indepth...

http://m.extension.illinois.edu/lawnchallenge/lesson5.cfm
"The primary component of thatch is turfgrass stems and roots. It accumulates as these plant parts buildup faster than they breakdown. Thatch problems are due to a combination of biological, cultural, and environmental factors. Cultural practices can have a big impact on thatch. For example, heavy nitrogen fertilizer applications or overwatering frequently contribute to thatch, because they cause the lawn to grow excessively fast. Avoid overfertilizing and overwatering. Despite popular belief, short clippings dropped on the lawn after mowing are not the cause of thatch buildup. Clippings are very high in water content and breakdown rapidly when returned to lawns after mowing, assuming lawns are mowed on a regular basis (not removing more than one-third of the leaf blade). "

LCOs who are so much in the know that they don't NEED to look at this extension service article, should go back to grandma's lawn and stay there.

phasthound
03-26-2011, 10:52 AM
so much in the know[/b] that they don't NEED to look at this extension service article, should go back to grandma's lawn and stay there.

Agreed!! Part of their motivation may be the ability to upsell another service.

ParadiseLS
03-26-2011, 01:59 PM
i agreed with everything in the article. and everything i'v ever posted on this forum (this thread and any other) is consistent with the information laid out on that page.

SXSW Services
03-27-2011, 10:09 AM
Just my two cents:

Whether anyone here doubts if this conversation is good or not, for outsiders like me who are researching the viability of organics vs. restricted chems, and who are trying to broaden their knowledge base for offering these services.....it is extremely valuable. So, thanks for all of your inputs, as (even if it doesn't seem so to you) it is all pertinent discussion.

starry night
03-27-2011, 01:37 PM
Just my two cents:

Whether anyone here doubts if this conversation is good or not, for outsiders like me who are researching the viability of organics vs. restricted chems, and who are trying to broaden their knowledge base for offering these services.....it is extremely valuable. So, thanks for all of your inputs, as (even if it doesn't seem so to you) it is all pertinent discussion.

Wow, there's somebody out there who can see through our bickering and find some valuable information! :)

JDUtah
03-27-2011, 03:34 PM
30 to 50 for a power rake on 3,000 square feet? I could never work that cheap! Are you leaving the grass there? If done properly a power rake will produce enough waste to haul off site that $30 to $50 is WAY WAY WAY too cheap imho.

ParadiseLS
03-27-2011, 04:10 PM
for me, dethatching 3000 sq. ft. is 30 minutes. i'm going to charge $60, but i would take as low as $30 to do it. and that just includes the raking. so yes, i am just leaving the grass there for $50.

if they want it bagged and put at the curb, it's going to be a whole other story. my clean up is the aerating (which i'm charging extra) and the mowing (which i'm charging extra). and if i have to pick up a bag of extra crap from driveways, sidewalks, roads, etc. in the clean-up, that isn't an issue.

OrganicsMaine
03-27-2011, 04:15 PM
for me, dethatching 3000 sq. ft. is 30 minutes. i'm going to charge $60, but i would take as low as $30 to do it. and that just includes the raking. so yes, i am just leaving the grass there for $50.

if they want it bagged and put at the curb, it's going to be a whole other story. my clean up is the aerating (which i'm charging extra) and the mowing (which i'm charging extra). and if i have to pick up a bag of extra crap from driveways, sidewalks, roads, etc. in the clean-up, that isn't an issue.

What equipment are you using to dethatch it with. I know if it is a real heavy layer of thatch, then I'd be looking at closer to $100 for that area including clean up, plus aeration/overseeding. Probably about a $250 job for me.

ParadiseLS
03-28-2011, 09:27 PM
my bad, my average lawn is under 1000 sq. ft (welcome to suburbia). but i have several at about 1500 sq. ft. and used that as a basis for my calculations. then i decided to double it just to make it a round number at 3000 and didn't extrapolate my prices.

so, 3000 sq. ft.
dethatch......$70-150
aerate......$40-80
mulch-mow......25-50

it's harder for me to keep narrow price ranges when lawns get to 3000sq. ft. just because so many variables come into play....

but let's say they get the combo:

i'd probably charge $160 for standard conditions.

it would take me about 1.5 hours

if i really wanted to make money (and i would), i would pimp some granulated compost, and maybe some gluten to stop dandelions and stuff from moving in until the turf thickens up and becomes lush.

in that case: $285 in my pocket
less about $80 for CGM and compost
less about $5 for fuel

that's better than $100 per hour, and the customer's lawn is going to look good in 7-10 days in good Spring conditions, maybe 14 days or a bit longer if it's mid-summer and they have to irrigate and contend with dry, hot weather.

ecoguy
03-28-2011, 11:58 PM
30 to 50 for a power rake on 3,000 square feet? I could never work that cheap! Are you leaving the grass there? If done properly a power rake will produce enough waste to haul off site that $30 to $50 is WAY WAY WAY too cheap imho.

I was thinking the exact same thing JD. For 3000 sf I would be charging upwards of $400. But then again, I take a TON off. Several truck and trailer loads. Better to do it right the first time.....

jegoodri
04-09-2011, 12:45 PM
You all ae great very interesting conversation. Thanks!