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Can some one please help me?

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by NHLM, Nov 25, 2007.

  1. NHLM

    NHLM LawnSite Member
    from USA
    Posts: 7

    I need help going form TOTALLY chemical to TOTALLY organic. some of my customers have asked for organics and we just never did it. What is a good spring fert, summer fert, fall fert, winterizer. And also what are good productss to use for pre on crabgrass, and weed controls for dandelions?

    Thanks for the help.
  2. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,115

    Organic lawn care is pretty simple, it is about getting organic matter (Compost) in the soil and spraying with compost teas. As you get more experience you will find that you will want to buy a micrscope and carry it in your truck to check soils and disease issues. Its one hell of a ride.

    There is a group in the Northeast that has been doing it for some time (over 10 years) a couple of years ago they put a book together as a guideline to help people with the transition. they are called the Northeast organic farmers association, NOFA, although "farmers" is in the name the book covers, shrubs, lawns, acceptable fertilizers, etc. go to www.organiclandcare.net, I believe the book is around $20.00 (supports a great group that has done a huge amount of work) and is called: Standards for organic land care.

    Some of the people that wrote it, or sit on the board, are lawn care professionals that take care of some of the largest estates around the New York City, Connecticut area. We are talking big money and huge estates. One lawn care company, who will remain anonymous, has 2 estates that he charges $750,000.00 each a year to take care of and they are gorgeous, completely organic and some of the most beautiful property you would ever want to see

    Dr. Elaine Ingham is also a solid source for information on organic lawn care, she has written several books on organic lawn care but her speciality is the proper way to compost and how to make compost teas. You can find her information at www.soilfoodweb.com, this is an international company, they have offices in South Africa, Australia, Canada, Asia, Europe.
    Her work and company is a trusted source in the industry.
  3. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    First thing I would do is add a good organic fertilizer in the spring. It takes about 6 weeks to work into the soil. Mow the clippings back onto the lawn if you can. Too much water takes air , along with its N , out of the root zone. This coming year we are going to aerate right after Memorial weekend, overseed etc for the overirrigated lawns. Putting organic fertilizer or compost into the holes will hopefully give the roots some breathing room during the summer.

    Be careful of overfertilizing as you would overwatering. Too much Phosphorus starts blocking the intake of Fe, Cu, Mn and another that I can't remember right now. Iron is an element you want for the nice green color. Ultimately all you really need are earthworms and grass clippings once you have established a healthy stand of grass.

    There is no cure for dandelions except pulling them or spot spraying is not really that big a deal. Pre-m for crabgrass is supposed to be cornmeal but it is not 100% reliable. Closer to 80% after the 2nd year and perhaps little effect at all the first year. (so I've heard). Cinnamin bark does work on the crabgrass itself, and that is from personal experience.

    The best thing for crabgrass in lawns is to plant new seed in the spring to muscle it out. Just stay after building the turf and the soil, then many of these problems go away.
  4. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,115

    Great points smallaxe
    I had not heard about Cinnamon bark, interesting, can you explain the ingredients with a little more detail on dilution ratios. I assume that you make it up as a spray.

    Some companies just replace their synthetic fertilizer program with organic fertilizers. There are several ways to go and lots of opinions on the "the way" to do organic lawn care.
    The basics are: trying to dramatically improve soil health and fertility. One saying often used is, feed the soil, the soil feeds the plants.
    To begin the transition on a lawn, (my opinion):
    Soil test and soil bio-assay
    ask a lot of question about the test results, don't just do what it says but try to understand why the soils characterisics are that way and the best way to correct them.
    core areate
    spray compost tea
    apply a good finished compost
    repeat this for 3 fall seasons
    spray compost tes as the soil warms in the spring and continue until first frost
    spray compost teas (CT) every 2 weeks for 2 months, spray once per month after.
    bio-assay and soil test in the fall before the soil cools
    after translating the soil tests put together a program for next year and discuss it with the owner of the property.

    You are in effect, taking the lawn off of a "feed the plant" program (think quiting smoking) so you will probably have to use some of your synthetic practices the first year to keep a good appearance. This is allowed under the NOFA program just at drastically reduced rates, like 1lb per 1000 per year
  5. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    The cinnamin bark I got was a powder that you dust on wet crabgrass leaves. As long as it turned color there is enough moisture. Then it goes to work.

    As long as I am here I was just reading about a fellow who just uses compost tea and molasses spring and fall, then a monthly SBM app. during the summer. If the lawn is 'dead' then an aeration and compost tea should liven it up to actually digest the meal and clippings, as Bill stated in the last post.
  6. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,308

    Ditto to most of what Bill said. The only thing I would point out is yearly soil testing will most likely be a hard sell for residential and even some commercial clients. Soil tests can get expensive quick depending on what you need tested. You may want to look into getting the necessary tools to do the simpler tests yourself and leave the more complex testing for the labs if required.
  7. NattyLawn

    NattyLawn LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,643

    Norm Al would be proud of me:


    The Green Guardian will eliminate dandelions as well.
  8. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,115

    Good point about the cost of soil testing and doing it yourself.

    Setting your customers expectations is also an important part in any lawn care program. How "organic" does the customer want to be?

    I have seen a couple of lawn companies put together a cost analysis over 5 years and what the programs results are. It does cost more up front but at about 3 or 4 years you are at the same cost to the customer if they continued the synthetic fertilizer program. At around 3 to 4 years organic lawns kind of run on their own, there are fewer inputs at that point

    Escpecially if the cost of synthetic fertilizer is going to go up as much as some people say
  9. Gerry Miller

    Gerry Miller LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 504

  10. dtally

    dtally LawnSite Member
    Male, from Rock Hill, SC
    Posts: 82

    This is the website of the company who makes about 80% of the products I use in my organic lawn business. http://www.nutrientsplus.com. I have had great results with their product. Another source is http://www.organicplanthealthcare.com, they are located in SC and have a product called Urban Soil Conditioner™... it's out of this world.

    Dave Tally
    Organic Lawns™

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