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How badly must you need compost?

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by Newby08, Mar 11, 2008.

  1. Newby08

    Newby08 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 277

    OK, I know some of you are going to think I have not learned a thing :hammerhead:, but I need to know for a fact.

    I understand that compost is needed to provide food for microorganisms and organic matter to the soil. But... could you get away with only using a CT on the already existing soil? or is there not going to be enough stuff there already to survive? I know it depends on the history of the soil. But lets look at a few examples.

    1) New construction where they have taken the top soil and just left good ole red clay.

    2) Established "healthy" lawn that has been using synthetic chemicals for a while.

    3) Established "healthy" lawn that has not used chemicals other than when needed.

    4) An established lawn that has not used chemicals other than spot treatment but is still pretty healthy. We mostly have bermuda and it generally takes care of itself if they kept it cut right.

    5) Just a plane old lawn that has a mixture of everything but should be able to reclaim pretty well.

    The reason I'm asking is that it seems that this is going to be a pretty labor intensive process and here at the beginning of doing organics seems to take a long time to perform. Lets say that i get 40 customers the first month... that means I'll have to do 40 treatments of compost... is it that important to have the compost down right away?

    - thats a lot of compost... how am i suppose to transport/store all of that?
    - thats a lot of time and work, I got all these people that need it done. Is this even pheasable?
    - it doesn't look like its going to be a cheap process. I know to charge but is it going to possibly push some people away?

    any thoughts or experiences on how you handle this and how you apply the compost would be greatly appreciated.

    thanks, :D
  2. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,308

    CT soil drench without food = no good
  3. Newby08

    Newby08 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 277

    well that sucks, so what is the best most effecient way to put down the compost? I've heard some people say that using a 5 gallon bucket and your hand works fine but that seems very time consuming. I also have seen the compost spreaders but don't want to have to spend the money right away. I wander if i can gerry rig an old spreader to see if that will work? I think I might try that, I'll let y'all know what I have found.
  4. NattyLawn

    NattyLawn LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,643

    You're probably going to get a lot of different answers to these questions. I don't feel you need to add compost, but I use a lot of fert and soil amendments that I have a PG to help me do. It saves my back.

    1. Your looking at 3 years to get that soil right. If you don't want to topdress, pound it with 20lbs of organic fertilizers twice in the spring and twice in the fall. Spray tea in the spring, and fall. Add food substrates for the tea to survive.
    2. Soil test. You might have a little bit of drop off if switching from synthetic to organic. You want to re-introduce the biology. Organic based fert and tea should do the trick.
    3,4, and 5. Tea

    Disclaimer: I don't deal with southern turfgrasses.
  5. Newby08

    Newby08 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 277

    Are these steps the steps that you take during the first year or so of your clients? If so you say that you want to build up the soil, does the fert give the necessary food for the microorganisms to thrive? I was always told you needed to have the compost as a good transition. If the ferts will work also by supplying the existing soil with the proper nutrients for the microorganisms to survive then I don't see how it could be too much different other than it will take more time for the soil to be built up enough.
    Looks like you use a lot of tea also... are the treatments spread out through the year or do you have a certain time that you like to put them down?

    thanks for the input,
  6. Newby08

    Newby08 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 277

    another question... how many sq ft can i get out of about 1 yard of compost at 1/4" thick? Anyone know?
  7. wallzwallz

    wallzwallz LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 361

    1296 sq ft, is the math of it, I believe, but find it hard to believe you would get more than 7-800 sq ft. 1/4 inch even, spread by hand, on grass is probably near impossible.
  8. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    Kiril was right. No sense in starting a population of anything without feeding it. The actual truth is that you do not need a magical number of 1/2 inch or even, 1/4 inch coverage to accomplish your goal.

    You need something to feed the Microbes. If you think about it , it will make sense. A banquet may go to waste right now anyway.

    No need to kill yourself over getting 'x' number of cu.yd. of compost per k., just get something down to create a hospitable environment for bacteria/archaea to establish. That is what you are spraying down, so that is what you want to feed.

    those bacteria/archaea are the critters which will digest the thatch and transform it into grass food. The very first year. :) If there is more for next year, then you are surviving on thatch.

    The Lawn still looks dull?!? Add some urea and keep on truckin'.
    Soon NPK is a thing of the past. But: Most importantly of all is that - do not let the clients down. If you have to add 1/2 the npk they are used to - so be it.

    Next year it will be 1/4.
    Is the glass half full or half empty?
  9. Newby08

    Newby08 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 277

    so I don't necessarily have to use compost? I think thats what your saying. This then leads me into an area that I have only seen but not touched. I've tried to leave this to the guys who know there stuff until I felt that I was ready to tackle it. I guess I have prolonged it as much as I can.


    This I take it is what you mean by feeding the "critters." Now, the reason that I have tried to leave this to the more knowledgeable is that I couldn't tell you how many different kinds I've seen from bone meals to fish meals, etc. etc. The list from what I can tell just goes on and on. PLEASE tell me I am wrong, or that there is a simple way of knowing what meals are good for what purposes, or even better, they all do the same thing its just giving a balanced diet. Fish for dinner today, meat tomorrow, and don't forget your vegetables. I have a feeling I'm kind of pushing it though trying to be so simple with it all.

    Maybe I'm wrong all together... just when I thought I was just getting the hang of some of the basic basics.

    Thanks guys,
  10. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    I would make compost - 'job one'. I am just saying you do not need as much as 'x'(compost)/ k.

    You like milk now; and as you drink it, you grow to eat the fish, chicken and beef tomorrow. So do your critters build the necessary populations with the food available.

    Not every bacteria/archaea will be eating the grass clippings every week , but the populations you build with a - 'little' - bit of compost will live long enough to feed on the clippings. All living populations take time.

    The thinking of this product for that result- mentality - is what moved horticulture away from natural processes to begin with. When you work with natural processes you are not looking for instant gratification. but you can add it if you want it. That is the good thing :) The best of both worlds, however, you can't have your cake and eat it too. Not indefinately.

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