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Confusion

Smallaxe

LawnSite Fanatic
There seems to be some confusion out there, about the actual application of an organic lawn care business. The focus is more on selling "Organic Products", rather than focussing on what a particular lawn needs. [Dealing with varying lawns, individually]

To just 'jump' into the organic application, is not simple, because people mistrust it, think its complicated, expensive, inferior etc., etc. Then we tell them, we found a more expensive organic fert, that doesn't work as well, but in a couple of years you'll be happy with it, as long as you don't mind a few weeds.

My challenge for the future is, find people that are interestted, plug their soil, and analyse their overall situation, and their expectations, and put together the best possible scenario for their home. Individually, and they see, no decline in their aesthetic expectations.

This has nothing to do with finding adequate NPK replacements, so organic thought could shift away from that general idea.

So... where am I wrong?... how do we know what is best, for various lawns?
 

Valk

LawnSite Gold Member
Location
KS
I'm real new to what you all are doing..and I find it very intriguing. Your all's passion is deserving of a lot of respect!



The act of amending a customer's lawn is having to assume quite a bit of control...and this can present some interesting hurdles.

My $0.02 for my region (from most to least: fescue, bg, zoysia, bermuda):

At the very least, these variables are critical:

If a customer wants their lawn cut (too) short I consider them a lost cause right off the bat, as our Summer's here can be brutal. Cutting at 3.5" or higher is a must...more drought and weed resistant...as well as being more cable of hiding/absorbing the clippings.

-Some old school-types have real strong issues with perceived appearance
-as well as wanting to bag. Personally, I'm opposed to bagging and see
-healthier looking lawns with proper mowing technique(s) alone.

-If a customer has kids, they might want their lawn kept shorter just
-because it's easier for the little ones to play on...and they believe there will
-be less bugs/chiggers/fleas/what-have-you.
~> Is the latter part true? Will a lawn have less bugs if kept short(er)?

If they have an irrigation system, then they must relinquish control, or at least be cooperative...cuz around here, we can get fungal issues in June/July -making it critical to irrigate when/if necessary and at an optimal time of day.

I find some of the into-my-yard-type's of customers can sometimes not go along...they will resist with the above! This is them undermining themselves!!!
They wish to pamper their lawn with short watering's here and there...sheesh!


My questions are with regard to a customer or potential customer having a stubborn mindset:

Can an Organic Approach be done successfully when you cannot control the above 2 variables: tall grass & proper irrigation?

Are the customer's expectations going to be met...assuming they're switching from a chem'd yard to an organic approach? They likely have some high expectations.

It's a tough sell due to many factors.
To the customer, an organic approach seemingly looks to be adding things/products and charging thusly...paralleling the chem-guys in this way. They want more than knowledge, they want added value, added bionutritional materials.

To the customer, there is little more "perceived" value in the knowledge behind an organic approach as a chem one. They feel/perceive there is good science behind both.

An organic approach requires educating to dispel perceived truths. Copernicus!
Again, some stubborn customers will not want to listen...& they don't want to be educated.
This is boring for them.
They want a short manicured lawn with no weeds...& this goes against what can be done w/o herbicides. Or does it?

Organic customers are obviously few and far between... They have to want an organic lawn already...whether it's for their kids, their peace of mind, their garden, whatever.
 

Marcos

LawnSite Gold Member
Location
Cincinnati OH
There seems to be some confusion out there, about the actual application of an organic lawn care business. The focus is more on selling "Organic Products", rather than focussing on what a particular lawn needs. [Dealing with varying lawns, individually]

To just 'jump' into the organic application, is not simple, because people mistrust it, think its complicated, expensive, inferior etc., etc. Then we tell them, we found a more expensive organic fert, that doesn't work as well, but in a couple of years you'll be happy with it, as long as you don't mind a few weeds.

My challenge for the future is, find people that are interestted, plug their soil, and analyse their overall situation, and their expectations, and put together the best possible scenario for their home. Individually, and they see, no decline in their aesthetic expectations.

This has nothing to do with finding adequate NPK replacements, so organic thought could shift away from that general idea.

