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Chris Wagner
09-01-2003, 05:56 PM
I guess I'll start here...

What are your preferred turf organic fertilizers? Why do you use them? What is the benefit?

This year I started using Ringer Lawn Restore. It's pricey, but seems to work a little better than Milorganite.

Last year I was using Milorganite with some great success. Problem is its very slow release. The little iron in it is a nice boost and I achieved a deeper green with Milorganite.

Once section of our parish grounds was fertilized much later in the fall last year with Milorganite. This was by far the best turf on the grounds when the spring green-up came around.

Fertilizing mostly kentucky blue, some rye, and some fescue.

lbmd1
09-01-2003, 08:46 PM
Chris,
we use North Country Organics 8-1-9 greens grade and have had pretty good results with it. Cost is around $17 a 50 lb bag that covers up to 12k sq ft. Their website is norganics.com I believe.

Mike

Dchall_San_Antonio
09-02-2003, 01:31 AM
I don't know what the application regulations are for your area, but any ground up seed, nut, or bean with any amount of protein in it is an organic fertilizer. My preference is for corn meal because it is available nearly everywhere and it's cheaper than dirt. Alfalfa meal or pellets is my second choice. At my feed store they sell 50 pound bags for $6.50. If I drive a little further I can get it for $5. If I drive to the corn belt, it becomes more like $5 for 100 pounds. These are retail prices for small numbers of bags. Similar materials may be cheaper in your area feed stores. Alternatives to corn and alfalfa are ground soy, milo, cottonseed, rice, canola, oat, wheat, rye, and coffee.

The application rates for all grain/nut/bean based protein fertilizers is 10-20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. So for an acre, you're talking about using 450 to 900 pounds of stuff. Many of you will be buying 1,000 pounds a week and getting discounts I could not dream of. But the cost (again, retail) is about $0.001/square foot - the same as retail for Scott's bags.

For the life of me I do not know how Milorganite works. :angry: As I'm sure you are aware, it is an incinerated biosolids product. How it can have any nutritional value after cooking at 1,000 degrees F I do not know. But the results are pretty amazing. A similar product from Houston, TX is called Hou-actinite.

SWD
09-03-2003, 07:58 AM
Milorganite works by retention of certain tace minerals not found in most synthetic fertilizers. The thermophilic process the Milorganite goes through is to remove most harmful bacteria associated with the activated sewage sludge process.
What occurs in the soil is a repopulation of specific bacteria which converts the trace minerals found in Milorganite while increasing the bacterial count. This is why Milorginate is so slow to activate.
The thing to bear in mind with soil is that bacterial populations are extremely dynamic. Research has repeatedly shown that a completely sterile soil profile become populated very quickly.
So, when you are organic, you simply manage a different form or bacteria with the subsequent impact on soil chemistry and turf health.

Dchall_San_Antonio
09-03-2003, 11:19 AM
That's the first explanation of Milorganite I've seen that makes some sort of sense. :)

So let me see if I understand...obviously the microbes, good and bad, are burned away in the 1,000 degree F incinerator. But the trace minerals remain. Then when the product is introduced to the soil, the soil microbes rush in to take up the trace materials and start the microbial digestion process.

Research has also shown that when a few key microbial species are killed off, the food chain gets so out of whack that the center of gravity tips toward the disease end of the microbial balance. I agree that a sterile soil does not remain sterile for longer than a few seconds. The concern is when it repopulates with microbes, are the beneficial microbes repopulating at the proper proportion with the pathogens so that it is safe to use? This is where compost comes in. Compost provides all the beneficials in the right proportion to totally suppress the pathogens.

SWD
09-03-2003, 08:17 PM
Right idea, however, slightly off on soil processes. Pathogens are always present, there is simply no way to erradicate. What occurs is that the relative health of the turf is such that the turf is outgrowing the pathogens attacking it.
Most soil microbes are repopulated from the soil to turf interface. Simply put, most microbes are there, however, the populations are dependent upon many circumstances.
The real question, and one that has not been answered is, with organics, when is a saturation reached and the effects of such? Just because a chemical, derived to be considered organic, and safe, does not mean a harmful level cannot be reached.
Essentially, what is a safe limit?
I am interested empirically based answers.

woodycrest
09-03-2003, 10:01 PM
It seems to me that if there is in fact a saturation point then the amount of fertilizer applied would have to be adjusted to compensate. Or is it at that saturation point when the turf has achieved a balance and does not require fertilization beyond leaving the clippings after mowing. This being the point in time where the turf can be truly organic and look after itself, besides the mowing of course.

