Compost or Tea

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by Smallaxe, Feb 19, 2013.

  1. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Compost is food for the soil, OM for the soil, physical presence in the structure of the soil and an aid for optimizing the air/water ratio of the soil...

    The Tea microbes consume/cycle the raw materials of the soil then die...
    That fact of life,,, is basic to all life...

    BTW, I'm not against AACT and I understand the value of healthy vibrant soils alive with SOM and its microbiology...

    I also understand that microbe populations CHANGE quickly depending on its Habitat,,, so:
    What should my concerns be about the habitat I apply the CT into?
    Will the aerobic microbes survive long enough to help an anaerobic clay loam that never gets a chance to dry out???
    How about soil temps???
  2. NattyLawn

    NattyLawn LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,643

    What about looking at AACT this way. What if the microbes applied are food for the microbes already in the soil? Even if they're dormant, they should reawaken once adequate food/temps/soil moisture are available. I know a few companies that sell tea kits, consisting of compost and food for the tea. But if I'm in PA and the kits are coming from WA, what chance do those microbes have of surviving in PA? Probably not a good one.

    The anaerobic clay loam doesn't sound like it needs AACT. Remember, AACT is just one tool in the toolbox, not the silver bullet that some claim.
  3. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    That is a very good point... In fact that is one of the ways that CT is able to get licensed as, 'Fertilizer'... But you are still stuck with the issue of Food running out... I can get carbohydrates from a six-pack of beer, but I don't think those carbs will last as long as a loaf of bread...

    When you think about the amount of food fed to these microbes and the meticulous care that goes into these microbes reproducing and thriving,,, you have to wonder what will happen to them when they get tossed out onto a "less than friendly" lawn...

    Do you believe that the aerated Tea maker is producing enough food for a 6000K lawn??? How big is this T-Maker and how much energy will ultimately go into the turf??? :)
  4. NattyLawn

    NattyLawn LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,643

    Well, I wouldn't apply tea as a standalone to a "less than friendly" lawn. I may do a few apps of tea, but more than likely the property is lacking in organic matter or has some other soil deficiency. What happens is a tough call. The trick to applying tea is it doesn't do much good on the surface, so you need to add water to try and get it down into the soil. I always sprayed at least 4 GPM and tried to do apps when rain was coming or even spray in the light rain.

    The going rate for tea varies, but generally it's 1 gallon of tea per acre. So yes, a 5 gallon brewer is sufficient for a 6k lawn. Tim Wilson has a 55 gallon Microbulator and a new 12 gallon vortex machine. I haven't used the 12 gallon machine.

    I currently have a 5 gallon KIS brewer with the extended life motor. Works great.

    What do you mean by how much energy goes into the turf?
  5. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Applying Tea to an unfriendly lawn was in reference to the survivability of the microbes in different environments... one might imagine spraying your microbes onto a sidewalk as an extreme situation in which the microbes would die w/out food of anykind...
    Sandy soils with a lot of bare spots and little SOM is another hostile environment for Tea microbes... their dead bodies would be the only nutrients provided for the plants... And the idea of providing N to the plants with a gal/A. of microbe bodies,,, would be miniscule...
    Would you agree???

    The one nutrient that is most important to turf is generally, N,,, so it is hard to believe that there are enough dead microbes to supply adequate N all by themselves, on sandy soil with barespots and little SOM to convert...
    Do you agree that the N, that comes from the Tea, is NOT from what's in the Tea itself,,, but rather, the N comes from what the microbes convert in the soil??? is that about right??? :)
  6. NattyLawn

    NattyLawn LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,643

    I would agree that a gallon of tea probably isn't enough to provide adequate N to a lawn, but all lawns are different, and customers expectations are different as well.

    I also agree that the N available from tea is a product of nutrient cycling.
  7. OrganicsMaine

    OrganicsMaine LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 553

    So I haven't been pushing the lawn care aspect of my business very hard, and probably won't until next year, but I have been doing a small amount of work on some lawns(been focusing on design/install). Mostly I've been topdressing with compost both in the spring and fall, aerating and seeding as needed. The major issues with these few lawns that I've had is grub issues and some weed pressure. Otherwise, the lawns have looked pretty good with these inputs. Moving forward, I plan to introduce maintenance along with the care. My feeling is that for an organic program to work well, the maintenance side of things is very important.

    On the issue of enough food for the herd, by mulch mowing for almost the entire season, would this provide enough additional food. I will most likely stick with 2 compost apps per season....though I am still working on the timing of each. The leaves will be mulched until we have the major leaf drops where I will mulch them pretty well, and then bag whatever gets sucked up.

    Spot seeding in spring and fall as needed should help to maintain the turf density.

  8. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    (*) Wise decision...

    (*)I can say that with our lawns here, that 2 apps of compost for Spring and Fall, while mulch mowing all Season, I would be cycling enough nutients to to have the healthiest and greenest lawn around...

    As long as the "Watering" is done within reason... One of the greatest advantages is that high SOM soils keep the plants alive longer with its water retention abilities,,, and too much water is not beneficial to SOM, during the growing season... nor is it beneficial to the microscopic flora that you are trying to feed... :)
  9. GravelyWalker

    GravelyWalker LawnSite Member
    Messages: 86

    I believe to be efficient with any organic lawn care program one solution is not enough. The basics of organics is to work in harmony with the natural process already happening. Like they said just CT on a hard clay soil with bare spots will not achieve many results but testing the soil and balancing soil ph then creates a better environment for microbes to live. Then adding hardy compost gives microbes from CT food to live longer extending the cycle which will show noticeable results.
  10. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    I agree completely, that there needs to be a multi-pronged approach to each individual lawn according to its unique characteristics...

    The point you've made about "hard clay soils" being tested and pH balaced with compost does little beyond the first half inch of dirt and will form platelets as soon a it has 'standing water' and you're right back to square one... in order to build a structure in clay soils , the problem with 'puddling' needs to be addressed...
    achieving tilth in clay soils takes cultural practices that are friendly to the roots... :)

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