Thread: Organic's
View Single Post
Old 08-20-2003, 03:00 PM
Dchall_San_Antonio Dchall_San_Antonio is offline
LawnSite Senior Member
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: San Antonio, Texas
Posts: 330
I think you are all wise to be wary. I was just trying to add the background info that some of you clearly were looking for but didn't have.

I'm self taught on organics, but who isn't. You don't just go to college to learn about organic gardening. It ain't taught. Ever since WWII when the explosives industry found itself needing a way to stay in business, the government, universities, and industry have worked together to ensure that synthetic chemicals were sustained at NUMBER 1 in front of the consumer's eye. So to learn about organic gardening, you really have to do your own research.

I believe there will never be as much science behind organic gardening as there is with chemicals. The reason for that is there's no money in it. Corn meal and alfalfa are literally dirt cheap in bulk. A sack of dirt and a sack of corn meal cost the same. There are thousands of farmers growing it and thousands of mills grinding it. Bayer, Ortho, and Monsanto cannot compete so they market in their own way through the government and universities. That's my government conspiracy theory.

I do listen to Bob Webster. He's good but he's in the business of selling expensive brand-name products at 6x what the basic ingredients cost at retail. I believe organic turf can cost the same and look the same as synthetic fertilized and maintained turf. In fact, I also believe that the second year the costs drop dramatically for organic due to the build up of beneficial microbes in the soil that protect the plants from insects and disease. Some of you are leaning toward organic lawn maintenance. Some of you have made the leap. Different states have widely differing regulations governing what you can do with a bag of stuff, so some will find it easier to make a move.

Milky spore disease is being pushed to the back of the rack in favor of beneficial nematodes, at least in the South. As I said, the BN work overnight against a host of insects. I should say that you need a host of BN to work against a host of insects. The little blue sponges have a variety of BN to serve you. BN must be kept refrigerated before use and they do have a 90 day shelf life.

Of course I live in the heat, but I'll give you a sample of my personal year long program for organic turf maintenance. Everyone is different so you can either adjust or toss my thoughts out completely. The point of me doing this is to show you that there is not much in the way of extra money in organic turf maintenance. My situation is I live in San Antonio, TX. My raw soil is crushed limestone rubble (pure white as the driven snow) from 0-18 inches deep on top of solid limestone. My neighborhood is in full shade of live oak canopy that spreads for a mile or more in all directions. The dominant grass here is St Augustine species. Bermuda is choked out by the St Aug as is buffalo grass. Bermuda can be grown if mowed at 1/2 to 1 inch. Fungal problems usually scare away the zoysia growers. One week of fungus in zoysia gives you a 5-10 year recovery period.

January - do nothing
February - fertilize with corn meal at 10-20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Insect control with beneficial nematodes. (our last freeze is in March sometime).
March - mow/mulch the spring leaves into the turf as needed.
April - mow as needed at 3 inches plus (always, Always, ALWAYS).
May - mow as needed.
June - mow as needed.
July - fertilize again with corn meal at the rate above.
August - mow as needed.
Sept - preemergent control with corn GLUTEN meal at 40 pounds per 1,000.
Oct - mow as needed.
Nov - yes, we still mow as needed.
Dec - mow/mulch the autumn leaves into the turf.

You'll notice that there are not many high profit months there. July and Sept are the only months where you both mow and fertilize. The reason I fert in Feb is that we have real grass growing, not just weeds, by late March. Organic fert needs to be in the soil and working three weeks before the soil temp gets above 50 degrees for it to start to work.

Notice also that there is no money to be made in aeration or dethatching. $$ With a happy microherd under the soil surface, thatch is literally eaten up by the microbes; and they also dig millions of aeration holes for you. Water penetration is much improved with a combination of deep watering and organic fertilizer.

So due to the lack of paying work involved, I don't see a wide acceptance in the professional turf management industry for organic care. You can do it but I would think you'd be embarrassed to charge more for it, or even the same, when you do less work. You'll have to make your money on mowing, leaves, and snow removal. I'm trying to be practical about this and provide as much education as I can for y'all to absorb and process. I'm certainly not going to come through the screen and twist anyone's arm to go organic. I just would like to answer a few questions and correct some fallicies I see here and abouts.

i have been using more organics but at the end of the day it smells like i rolled in a cesspool and the lawn smells for a week after application. other than that i have been getting good results
If you do what I do you never touch anything that smells remotely bad. I compost rats, squirrels, and possums with no hint of smell. My dog can't even find his own kill in my compost pile. If your organic materials smell bad, you'll lose customers. There are three reasons why most homeowners shy away from organic materials. One is the cost of the commercial brand names. I've solved that by shopping at the feed store. The second reason is the smell. They've bought manure at some time in the past and were embarrassed for weeks as every watering brought back the smell of fresh horse hockey. Spend the money and get real compost, not fresh manure. Third is that they once killed their lawn by over applying compost (or worse, manure). They were embarrassed again by having a dead lawn when everyone else had green lawn. Compost goes on at 1 cubic yard per 1,000 square feet MAXIMUM. Even then you have to sweep it off the grass blades to keep from shading out the grass. But I also think you don't need compost if you fertilize with organics regularly.
Reply With Quote
Page generated in 0.05404 seconds with 8 queries