I think of it like the forest...the leaves fall from the trees and decompose and feed the soil which feeds the trees...etc year after year.

Maybe i oversimplified it somewhat, but thats the way i see it.

Dchall_San_Antonio
09-04-2003, 12:16 AM
Pathogens are always present, there is simply no way to erradicate. What occurs is that the relative health of the turf is such that the turf is outgrowing the pathogens attacking it.
Pathogens are eliminated by the hot composting process - all of them. At least the Federal Government thought so when they developed their weekly testing regimen for compost manufacturers. The acceptable limit is "none detectable" for week after week after week after week for about 25 weeks. But pathogens can return by many means so don't count them out. They live in the balance.

The process is not as simple as outgrowing the pathogens. Pathogens are out competed for food, poisoned, consumed, partially consumed, and given diseases by the beneficial microbes and macrobes in the soil. Fortunately Mother Nature is in charge of the process. If there was a general problem with the process, we would all be dead or else we'd be standing a hundred miles deep in dinosaur poop and bones. My approach is to keep the pathogens and harmful insects outnumbered or diseased to the point where the beneficials easily out compete.

The real question, and one that has not been answered is, with organics, when is a saturation reached and the effects of such? Just because a chemical, derived to be considered organic, and safe, does not mean a harmful level cannot be reached. Essentially, what is a safe limit? I am interested empirically based answers. I disagree that this is the real question. I believe the real question is this: If you have a potential client asking how much you would charge to do an organic program, do you know what tell him?

I'm not trying to knock your question. It's valid and worthy of its own thread, but this thread is about something else.

SWD
09-05-2003, 07:31 AM
Yes, actually I do know what to tell him/her.
My clients frequently ask questions, a great deal of which are very specific.
I provide answers based upon desired outcomes including prices.
The reason I use more synthetics than organics is due to the level of maintenance I perform to achieve the desired result demanded by my clients.
I typically approach most problems culturally, correcting growing conditions, changing turf species to a better adapted variety, altering irrigation cycles, etc.
The reason for the synthetics is based upon a more rapid response than organics.
When I was building and maintaining golf courses, I utilized both organics and synthetics.
To date, my preferred organic fert is Earthworks, followed by Milorganite. I have used Ringer, Sustaine, Greensand, seaweed extract, kelp extract, have tried introducing microbes and macrobes for maintenance of both C3 and C4 turfgrasses.
There is a place for organics, I have and will continue to utilize them. Will organics ever replace synthetics? Now that is a good question for another thread.

trying 2b organic
09-27-2003, 12:50 AM
I am searching for suppliers and going over price lists for organic fertilizers. Here on Vancouver Island I am looking at about 30 dollars per 50 pound bag. I would love to be able to use feed store stuff and being made aware of the cost of the bulk materials makes me realize the incredible markup that the brand names have. I know I cannot apply corn meal due to the fact that it does not come in pellet form. I am paying 5 times the cost simply to have it in a form that makes it profitable for me to apply with my broadcast spreader. However, I was wondering if i could cut my expensive pelletized organic fert with alfalfa pellets. Would that be legit? Are the pellets the same size so it would spread and mix evenly. If I could find a way to lower my costs I could sell more organic fertilizer programs. Oh, and I want to sell lime but I need a good pH tester. Hanna the best?
ty everyone.

Dchall_San_Antonio
09-27-2003, 05:21 PM
Alfalfa pellets come in sizes from horse and cattle feed down to hermit crab and goldfish feed. See if you can find a real mill, not just a feed outlet, and ask them what they can do (or find) for you. Show them what sized pellets you're trying to get down to. If they are already buying products from the same manufacturer, they might not even charge you extra to get what you're looking for. They might want you to buy a pallet at a time, but if it's the right sized stuff, a pallet at a time is just about right.

As you should already know, whirly type spreaders can usually distribute larger pellets than drop spreaders. Get a bag of the smallest pellets already handy at the feed store and see how it flows with the equipment you already own.

Some homeowners have experimented with mixing dry sand in with the corn meal and it flows better. Corn meal by itself sometimes sticks to itself and won't flow, but when mixed with sand it usually does.

morturf
09-29-2003, 10:48 PM
I have posted many times that i use Milorganite....and a lot of it 80+ tons last year. I wondered if you Texans have used Houcanite?? Did I spell that right? You seem to be very cool with the use of this type of product so I am asking. Thanks for your information
Mike






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Dchall_San_Antonio
10-01-2003, 10:56 AM
I just found out about Hou-Actinite a couple months ago. Apparently they've been around awhile. A sales rep came to talk about it at an organic gardening meeting I go to. He came across to me as a slick sales guy. The market he was speaking to was the ranchers and farmers in the audience. Hou-Actinite caters to huge bulk agricultural buyers - like truckloads and railroad cars of product. I also found out that some organic fertilizer manufacturers will buy a couple thousand pounds and mix some into their products.

