Soil Structure

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by Smallaxe, Mar 23, 2011.

  1. OrganicsMaine

    OrganicsMaine LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 553

    I would say that yes, your theory with real thatch will work. However, as Kiril has stated, it won't work quickly enough. As I'm sure you know, thatch is just the beginning of many other problems with a stand of turf, and also the result of poor cultural practices. Just putting compost down won't do the job, especially if the layer is too thick. I would say that using sugar/molasses would work, but if you are trying to correct a problem, aeration would speed that process up a ton, in addition to a topdressing of compost. If the layer is super thick, triple aerate or power rake the lawn, then do your thing.

    As Kiril said, you need to address the thatch first, most likely using a mechanical solution to go along with your cultural practices.

    I'm also right there with you on the winter being sh*tty. We've been above 60 once this year. Last year I was out working for 3 weeks already. Nothing is ready here now.
  2. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,082

    I had separated the use of compost and the discussion of 'real thatch'... I had commented that compost would not help the reduction of real thatch and that we agreed on that point... That completed the discussion of compost at that point...

    Then I switched to a question dealing only with 'real thatch' and proceeded to ask a straight forward question in dealing with the thatch itself, i.e. "Sugars and thoroughly drying the surface, b4 watering again"

    That was the question put forth in the last post...

    "Is my theory valid or not?" ... :)
  3. OrganicsMaine

    OrganicsMaine LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 553

    I would say that your theory is valid. However, in the real world of keeping customers happy, then you may not get the results you need in a reasonable amount of time. By adding the aeration, I think that you could reduce that time and get it into the acceptable range. I would also double aerate it to really open it up, and it wouldn't hurt to add some aact to really jump start the process.

    Think warm sun and green grass!:)
  4. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,308

    To maximize the rate of decomposition you should not allow the thatch to dry much below field capacity. Other than that the "theory" is valid.
  5. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,082

    Thanks for the responses. .. :)

    Now that we have gotten rid of the 'real thatch', it would be nice to keep it under control and build the soil structure and CE capacity...
  6. ParadiseLS

    ParadiseLS LawnSite Member
    Posts: 76

    since you mentioned me....i take it for granted in this forum that either

    a) the people here are doing treatments and seeding and aeration, but not mowing, clean-ups and dethatching so much, in which case talking about irrigation and thatch (along with proper clean-up and mowing strategies) is kind of moot. my company does the whole shebang. so we certainly have a 'comprehensive program' if you wish to call it that. and i frequently receive contracts back where i disagree with the services requested by the customer and tell them i will switch one service for one that they need more seriously, or tell them that they either need to spend an extra $xyz to make their program sensible, or else i will just refund their $abc so they aren't throwing money away on results they will not get.

    or b) the companies are doing dethatching and everything else, in which case, i know they are pimping those services hard every Spring. do a clean-up, power rake the lawn, aerate, mulch all the thatch and leaves from the clean-up, plus throw in an application of granular dehydrated compost and fert. meals/CGM if you use're on the fast lane to a profitable season!

    furthermore, i think thatch and irrigation don't really apply to organics per se. they are issues that are handled very similarly in both the organic programs and the conventional programs. thatch: rake that crap up, aerate, add compost in the organic program, and speak to customer about mowing and irrigation habits for improvements. in the conventional program, rake it, aerate it, add fertilizer so as to spark surging grass growth taller and thicker, and talk to the customer about mowing and irrigation habits.

    well, the only difference there is that the organic program calls for compost to ensure long-term benefits that will ultimately prevent the conditions for thatch to build, whereas the conventional program is about correcting symptoms and getting the grass green and lush in time for the weekend. well, that is already the difference between organics and conventional programs. the existence of thatch hasn't really altered our mindsets about how to proceed with our programs. and the way to treat the short-term symptoms of the thatch are all the same. so what's to really talk about here?
  7. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,082

    I was addressing a specific issue about soil structure, not business models(yours or anyone else's)... You were simply an example of conversation with c2weech, that showed we should push our knowledge of the science a little further along... but you see how well that worked out... :)
  8. ParadiseLS

    ParadiseLS LawnSite Member
    Posts: 76

    ok, i re-read your posts. you want a) more comprehensive information to handle all possibilities. and you want some answers specifically about thatch.

    1. i think it's been said over and over, organics is about adapting and changing, so that's why there isn't a specific program you can apply one-size-fits-all. i use a broad program and make adjustments at my own discretion. is that a comprehensive program? yes. but it must be made clear that i have discretion for changing it.

    2. with regards to molasses, i don't think that speeds up thatch decomp. molasses is food. OM is food. if the thatch dries out it is going to be a feedlot for the bacteria. when you introduce sugars, it's like serving the bacteria chips and beer when you really want them to snack on the platter of veggies. yes, if the bacteria population expands, then that means more bacteria to feed on the thatch after the molasses is gone. but i don't think it would be necessary. maybe i will be corrected though, i honestly have not put too much consideration into this before.

    also, i think power raking and aerating is better margin and therefore better bussiness
  9. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,308

    That would be the general idea ... increase the microbial population density with the intent/hope that it will increase the rate of decomposition.
  10. ParadiseLS

    ParadiseLS LawnSite Member
    Posts: 76

    my problem with this is that, decomp on the soil surface is going to be fairly slow. finely mulched grass clippings decompose quickly because they are shredded into infinitesimally small bits. serious thatch is a woven bundle of dry crap sitting up on the surface. simply spraying some molasses, or suitable meals isn't necessarily going to make life wonderful for the microbes.

    when the thatch is a real *****, it is sitting up half an inch or more in the grass and microarthropods are going to have to shred that stuff. fungi can only attack it from the bottom to try to open it up for bacteria. if you're going to be spraying teas, molasses, meals, etc. i would think off the top of my head that a protozoa soup would be more beneficial as these little buggers will chew up the thatch and make it easier for the bacteria to get involved.

    let's just run through a cost example. let's say i'm dealing with 3000 sq. ft. of lawn with considerable thatch.

    power rake it: $30-50
    aerate it: $30-50
    mow the lawn, mulching thatch & grass at 3-3.5" tall: $20-30
    PACKAGE DEAL: $85 for one man hour

    customer responsibilities: give a deep watering to the lawn, a second in 3-4 days if lawn is not shooting up by about an inch at that time. instruct them going forward on proper irrigation and mowing techniques, and recommend compost and anything else that suits their particular situation.

    NET EARNED: $80 (lost $5 to gas for mower, aerator, dethatcher)

    so, run through a package dealing with teas/meals/molasses, etc. that would rectify the thatch problem within a week or two (customers probably don't want to hear about "in the long run..." they want a green, lush lawn at most within 3-4 weeks). so, what is the process, what is the cost?

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