Wanting my company to go organic. need guidance.

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by smallstripesnc, Jan 4, 2014.

  1. smallstripesnc

    smallstripesnc LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 714

    Hello everyone,

    I have put a lot of thought and time into considering a 100% organic lawn program for my company and forgetting about the regular chemical methods. It seems a lot of company's go for a bridge program and only spot spray weeds with pesticides. I really think my area would benefit from a 100% organic company but its very hard for me to grasp all what's needed to go 100% organic and still deliver the results the customer wants which is a weed free healthy lawn and they don't want to wait years for the results either.

    I already know I can get organic fertilizer and corn gluten meal as a pre-emergent for weeds. What I can't find out is what to do for weed control. Since there is nothing currently that I can find that is selective it would have to be a non selective weed control method such as gardening vinegar and spot sprayed really carefully not to kill much grass. We mainly have fescue and bermuda and some zoysia grass.

    Also adding micro organisms into the soil is very important and seems to be what a organic lawn is all about. Building the soil vs putting chemicals out for a band aid. So compost tea seems to be the product of choice when putting out these micro organisms but it would be hard and expensive to make large quantities of this for my company. Any advice on a different method of adding this life to the soil?

    Any help would be appreciated! Any add anything else you may think would help me.
     
  2. RigglePLC

    RigglePLC LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 12,108

    Organic weed control? That is a toughie. I suggest organic fertilizer. Include corn gluten meal as a pre-emergent for weedy grasses.
    For broadleaf weeds it is more difficult--but think about the high iron products like Fiesta--and whatever else you can find.
    Killing big brown spots using vinegar may not suit most customers.
    For broadleaves you may wish to use carfentrazone (Quicksilver)--its about a hundred times safer than Weed-B-Gone...furthermore if you use it as a spot spray...you reduce the amount of chemical per acre to about 20 times less, (because you are only spraying the spots.) No odor and you don't need much--about a teaspoon per gallon.
     
  3. smallstripesnc

    smallstripesnc LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 714

    Thank you for the reply. Adios and fiesta seem to have good results if the label is followed correctly and of course healthy lawn practices are taking place such as mowing the correct height, watering the right time of day and deep watering not frequent, etc...Using a safer alternative like quicksilver and spot spraying may be a good option if absolutely needed. I'd like to be 100% organic if its possible but I know its not exactly easy to just swap a chemical dependent lawn to organic. From what I've read it takes time to fix the soil but the long term results are worth it.
     
  4. RigglePLC

    RigglePLC LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 12,108

    Two more suggestions. I had a customer that wanted an organic program. We agreed to ten minutes of hand weeding at each fertilizer service. Five times per year. Later he agreed to a bit of spot spray clean up in October, if it was low-toxicity.
    In addition...you may wish to add an overseeding each spring and fall with one of the extra-dense sports turf type of Kentucky bluegrass cultivars. Read the turfgrass seed ads very carefully. You want a variety that claims to be "very dense" and that claims to be resistant to poa annua invasion. Call your favorite seed company in Oregon and find out which of their grasses (in their opinion) would be most resistant to weed invasion.
    Bluestone for instance.
    http://www.mtviewseeds.com/downloads/datasheets/Bluestone.pdf

    Naturally, you have to charge the customer whatever it costs, and add your profit. Be sure to point out how your system is better than any other company.
     
  5. MRCo.

    MRCo. LawnSite Member
    Posts: 227

    Further to the organic angle, have you considered offering quiet / sustainable service? I have been selling Core equipment to commercial landscapers who can charge a premium for the more discreet service. Their customers also like the more sustainable methods. Same goes for Dolmar 4 cycle hand held equipment. Also, G Oil is plant based mix oil, which I have used with no issues. Oh! And Oregon biodegradable trimmer line is here...but pricey. Just things to ponder on.
     
  6. RigglePLC

    RigglePLC LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 12,108

    And...maybe there is a trade-off that will help you to compete. Suppose you arrive in a Prius...ecofriendly, right...at least compared to your competition. Do you use propane mowers, less air contamination. Propane or natural gas trucks?
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2014
  7. RigglePLC

    RigglePLC LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 12,108

    Be sure to offer several kinds of organic products that your competition does not--even if you do not use such products on every lawn. Barry's Screamin' Green fertilizer for instance. Give Phasthound a call--he can help you.

    Optional compost tea. Optional fungus mixtures that decompose thatch. Compost topdressing. Optional worm castings, seaweed extract, beneficial soil bacteria...
    "Mineral-based soil sweeteners with magnesium".

    Also offer disease-resistant grass seed (non-GMO) that doesn't need chemical fungicides.
    And offer endophyte-enhanced grass seed that is resistant to insects.
    Offer clover seed that produces its own nitrogen.
    Organic insecticides should be available if the customer wants them.
    Dipel.
    http://www.valent.com/agriculture/products/dipel/

    Neem oil.
    Azadractin.
    http://www.gordonsprofessional.com/products/index.php?ID_PRODUCTS=661

    Milky spore.
    And be sure to arrive in a hybrid, propane or natural gas powered (or flex fuel) vehicle, and use propane powered mowers and ride-on spreaders.
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2014
  8. smallstripesnc

    smallstripesnc LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 714

    I have a phone call scheduled with Barry this afternoon. There's only a few organic guys in my area and a lot advertise as being "organic-based". I'm kind of wondering why there isn't more organic lawn care providers in my area.
     
  9. VIPTC

    VIPTC LawnSite Member
    Posts: 26

    First, "organic based" is not the same as all organic.

    Organic fertilization is easy and worthwhile but there is no such thing as organic weed control unless you count manually pulling them out. Don't get caught up trying to serve a market that doesn't exist. While you'll always find some customers who profess to want all organic, you'll find that 99% of customers want a green lawn with no weeds at a reasonable price. This is a numbers business - you have to serve the majority, not the exceptions.
     
  10. smallstripesnc

    smallstripesnc LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 714

    For weed control I have recently learned there are options such as ADIOS and fiesta and even this cool device that uses CO2 all for post emergent weed control. For pre-emergent weed control liquid corn gluten meal looks like a very good option and from the reviews I read its pretty effective. Of course applications of compost tea which isn't too expensive. I am a bit worried that there may not be a big enough market for true organic lawn care. I only know of a very few competitors in my area that offer 100% organic programs and a few that offer "organic based which isn't truly organic". So the question is would people pay the difference of say $30 or so more per visit for a true 100% organic program.
     

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