Agri-Growth International

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by Whitey4, Feb 1, 2008.

  1. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,080

    Good point and well put :) I get the impression that turf is an evil of the sustainable philosophy as well.

    I don't see grass as a 'monoculture' rather it is a 'colony'. The same as any bacteria will colonize and dominant an area, if given half a chance, grass does the same thing.
    The right grass in the right place will grow to the exclusion of all else once established.

    I am glad that Kiril and Tom are going to team up and simplify CTs etc. for the benefit of the forum, but I agree with Kiril's earlier statement that the goal is for our lawns to become self sustaining. I know that they can be, because as I have said before the best lawns in rural Wisconsin are not watered, fertilized, aerated, weeded with 2,4d, or mowed at regular intervals at the proper height. There is a long tradition of using the heavy iron rake in the spring however.

    The problem lawn care people face is hybrid grasses for color, too much water for lushness, too much fertilizer to be safe, then we start killing everything in the soil. Good for business, but terrible for lawns.

    The first step in organic switch over is to stop fertilizing in the spring rather just topdress with compost. Inexpensive, safe and simple.
     
  2. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,308

    While I agree that turf does have it's uses, and that water is my biggest gripe with turf systems, it is not the only input to consider.

    Turf is hands down the most resource intensive aspect of any landscape. Even if you take water out of the equation, you still have the ferts, pesticides, and labor inputs. Take the organic route, you make a bad situation a little better by reducing your inputs, but you still have them.

    This is why you will never get a truly sustainable system with traditional turf. If you use sustainable practices in your turf programs you can at least work in closer association with nature and reduce your synthetic inputs significantly if not entirely, and reduce your overall material inputs substantially. So organically managed turf can be loosely considered a "sustainable" system in that it is more sustainable than conventionally managed systems.

    With respect to turf being the only option, I'm not sure I agree. Any landscape that is not allowed to follow its natural course is in a state of controlled succession. I see no reason why turf is a more viable solution than trees/shrub/perennials that are regionally appropriate. In both cases your still controlling succession, the difference being one (trees/shrubs/perennials) is significantly more "sustainable" than the other (turf).

    The problem I feel starts with the building industry. Turf is a quick, cheap, and nearly instant landscape, which makes it very attractive to builders. It is not used because it is the "only" solution, but because it is the cheapest short term solution. Over the long term it is significantly more expensive to maintain than a landscape that consists primarily of trees/shrubs/perennials.
     
  3. PHS

    PHS LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 724

    I wouldn't agree with it being the only option either, that would be silly. I said that turf isn't necessarily a luxury landscape feature in other parts of the country like it is CA. I grew up there and was continually cutting out lawn areas and replacing them with trees/shrubs and I do the same thing here. I don't own a lawn service so I don't have a vested interest in keeping them. I was just offering a different viewpoint having lived and worked in both places but I can see you aren't interested in hearing any more so I'm just going to leave it at that.
     
  4. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,080

    In Wisconsin we have lots of misquitos and wood ticks. Keeping mowed turf or hardscape gives you a place to sit and relax without being buzzed too badly. Let the grass get too long and the morning dew will hatch a bunch to greet you in your morning excursion outside.
    The only other sensible option for a place to relax and play is the redneck patio of recycled carpets that get thrown out, but they don't stay clean very long. We don't like sand or wood mulch patios either.

    I say that turf is self sustainable here and will usually survive drought as long as it is the right grass for the right place. Summer dormancy doesn't hurt anything except the landowner's pride in his lawn. Water is not an issue here because it goes back into the water table. It becomes an issue when it carries pesticides and nitrates down with it.

    I sympathize with Kiril being in California and the Colorado River is mostly drained dry before it reaches S. CA. Seeing all the urbanites growing grass in the arid regions has always been foolishness in my mind. There I would agree that grass is not sustainable because there is no grass that grows there naturally. Or is there?

    [Actually I don't sympathize too much with people in S.Cal. because I am in Wisconsin right now watching the snow pile up and waiting for the rain to start and turn it all to ice.] :)
     
  5. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,308

    PHS, I'm just expressing my opinion based on what I have observed and learned over the years. Just because I disagree with you does not mean your input is not welcome or valued. In other words, don't take it personally.

