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Organic Lawncare - New Forum?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by yardmonkey, Aug 20, 2003.

  1. yardmonkey

    yardmonkey LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 340

    I've been meaning to put this idea out here for awhile - I wonder if it could be appropriate to start a new forum here for Commercial Organic Lawncare? More and more people are interested in this - probably customers are ahead of the industry so far. But there are more and more LCOs who do organic lawncare - some exclusively and some just as an option. This is going to be an increasingly large piece of the lawncare industry as time goes on. Even some of the chemical companies are starting to advertise organic services (many more of their chemicals are about to be outlawed). Various questions in this area come up here from time to time and there seem to be people here who are into this. Yet it is almost in direct opposition to lots of the standard industry practices, which I think causes a bit of a problem here. I haven't really seen a huge problem with this here but I think many people may be intimidated into just keeping quiet about organic lawncare on this forum. I think it is totally appropriate to discuss organic lawncare here, but I wonder if it might be better to separate it out to a separate forum.

    (I probably would not be interested in moderating it, but if that was the only way it would happen, I would. I don't know if the moderator would have to be an organic person, but if so, there may be plenty of people here interested)

    Anyway, I would like to see some responses here as to who all here does organic lawncare or is interested in it. And also what do people think of the idea of having a separate forum?

    What is meant by organic lawncare? Basically - no chemicals. No petroleum-based synthetic chemical fertilizers, no herbicides, no insecticides. Also, no bagging of the grass clippings. Its all about building and maintaining healthy soil in order to have a healthy lawn. This can be very challenging, but it is possible to have just as nice of a lawn (or even better) without the chemicals. May take some extra effort to establish it, but should be the same or less cost to maintain in the long run. On one hand, the principles used in organic lawncare are not new, but on the other hand, applying these principles to maintaining nice lawns at today's standards is still a developing science. Lots to learn... and this could be the place for those interested to exchange info......
  2. Dchall_San_Antonio

    Dchall_San_Antonio LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 327

    I wholeheartedly agree with you. I'm new to this list and not a pro, but I am a homeowner using 100% organic materials and methods with resounding success. I think a separate forum where the organic oriented pros can go "in private" for advice and tips would be a tremendous benefit for them all. That way the synthetic apologists on the list could go about their business and not have to feel like they have to defend the synthetic industry every time organics is mentioned.

    There are some mis-perceptions I've found in searching this list for organic topics.

    1. First of all, I think we all know what organic fertilizers are. They are the ones that are not made from salty chemicals like ammonium sulfate. They are made from ground up dead things like corn meal, corn gluten meal, cottonseed meal, alfalfa meal, soy meal, milo meal, canola meal, feather meal, leather meal, blood meal, bone meal, etc. These are all the same ingredients as in dog food but without the supplemental salt and fats.

    2. Organic fertilizers are not more expensive than synthetics. The retail material cost is roughly the same per square foot of turf as Scotts Turfbuilder. You just need to find the right source. Hint: feed stores are easy to find in every city and farm community in the US.

    3. An organic program is not more expensive than a chemical program. Quite often the fertilizer you use doubles as a fungus preventer/eradicator or a weed seed preemergent controller. So you can eliminate those expensive extras from your program. Plus with organic materials, there's just no need to tend to it all the time. No aeration and no dethatching required.

    4. Organic methods and materials do not take 3 years to establish. They take about 5 minutes per 1,000 square feet to establish. Results often explode in 3 weeks but now that you know that, you can apply the materials 3 weeks before "normal" so you're on time with everything.

    5. With organics you do not have to tolerate substandard turf appearance for any amount of time. If the results are not readily apparent in 3 weeks, you did something wrong. Again, you apply the materials 3 weeks early and everything should be okay. In my area it is not at all uncommon to see the yard of the month being 100% organic.

    I'd like to see some discussion on such an organic forum about whether you need a pest applicator's license to apply a material like corn meal for fungus control. If you use it as a fertilizer at 10-20 pounds per 1,000 do you need a permit? If you use it as an antifungal agent at 20 pounds per 1,000 do you need a permit? Same question for corn GLUTEN meal used as a fertilizer (10-20 pounds per k) or as a preemergent weed seed control (40 pounds per k). What about a license to apply "harmless" beneficial nematodes?

    And how do you handle it when no organic materials or methods will work? Apparently there is a weed in the north called creeping charlie that is difficult to handle even with nuclear bombardment. What about nutgrass?

    How are aerated compost teas being brewed, marketed, and used? Are you testing them for microbial counts before spraying? Are you using a standardized process? Aerated compost tea is probably the next big profit center for organic pros.