Chris Wagner started this thread and mentioned that Milorganite was a very slow release fertilizer. I don't know what he means by slow release, but my new next-door-neighbor used a commercial brand organic fertilizer that has Hou-Actinite in it. He was convinced it didn't do anything, and I would have agreed with him, until last week. He applied it in the spring and his lawn looked very weak until last week (late September). That is WAAAAaaaaay too long to wait for results. I use corn meal and that takes my soil 3 weeks to digest and turn things green and dense. And I thought 3 weeks was a long time.

So if I seem cool about using Hou-Actinite or Milorganite, part of it is because Hou-Actinite is very hard to find unless you own a ranch; Milorganite is available, but I don't know anyone who uses it (or Hou-Actinite); and I still am not entirely sure of how the product works with the soil microbes. One thing I do believe it that the complete benefit and how it is achieved is not known to everyone. I believe there is something about the extreme heat treating process that makes them work differently from the simple digestion that takes place with the vegetative organic fertilizers.

I think I'll do a quick bit of research and start a new thread to talk about the use and performance of Milorganite type products.

trying 2b organic
10-01-2003, 12:46 PM
David that would be great. Im starting to offer organic programs and have spent a week on researching Milorganite which I think is a good product but am not sure what the gross out factor will be for customers who have not done the research. So I may have a back up product if I do buy Milorganite. Also Milorganite has no K. So i dont know if i should do one app with Milorganite then an app with something with K or if i should try to mix some potash into the Milorganite.

I've been looking hard for the N-P-K of alfalfa and am getting a wide range of answers. I need to know this. I am then going to source out rabbit food? which will be bagged pellet form of alfalfa and use this as my summer application of organic fertilizer. Does that sound ok to you guys? ty so much for the help.

Grassmechanic
10-01-2003, 01:01 PM
Just an FYI - I've used a product in the past called Opti-Mil. I believe it was made by Milliken Chemical Co. Anyways, it is a blend of Sand-Aid, Milorganite and Sunflower Ash. It's analysis was 3-1-4. I used it on greens that had a low CEC. Also, IMHO, Sustane is better than Milorganite. It hasn't been subjected to high heat like Milorganite. It does have an odor, so beware. Sustane is available in the following analysis: 5-2-4, 5-2-10, and my favorite 18-1-8 with Nutralene.

trying 2b organic
10-01-2003, 01:23 PM
Mike, which has an odour, Milorganite or Sustane? What are the possible disadvantages of the high heat processing for Milorganite? ty
btw i found 50 lb bags of rabbit food for 12 bucks which compares favorably to the 30 dollar bags of vegtable based organic fert. available. Can i really use it? Ill test it first but I cant find a reason why at least one of my 4 apps cant be with this "rabbit food".

(rabbit food is pellet form alfalfa)

Grassmechanic
10-01-2003, 09:23 PM
T2BOrg - Sustane has the odor. The high heat treatment that is done to Milorganite also kills the beneficial bacteria. I've used both Milorganite and Sustane, and I believe Sustane is better than Milorganite, if your customers can take a little odor.

Chris Wagner
10-01-2003, 11:36 PM
I would submit that Milorganite has an odor too. I've never worked with Sustane, but compared to the "regular" fertilizers, I don't think there is any argument that Milorganite has an "earthly" scent.

Fortunately, after a day or two, that scent is gone.

Grassmechanic
10-02-2003, 07:03 AM
Oh, I agree that Milorganite has an odor. But if you've smelled Sustane, you'd think Milorganite smelled like roses. And it lasts a couple of days, like Milorganite.

soccer911
11-18-2005, 03:05 PM
Im looking to get hold of some Hou-Actinite, but cant find it. Anyone know where I can order some?

