Compost Organic Lawncare vs. Organic Fertilizer L/C

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by c2weech, Mar 19, 2011.

  1. c2weech

    c2weech LawnSite Member
    Messages: 62

    I have been doing a ton of research on organic lawn care ie. Organic lawn care manual, internet research and reading everything in this thread for sometime as I think about offering this service.

    However doing my market research the question I have come up with is how do you sell customers on Compost, overseeding, compost tea. vs Organic fertilizer that the big boys offer TrueGreen and Natural Way Lawn around me.

    I understand the whole soil food web thing. Though using organic fertilizer seems to be much more marketable and efficient from a business standpoint.

    Also just curious why organic fertilizers are not really discussed in this forum.

    Please continue to educate me :)

  2. ParadiseLS

    ParadiseLS LawnSite Member
    Messages: 76

    i don't really think tukey's organic lawn care manual is all that great. i have it, i would recommend it to others, but i would recommend supplementary reading like "Teaming With Microbes", and for really serious people, more advanced soil biology books.

    i agree that selling people on fertilization is a lot easier than selling them on building up their OM and teaming with microbes, so to say......unfortunately, companies are going to have to lead the way in organic lawn care and it is going to be tough for the trailblazers because there will be a smaller return on advertising dollars, and offering comprehensive programs is more trouble than just scheduling bi-monthly fert. apps. and on top of that, once it becomes popular enough, and once the other companies have seen your ads enough times and spotted your trucks and noticed that you're keeping busy, they are going to jump on your bandwagon and breeze into these new services.

    on the other hand, i always try to offer the best service i know how to my customers. if they insist on not taking it, i let them just get their basic bi-monthly fert. but i really don't want to sell myself as an "organic lawn care pro" and offer them just the basics, because when the day comes that they start hearing about the newest craze in lawn care: compost tea", i want them to think, "hey, my guy has been telling me about that stuff for years, i guess i should finally listen to him". just because it won't help you expand your business when you're far ahead of the curve now, it might help you sustain a lot of business down the line when comprehensive organic programs hit the mainstream more, and it will reinforce the trust and respect your customers have for your expertise.
  3. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    The biggest problem with compost vs. ferts is the bulky, dusty nature and the mess it can create in the customers' lawns, from their POV... People are afraid of Milorganite because, "who can trust the processing?!!??, it's full of heavy metals, I'm sure!!!"... Using food sources, for fert, is about as UNGreen and wasteful as one could imagine, but it sells to clients that think about their environment moreso than the big picture... I have always going to experiment with AACT but the compost is much easier for me than to set up spraying the microbes only...

    Not sure what it was about ferts you were interestted in, but that is my take on it...

    A lot of my work is in forestted areas, so ferts aren't as huge a deal to begin with, but I find that returning the clippings to the soil is the single most important aspect of maintaining a lawn in trees... My guess is that it creates a micro-system that is suitable for grass. So to me any 'organic' program means letting nature dictate the terms of our interference with turf... :)
  4. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,335

    IMO, compost (locally produced in bulk) is the only long term sustainable organic solution. I do not advocate multi-application programs when they are not needed. Whenever possible, I will recommend a single yearly application of compost and monitor the site through the growing season for any additional needed inputs.
  5. unit28

    unit28 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,554

    ....:clapping: I like that.

    Last season we had so much rain it was nuts.
    All season every week. rain rain rain.

    The summer of 2010 was exceptionally wet over large portions of Minnesota. Frequent, and often heavy, rainfall events, along with associated severe weather episodes, dominated the Minnesota summer weather story.

    Summer rainfalls totals in excess of 14 inches were reported in many locations, topping the historical average by four or more inches (see maps below). Total summer precipitation exceeded 18 inches in some places.

    how much additional N did I need? not much. Iron was added though for a 3 ap suppliment. big savings to me and the consumer, and of course environmental impacts.

    What I did miss on was much needed info for organic implimentation.
  6. JDUtah

    JDUtah LawnSite Silver Member
    from UT
    Messages: 2,636

    He isn't asking which one to do so much as how to market the compost vs the multi app "program"...

    As you guys know... I myself blend the two by applying tiny amounts of compost in a 5 to 6 app "program"...
  7. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Not only excessively wet, but hot as well... Microbial activity was through the roof last summer in the Midwest... Wise LCO's could've easily reduced their thatch(real thatch) problems a great deal last year...
  8. unit28

    unit28 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,554

    well the xylem activity in the poa pratensis in my area didn't stop there. Winter covered us with deeper than average snow.

    somebody throw a caveat in here quick before the bus runs completly off course.
  9. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    I find that folks that are getting into organic lawn care like to drill down to the enth degree and then try to explain that to their customers, as soon as you say beneficial microorganisms you have lost them. but I do expect the service person to know and research better methods, you just don't need to tell your customer every detail

    what does the customer expect from a service company? mostly a nice stand of turf with little to no weeds, that is the first thing that should be coming out of your mouth to a potential client, you are both on the same page at that point. your cultural practices are far off second in the conversation

    you also have to get out of the "an explanation for an app every month" mode, inspection and reaction are a better way to go. Many of the folks that have been doing this a while cut the grass at the sites "ONLY" because they don't want other knuckle heads on the sites screwing up what they are trying to do long term. I know many that actually interview the customer in advance of a contract and decide whether to have them as a customer or not, if the customer does not like the terms they walk

    changing your own cultural practices is it seems the most difficult task, we have been marketed to our entire lives on a 4 or 6 step program, it is difficult at best to get out of the mindset

    The new norm
    1. soil organic matter at 2% minimum, goal is 5% to 7%
    2. fall and spring applications of a good finished compost until the goals are met, for those with cool season grasses (or Bermuda), an aggressive overseeding program at the same time
    3. Compost Tea's or nutrient teas with trace elements to keep color and density through the growing season
    4. soil tests to see basically how the sites are responding to the compost as a buffer, don't chase pH unless it is truly out of whack, the compost if from a good source and finished will bring the pH around to a more basic reading over time
    5. try to stay away from applications that wipe everything out (fungicides, pesticides) unless truly needed, if you have to pull a chemical trigger try to bring the good guys back in as quickly as possible

    Note: you actually want things like grubs in your turf and landscape, it is a sign of a balanced soil food web, these "pests" balance each other out in well functioning soil
  10. unit28

    unit28 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,554

    is promoting soil activity

    sustainable soil activity to be more specific

    speaking of clippings c2weech check this article

    scroll down to micro-organisms and plant growth.
    Hope this helps in marketing info.

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