Starting organic lawn care service, tips?

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by Ecoscapes, Mar 3, 2011.

  1. Ecoscapes

    Ecoscapes LawnSite Member
    Posts: 76

    Ive been in the landscape hardscape biz for about 8yrs now, started mowing a few lawns then got into hardscapes as the main focus of biz. After 6 +yrs of mostly hardscapes/stonework I'd like to get back into lawn care and do it organically. There seems to be a void in my area of organic lawn care services so it could be a great niche.
    Just wondering if anybody's got any tips on starting out? I already use organic fertilizer doing lawn installs and plantings, but thinking I need to come up with a program to offer folks who are interested. Would I need to do soil samples for all new lawn contracts? How do you get test results quickly? Seems like you'd get a soil sample and treat the lawn accordingly with organic materials and ferts., then what about the mower? Diesel mower run on bio-diesel? Propane? What do you all run? Thanks for any tips!
     
  2. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    There are many ways of looking at "Green" lawncare tools.
    The stink of a biofuel mower would not be the way to go, IMO... Groundup soy/corn meals shipped in from afar by Trucks, tractors, harvestors, seeders, from fields covered by Roundup/synthetic ferts doesn't really make 'Green' either...

    To start with, I believe one needs to drop the idea that, "Your lawn will look like kr@pp for a couple of years, but then you'll REALLY see the benefits!!!", mentality... That is stupid advertising, IMO...

    Reduced inputs and sensible cultural practices is a great place to start... It saves the client enough money that you have a budget for quick fixes on an 'as needed' basis...

    This also gives both you and the client to learn and adjust as you go... :)
     
  3. Ecoscapes

    Ecoscapes LawnSite Member
    Posts: 76

    Good points Smallaxe! Phase in an organic program over time vs telling customer its gonna be crappy for a couple years; that's such a good point, those chemicals practically work overnight, while organic fert. and compost is a gradual change, but so much more sustainable. I've always said the chem lawn is a lawn on steriods, looks great but it needs its drugs often. So the selling of an organic program and how you word everything is quite important!

    Biodeez, your right its probably not organic corn their using! Dang its gotta be better than propane, if I have to burn regular fuel when mowing lawns it kind of defeats the purpose of organic lawn care... must be a way -
     
  4. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    You can always get the old time push reel mower... OR talk them into a No-Mow type grass... :)

    The lawn on steriods, is a good analogy, in that you can see how much it reduces the "Health" of the turf.
    Healthy turf is able to survive all kinds of stress, disease, defiencies, etc... whereas many of the steroid lawns, can fall apart as the drop of a hat... This of course gives you another solution for a profitable problem... nod, nod, wink, wink...
     
  5. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,116

    Some of the basics are:
    start an aggresive seeding program
    Find a good source of local compost, someone that monitors temp's in the pile

    on most sites for 2 years in the fall, core aerate, overseed, spray compost tea, top dress with compost

    In your area you can probably get away with spring seeding with good to great results

    Carry compost and a bag of seed for open areas, you can be just like Emrile "BAMM"

    Monitor soil organic matter through testing, you need 2% to begin a program, 5% to 7% is the goal. Once you get the SOM up you can coast for a couple of years with teas to keep color and density

    Use compost teas or a kelp fish mix to relieve heat stress in the summer
     
  6. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    It seems like I discussed this with you b4 , but do you have a strategy for CG?
     
  7. jonthepain

    jonthepain LawnSite Senior Member
    from Raleigh
    Posts: 520

    with some clients, i use a "bridge program" (chem pre- or post- M as needed) until the lawn is thick enough to prevent weed germination (or at least prevent an acceptable amount of weed germination), and then manage similar to that outlined by ICT Bill.

    core aerate spring and fall
    topdress with cert. compost if client will go for it
    aggressive overseeding
    fish/kelp/molasses/C and V Tea solution once a month during growing season (timing is diff for cool and warm season grasses - we have both here.)

    clients seem happy with it; lawns look good, esp compared to neighbor's chemically treated lawns during summer heat stress.
     
  8. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    Do you believe that turf will 'mature' at some point, if allowed to grow naturally? That the core aerations and special treatments would become redundant?
     
  9. OrganicsMaine

    OrganicsMaine LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 553

    I have wondered that myself. However, after some thought, I came to the conclusion that it wouldn't. Mainly because a lawn is always changing. Weather conditions, usage, pest pressure etc., change from year to year. Even though we are trying to create the best environment, it still isn't in its natural environment, so it will always need some help. JMO
     
  10. jonthepain

    jonthepain LawnSite Senior Member
    from Raleigh
    Posts: 520

    "If allowed to grow naturally..." as in, in an open field or on the plains, no mowing etc.? Absolutely it will become mature imo.

    In a fescue lawn? According to my turf management profs at State, as the individual plants mature and grow old, they decline. Some will live longer than others, so you get clumps.

    So at the very least, the mature lawn would require overseeding.

    As OrganicsMaine said, the microclimate changes from year to year. But I think that "need" is a subjective term in this case - what is acceptable for one person is not for another, and may even change from front to back yard.

    For instance, I have bermuda and centipede in my front yard (approx 6000 sf) that I maintain for looks, so acceptable is much different than for my back yard, which is much larger, that I maintain for frisbee.

    The backyard I have not given input 1 in 12 years, (except for it's own clippings,) and it is acceptable to me. Sure, lots of broadleaf weeds in some areas, a mixture of fescue and bermuda and garlic, no crabgrass. However, it is only used for play and the occasional cookout.

    Full sun, sandy clay soil, with gray clay hardpan underneath, about 12" down.

    So zero input for 12 years, and I haven't seen much difference from then until now. More dandelions perhaps.

    So I guess what I'm saying is that whether or not aerations and treatments become redundant or not would depend on the turf species, the microclimate, the cultural practices, the use, and how we define "acceptable."
     

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