Thanks

Bluefin
11-19-2005, 09:43 AM
Here are the real basics to organic fertilizers/amendments:

1. Organic fertilizers stimulate/increase microbial populations, activities and diversity.
2. There is no "saturation" point for organic fertilizers. If the materials are reletively high in N (i.e. a low C/N ratio), you can put as much as you want down....within economic limits.
3. Unless the materials are plant derived, they will smell to a certain degree.
4. The one big pitfall to organics is the low N content requiring higher application rates, bulkiness etc.
5. The lower the C/N ratio, the quicker the microbial stimulation.
6. The more microbial activity/diversity, the more natural mineralization will occur releasing/recycling nutrients more efficiently.
7. The more microbial activity, the more competetive pressure on the relative smaller populations of pathogenic bacteria and fungi resulting in less pesticide usage.
8. Remember to compare price based on percent nitrogen....not price per bag. This is the one biggest problem with a number of lawn care people.

I've got more, but not enough time right now.

Eden's Gardener
11-27-2005, 08:56 PM
2. There is no "saturation" point for organic fertilizers. If the materials are relatively high in N (i.e. a low C/N ratio), you can put as much as you want down....within economic limits.
Well, i've heard that if you overdo it, things will sort of lock up for awhile till it all settles out. But there is no burn like with chems.

3. Unless the materials are plant derived, they will smell to a certain degree.

And chemical fertilizers don't smell? I generally go no fish with my new clients as to not scare them off right away, but fact is, i think it greens up nicer.

4. The one big pitfall to organics is the low N content requiring higher application rates, bulkiness etc.

Now, I'm not the expert here - but my prof once told me that in a truly organic program, the actual amount of nitro per pound/app is not important. Your microbes are actually generating it by their very nature of existence. Yes, a boost will give the green look, but you don't need to match the ratio as in chem appl.


8. Remember to compare price based on percent nitrogen....not price per bag. This is the one biggest problem with a number of lawn care people.

I think if you can get past #4, with a better explanation than I gave, you'll be past #8. Basically, corn meal does the same thing as the fancy packages - and its N is pretty low. Feed the soil, then it feeds the plants.

If your customers can handle it, a monthly spray with a fish emulsion based "compost tea" will also give you some greening. But then you have to listen to how many cats in the neighborhood came for a camp out for a few nights. :eek:

I used to work retail and sold the stuff everyday to homeowners. Now, I use it myself on clients' yards, so I do have some product knowledge - but my technical comparisons to the chem way is limited as I've never used. OK - a long long time ago I used the Scotts 4 step program one year. My ex thought the yard needed to look like the golf course. Which, we all know, isn't all that good of a thing.

Bluefin
11-28-2005, 08:29 AM
Continuously maintained organic lawns will certainly require less N due to the mineralization rates of high microbial activities. However, there is a point of diminishing returns and turf, especially the newer more aggressive varieties require high levels of N to perform properly. Microbes do not just produce N just because of their "existance". That is silly. Microbes release N and other nutrients locked up in residual organic matter during the mineralization process. When you consider that over time there is a certain amount of leaching, volatilization, denitrification, immobilization and, in some cases, clipping removal.....there needs to be an input of N and if you want the high powered, aggresive, dark colored turf....you need higher levels of N....even organic N. If you are maintaining a minimal input lawn/property then low organic N applications of less than 2.0 lbN/M/year may suffice. If you are maintaining a high caliber lawn organically, then it would require 4-6 lbN/M/year or more....particularly with a bluegrass or bermudagrass lawn. I did not go to the school of hard knocks....I recieved a Ph.D. in agronomy from the University of Illinois. www.proturfconsulting.com

Eden's Gardener
11-28-2005, 09:25 AM
I didn't mean that N just oozed off their "bodies", I meant due to the normal and natural things that microbes do, N is produced. Silly. I just tend to simplify my explanations - used to dealing with homeowners who don't understand, or care to in many cases, the technical explanations. I've not ever used the higher nitro on lawns, but then, as I said, a lawn that is too dark green is potentially in a stressed situation anyway - per my professor at college - I didn't get my phd, but I did take hort program, thank you. So, my job as a professional horticulturist, is to educate my consumers, in layman's terms they can understand and relate to, and work with nature - which does not include removal of clippings, therefore another source of replenishing N - as you stated. Sometimes, there is something besides N lacking that keeps it a paler green anyway. Throwing synthetic N down does leach - other organic trace nutrients don't very rapidly (such as Phos.) - and organic N should be ionically charged and hold to the soil - not leach - until the plant needs it and the roots attract it.
Sorry to offend or oversimplify. Just repeating what some of the experts down here in TX have taught me and how I have learned to explain them. I think the maintenance of some pretty large corporate sites have proven that you don't need the high nitro ferts to give good results. You may wish to look at J. Howard Garrett's projects such as the old Frito Lay corporate campus as well as Johnson and Johnson. Some buildings may have changed ownership and he's got others, too, but while he was in charge, they were 100% organic and beautiful. And it is my understanding that even organically maintained golf courses are able to stabilize an acceptable level of greenness without high N. I'm just not sure I agree with you. But then this is TX not the north and perhaps bluegrass and as you suggested the higher forms of Bermuda are hungrier than St. Aug and the Tiff varieties that typically grow down here. Personally, I suggest the native Buffalo grass to clients replacing lawns or installing new ones. After the first season, no additional water or fertilizer is needed - unless we have a drought like this summer - and I know that kills your lawn care biz's trip schedule, but I am usually working with conservation types. They'll pay me to work on their flowerbeds of native flowers, do the occasional fertilization and they usually cut the grass once a month themselves. Different client base I guess. :)