    I don't live in SoCal, I'm in the central valley. Water is plentiful (surface and ground) and water waste is rampant. In fact, just about every residential and commercial property in this area has some turf associated with it, and almost without question, all new construction uses turf to some extent.

    I have spent most of my life on the East coast, in many different states ranging from NH to FL, so I am also familiar with a wide variety of landscapes in different regions. :)
     
  6. PHS

    PHS LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 724

    No I didn't take it personally. I just figured we use our properties differently that's all and no point arguing over it. I have some lawn area in the front yard where I like to play catch in the front yard with my kids and let my dog run around in the afternoons. I suppose I could extend the beds out and plant it entirely with shrubs and trees and play on the driveway and the street instead but it's not quite the same. About all I do is topdress the lawn a couple times times a year and mow in the leaves. I guess I don't loose too much sleep over that and have a hard time faulting my neighbor for wanting to do the same.
     
  7. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,448

    Waste water... now that is a new topic in this thread! I agree wholeheartedly that water is wasted in staggering amounts.... but that isn't the turf's fault. It's the people operating the valves!

    Drives me nuts to see my neighbors run their irrigation systems EVERY single night! When turf is properly irrigated, most of the water returns to the aquifers, and doesn't mean it has to carry chemicals with it either. It's the old "if this much is good, more must be better" consumer mindset. People putting down 5 lbs of N, or more, per 1k every year are just ignorant or stubborn. They also have lousy lawns that they throw even more chemicals at in an attempt to fix it... all problems they created in the first place.

    I see some people here going to white clover for ground cover. Good for the bees, doesn't need much N at all, and is very drought resistant. I wouldn't know how to maintain a clover lawn, but it's on the long list of things to learn more about.

    The whole green turf carpet is IMO a cultural thing, largely driven by companies like Scotts. Advertising can be a very strong cultural influence. Only 100 years ago engagement rings weren't always or even usually diamonds.... the DeBeers company changed that almost by themselves. Of course, in both cases, lush green grass and a flawless diamond both have appeal, they can be beautiful. Few things I find as enjoyable as just laying on lush turf and watching the clouds. It's a simple pleasure. It's easy to sell.
     
  8. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,308

    It see the problem as both the turf and the irrigation management. Turf is a high water use plant. Water waste is then compounded by poor irrigation design and management practices.

    I know exactly what you mean. Drives me batty too, especially right now around here when irrigation systems are running daily when it is raining. :hammerhead:

    I'm not sure I agree with this entirely, but then that is another topic. :)

    Agreed. In the case of PHS, where the lawn area(s) are actually being used, I can rationalize in my mind a reasonable amount of turf as long as it is managed properly. It is turf that gets little or no use, and large expanses of turf that I see as the biggest problem.
     
  9. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,448

    I have a very bad habit of thinking locally when I post here. We have sandy loam. It drains quickly. That means amoungst other things, that one has to mindful that anything you put down will leach faster here than it will in most other places. In addition, property sizes are quite small compared to national averages. If a front lawn has 3k of turf, that is HUGE! Only the largest corner lots are that size.

    My backyard is only about 4k, and half of that is planted with ornamentals and vegtable gardens. But I sure want that 2k of turf to look good for anything from badmitton to horeshoes, and just plain relaxing. I don't think my 3.5k of turf is wasting a whole lot of water, especially with a responsible irrigation program.

    The arboretum I work at doesn't irrigate these large tracts of turf. How would one propose to remove those large tracts of turf when it is an historical site? An old LI Gold Coast mansion, over 400 acres? Again, I am thinking locally... we just don't have much undeveloped real estate. Outside of the preserves, it's school athletic fields. Here, I just don't see turf as a water waster.
     
  10. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,308

    That is a good question. As potable water becomes more scarce, some hard decisions will have to be made. We are already seeing this in some parts of the country, where some cities are now requiring low water use landscapes, and many have water bans/restrictions in place. Tom is probably intimately aware of this problem living in Vegas. :)

    Do we need to be proactive with this issue? I think we do.
     

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