    I think organic turf management is a coming thing. A greens-keeper friend of mine (who led me to this list) started organics this year on a golf course in Canada and is thrilled with the improvements over previous years. Like I said, results are immediate, not 3 years from now.
  3. Popsicle

    Popsicle LawnSite Member
    Posts: 189

    I'd be interested. I have more and more clients asking about organic service. It is a huge movement around here.
  4. mower_babe

    mower_babe LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 790

    I would be interested in seeing pix of a lawn maintained organically for weeds, etc. And a description of what is being applied. Anybody have pix?
  5. woodycrest

    woodycrest LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 435

    Heres a before shot...this green was hard a rock, with many weeds, and a terrible putting surface...

    four 2002.jpg
  6. yardmonkey

    yardmonkey LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 340

    I have no pictures. (got to get a digital camera someday) But I can tell you this - someone could post dozens or hundreds of pictures to show you that organic lawncare does not work, and someone else could post dozens or hundreds of pictures to show you that organic lawncare can produce amazing results and someone else could post pictures to show that chemical/industrial lawncare does not work and someone else could post any number of pictures to show that chemicals make great lawns.
    When we are talking about the commercial side of it there is always the factor of what the customer will pay for. I'm still having a hard time with some customers, but it is possible to just position yourself as doing only organic lawncare and then everyone who wants you to work for them will at least be open to the ideas. But still there are many options. For some lawns - there may be nothing special to do. If the grass is healthy and well-established, there should be no weeds and no reason for there to ever be any problem with weeds. Other lawns may need a lot of work - maybe lots of compost needs to be worked in or applied as topdressing. Maybe there are tons of weeds to deal with. Maybe to get things under control quickly would be expensive, maybe its OK to take a long-term approach. Every lawn is different, even in areas where all the lawns have the same type of grass.

    There are now dozens of books on organic lawn care and they were all written by people who have done it and seen it. (and there are pictures) Its hard to see it from where most people are in the industry - but the organic way is not some new, wacky, unproven, experimental thing - this is how things have always been. What is wacky is that we now all think that a nice lawn requires all kinds of toxic chemicals to be dumped on it continuously. Multiplied by millions of lawns - this is a problem - and it is the responsibility of those in this industry to solve it.

    I may be a bit on the hardcore side of this. I want all the chemicals to stop now. But of course that isn't going to happen. And it may be appropriate to use some chemicals in some cases from time to time. And people may choose to apply these ideas in different ways. I just hope that people can start to see some new possibilities.

    One thing is for sure - this will be a BIG part of the lawncare industry from now on.
  7. woodycrest

    woodycrest LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 435

    I applied approx 15 lbs of cracked corn in early may(this year) and this course gets very little water. The green is colonial highland bent grass.
    A picture is worth a thousand words..

    1977212 likes this.
  8. yardmonkey

    yardmonkey LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 340

    Wow, that's interesting - cracked corn.
    Corn gluten meal seems to be the hot new thing (didn't do anything for me on the lawns I used it on - maybe just timing) but agricultural corn meal is available and I think some people have been using corn products as fertilizer for a long time. Cool pictures.
  9. xpnd

    xpnd LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 378

    Here is a read from TDA. You do not need a liscense to apply fertilizer, CGM or otherwise, in the state of Texas however you can net a hefty fine from the state if you are observed to be overspraying fert on concrete areas and not blowing it back into the turf before you leave the site.

    ANY product that you apply to a customers turf and or landscape and or concrete in a "for hire" status that you are claiming to have any herbicidal, pesticidal or fungicidal properties requires a license issued either from TDA or Structural. This includes and is not limited to acetic acid otherwise known as vinegar, CGM as a pre emergent or fungus treatment or any of the natural occuring pryretheins or nicotinic acid. If you are applying a product that is intended to control weeds disease or pests you need to be liscensed. It doesn't matter weather it is organic, purchased from Lesco or off the shelf from Wally World a liscense is required.

    As far not being more expensive than a traditional program. You couldn't convince me of that on The GardenWeb. Spreading 40lbs of CGM per K of turf translates to about 250lbs of product for the average size lawn. To do any one of my acre+ sites I would only need 1680lbs of CGM that lasts a maximum of 8 weeks. I'll take my Pre-M in 85 gallons of water that lasts 150-180 days.
  10. dvmcmrhp52

    dvmcmrhp52 LawnSite Platinum Member
    from Pa.
    Posts: 4,205

    Cracked corn ......Huh.....I would definitely be interested in such a forum.I've already learned something.

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