Bluefin
11-28-2005, 09:43 AM
Turfgrass clippings represent a "recyclable" source of N....not an additional source. All organic nitrogen is eventually mineralized to ammonium after which it can then be taken up by plants and even re-immobilized by the microbial population. The problem with communicating with laymen is that a lot of truth is lost in translation and can cause future confusion. Organic nitrogen is not "ionized" and stays in the soil profile due to physical contstrants for the most part and electrical attraction to a lesser degree. Once the organic N is mineralized to ammonium, it then can be adhered to negative cation exchange sites from clays or humates. The ammonium can also be nitrified to nitrate. The use of buffalograss and other low-maintenance, low input turfs is really a great idea that I am totally in support of. However, not all situations lend themselves to that quality of turf. Northern low maintenance is similar using sheeps and hard fescues for ultra-low maintenance turf.

nocutting
11-28-2005, 10:52 AM
Turfgrass clippings represent a "recyclable" source of N....not an additional source. All organic nitrogen is eventually mineralized to ammonium after which it can then be taken up by plants and even re-immobilized by the microbial population. The problem with communicating with laymen is that a lot of truth is lost in translation and can cause future confusion. Organic nitrogen is not "ionized" and stays in the soil profile due to physical contstrants for the most part and electrical attraction to a lesser degree. Once the organic N is mineralized to ammonium, it then can be adhered to negative cation exchange sites from clays or humates. The ammonium can also be nitrified to nitrate. The use of buffalograss and other low-maintenance, low input turfs is really a great idea that I am totally in support of. However, not all situations lend themselves to that quality of turf. Northern low maintenance is similar using sheeps and hard fescues for ultra-low maintenance turf.
Hi Bill, Thank You for takeing the time to put this into perspective........:waving:

NattyLawn
11-28-2005, 08:25 PM
[QUOTE=Eden's Gardener]

3. Unless the materials are plant derived, they will smell to a certain degree.

And chemical fertilizers don't smell? I generally go no fish with my new clients as to not scare them off right away, but fact is, i think it greens up nicer.


If your customers can handle it, a monthly spray with a fish emulsion based "compost tea" will also give you some greening. But then you have to listen to how many cats in the neighborhood came for a camp out for a few nights. :eek:

EG, Here's some info on why to switch from emulsion to hydrolysate:

http://www.planetnatural.com/site/xdpy/kb/fish-fertilizer/

Also, there's an beneficial anaerobic bacteria called Gro-Biotix that I used this fall in a liquid app that when mixed with fish, (tea, molasses, etc.) in equal amounts, eliminates the fish smell and leaves a apple cider like aroma...Good stuff...

Eden's Gardener
12-14-2005, 08:26 PM
I'll check it out, thanks.

JWTurfguy
12-18-2005, 01:19 AM
Hey, Bluefin....how long ago did you teach at UMass? I worked with a guy who graduated from there (probably 15 years ago). His degree was in Turfgrass Science and he went on to build and maintain a number of courses here in CT. Does the name Jon Festa ring a bell?

Bluefin
12-18-2005, 09:59 AM
The name rings a bell. I was at Umass for almost 25 years. Before that URI and Univ. of Illiniois. He must have taken my courses.....I'm sure he'll remember me.

Bill

DUSTYCEDAR
12-18-2005, 11:01 AM
there seems to be some smell with whatever u apply at some point
i have used orange mask over the years to cover up offensive smells and i know a company that used mint mask also
i came across a bubblegum mask this year and it seems to work nicely

JWTurfguy
12-21-2005, 10:39 PM
Bluefin,

Jon (your time-keeper in class, according to him) says hello.

He's currently the head groundskeeper for the Bridgeport Bluefish (minor league baseball). He saw your site and plans on dropping you a line sometime.

Shane