Discussion in 'Fertilizer Application' started by tracyalan, Sep 14, 2009.

  1. Marcos

    Marcos LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,720

    Protein is NEW food for soil microbes (vs. the natural recycling that takes place.)
    Whether the intentially-applied protein is derived from animal or vegetable sources is up to the ethical standards of whoever's applying it.

    Your point that lawns left alone with just clippings recycled back into them "do just fine".
    But do they thrive? :confused:
    Not usually, unless the soil is an immaculate loam to begin with.

    Your question: Does a healthy lawn need all that N or all that protein?
    The key word here is... "healthy".
    The term "healthy" these days implies "well groomed" in terms of neighborhood standards, at least, right?
    So I say, YES, the bar is raised.
    Junk food (N,P,K) needs to be thrown at it on a regular basis to "keep up with the Jones' ", or, the correct decision can be made to begin to feed the soil for those longer-term benefits.

    Is there protein in grass clippings, leaf mulch & thatch, you say? :confused:
    Sure there is.
    But think about it.
    You're essentially turning around the nutrients that were already there in the 1st place, and that level of nutrients may not be overall sufficient to step over the bar of expectations most consumers expect in their lawns.

    High protein grain meals add food for existing soil microbes, whearas finished compost adds organic matter + beneficial microbes.
    Neither one is a wrong choice.
    Or you could develop a marketing program using BOTH.

    I know you want to do what the customers want you to do.
    That's understandable! :waving:
    But, if you begin to approach them oveer the winter with a new philosophy, such as:

    "Feed the soil.
    Don't just grow grass.

    I'll bet you'll get positive nods from almost all of your current customer base, and maybe even a higher level of customer-vendor cooperation from them. :)
  2. starry night

    starry night LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,754

    Very well said, Marcos.
  3. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    Again Marcos, I agree.
    The idea of healthy may bear some more thought, however. Do models look healthy or are they healthy in reality? How about Joe, the bodybuilder? Are they taking vitamins or steriods.

    Compost is the number 1 choice for soil ammending. It would be the balanced supplement, beyond its own nutrient cycling. Your meals are fine and the chicken feathers are fine too, but when the soil needs a boost I use compost.

    For a quick nutrient shake, I use Milorganite. Should see a greener lawn by Halloween if it warms and rains enough.

    The thing I think is stupid, is: Dumping water soluable NPK onto sandy soils and never do anything to increase retention of those soils - just increase the number of apps.
    On the flip side - never letting a heavier soil dry out enough to build any kind of soil structure, is dumb too.
  4. atouchofnature

    atouchofnature LawnSite Member
    Posts: 206

    This is very close to something I told a customer just the other day. I was talking to her about switching to an organic program, and she said that her lawn looked great, so she didn't want to change it.

    I told her that if she were in a car accident, and at the hospital they gave her a shot of morphine, and the pain went away, would that mean that the injury is gone, or that the drug just makes her think it is gone.

    I then explained to her that the chemical apps, were just "a shot of drugs" for her lawn to make it look healthier than it really is. An hour later, I was topdressing her lawn with compost.

    I don't think I understand this statement at all. Are you saying that a moist soil cannot be amended? If so, are you talking about compaction? Please explain.
  5. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    What I was talking about there was the development of soil structure. One of the things that build soil structure is the wetting/drying cycle. What I see happening is that most people are afraid to let the surface of the heavier soils dry out enough to give the turf some air, and build some structure. [another major cause of thatch].

    One difficulty we have here, is that b4 one area of turf dies out enough to justify turning on the sprinklers again, another area is already browning out.
  6. Marcos

    Marcos LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,720

    I'm not in any way knocking compost, Smallaxe. :waving:
    We certainly utilize our share of topdressing in our operations, too.
    But the fact-of-the-matter is, not EVERY customer wants to see, &/or deal with the annual or semi-annual messy aftermath that finished compost leaves for them on their lawns.
    That's why we believe it's smart business sense to ALSO offer alternate programs featuring protein meals that're modeled somewhat like what they're used to seeing in their prior expieriences dealing with vendors in the professional lawn care industry.

    And then there's even more flexibility from there.
    For example, a customer who knows they have kids & dogs running around on the lawn alot more in the spring than they do in the mid-late fall may choose a compromise program that could encompass two applications of meal earlier in the year (including CGM along the perimeter edges), a late season compost topdressing, as well as spot chemical weed control at all 3 visits IF needed.

    We try to stay away from feather & blood meal for the distinct fact that TGCL uses it almost exclusively in their local organic program, and we want to maintain our unique local niche of non-animal sources of meal.
    But if we get a request for it; we'll fill it.

    Your water retention in sandy soil observation is 100% correct.
    But we don't have to worry too much about that problem here in Claysville! :laugh:

    Think about your "nutrient shake" analogy for a second, and insert "Scott's fertilizer" for the word... "Milorganite".
    The two sentences make the same exact amount of sense either way, don't they?
  7. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    Synthetic fert is water soluable mixed with granules that break down more slowly, then leach and or evaporate. It produces a quick forced blade growth no matter what part of the cycle the grass is in.

    Organic ferts breakdown and release in the same cycle as the turf with little in the way of quick release water soluable N.

    At least that is the way I see it, and so far I have not been proven wrong. I like to be proven wrong - in the sense that I learn something. Told that I'm wrong doesn't cut it. :)

    Someone will have to prove to me that Milorganite is as 'fleeting' as "Scott's Fertilizer".

    I do applaud your niche in the business.
  8. atouchofnature

    atouchofnature LawnSite Member
    Posts: 206

    Now I understand what you were saying. Thanks for clarifying.
  9. Marcos

    Marcos LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,720

    Maybe not AS fleeting as Scotts, I agree. :waving:
    But you can't deny that "your greener lawn by Halloween" with the use of Milorganite simply wouldn't happen without its 4% IRON content, can you? :)

    Do you think the 4% iron content of Milorganite is a true organic by-product direct from Milwaukee's sewerage treatment process?
    Or, do you think it's just a supplemental micro nutrient added somewhere along the way or after-the-fact during processing/manufacturing?
  10. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    This is exactly where I would like to be proven - right or wrong. :waving:

    Milorganite is primarily manufactured for the purpose of recycling sewage, away, from the lake. [Lake Michigan]. Using it as fertilizer, the iron, is just a side effect as far as I can tell.

    The second point that makes me believe that iron is a natural part of the equation is that - iron passes through the human body as readily as anything else.

    It would make no sense for a sewage treatment plant to spend additional money to add iron - in the hopes of - enticing people to buy it. Especially when, very few people are even aware of benefits of 'Fe', in the beautifying of the turf.

    Of course the processes that it must go through does not make it as an attractive a product as soybean meal - however - it is a more 'efficient' use of resources. Soy makes good milk, tofu, even burgers. Feces grows grass. :)

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