So... where am I wrong?... how do we know what is best, for various lawns?
You post these words as though you came from the indoctrinated lawn care technician's... 'find the need & then fill it'... background. :waving:
I completely understand where you're coming from & I don't necessarily disagree with your approach whatsoever.

I agree with your sentiment that some organic contractors are selling "blanket" organic programs for all turf in all soils.

But a fallacy in logic appears to me in that you're assuming there always will BE a problem to solve, and specific homeowner scenarios to be "put together".
Sometimes there isn't sufficient evidence to base any sales argument from data received from core samples & soil analysis, organic treated lawn or not.

I salute you in your quest, axe.
I think just as important as finding out soil information about a specific parcel, you're engaging the client 1-on-1, probing for their expectations & their level of involvement in their own success of their property's aesthetic upkeep. Without coming out & directly asking, you're looking for a teamwork commitment from your clientele.

Thru the years we've taken soil samples for folks lots of times & have found quite a number that called for this & that level pH, addl micro-nutrient or whatever.
And we've of course responded in kind by using cotton seed meal to slowly acidify soils that were tested extremely alkaline (no surprise around here).
And we've used micros like kelp in certain circumstances

But a key difference between organics vs chemical lawn care is that the continuous use of OM over time naturally flattens these pH hills & valleys to X degree.
A direct parallel comparison can be made to the dramatic nitrogen-release curve of chemical fertilizer vs the considerably flattened & lengthened release of nutrients in organic lawn care & landscaping.

Of course, the toll you pay to the troll at the bridge :)dancing:) is the generally slower r-e-l-e-a-s-e t-i-m-e....
But a good experienced organic guy will know how to overlap their apps properly & make the best use of these slower releases.
 
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OP
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Smallaxe

LawnSite Fanatic
... Can an Organic Approach be done successfully when you cannot control the above 2 variables: tall grass & proper irrigation? ... .
No... Dump them, b4 you start... they can't concieve, "Why, it's important" - they will Never understand - "Why, it didn't work"...

So - you need to educate yourself, on "Why it is important", then you realize the folly of trying to deal with someone, who denies the basic tenants of good botanical practices... :)
 
OP
S

Smallaxe

LawnSite Fanatic
... But a fallacy in logic appears to me in that you're assuming there always will BE a problem to solve, and specific homeowner scenarios to be "put together".
Sometimes there isn't sufficient evidence to base any sales argument from data received from core samples & soil analysis, organic treated lawn or not. ...
I mostly, worry about, working myself, out of a job... If there is no problem, or thing to do better, than I suppose, I can coast...
I can do - coast... :)
 

Marcos

LawnSite Gold Member
Location
Cincinnati OH
I mostly, worry about, working myself, out of a job... If there is no problem, or thing to do better, than I suppose, I can coast...
I can do - coast... :)
If you find no soil problem to solve, then go in there & talk general battle plan above the soil :):

- Proper mowing heights and proper perimeter edging & how they directly affect seasonal weed development in turf.
- Proper irrigation for specific species
- Annual core aeration & all the reasons why it's important
- What 'IPM' is & exactly how weeds, insects & fungi are addressed in your specific program
- What types of organic product(s) are most suitable for the customer's specific layout & preference?.... compost?...bridge-organic?...meal program?...combination?
- Get the final commitment from the customer & shake hands
- Don't forget to ask for a referral!
 
OP
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Smallaxe

LawnSite Fanatic
Healthy soil with good texture and structure, shouldn't need aeration. Sandy soils, shouldn't at all, unless there had been a thick layer of thatch, grown over the top.
Organically grown lawns, that are properly watered, should not develop a thatch problem.(At least with common cool season grasses)

In my experience, I find that, thatch is reduced, in intensity and thickness, with just molasses/sugars, compost and proper irrigation.
The thatch has a lot of, tied up energy/nutrients, in it. Once it starts to degrade and go into the soil as plant food, N can be reduced, for a period of time. Then, long term, with the thatch no longer blocking N from the soil, less is wasted, as well.

Otherwise I pretty much, agree with your checklist.
 

Marcos

LawnSite Gold Member
Location
Cincinnati OH
Healthy soil with good texture and structure, shouldn't need aeration. Sandy soils, shouldn't at all, unless there had been a thick layer of thatch, grown over the top.
Organically grown lawns, that are properly watered, should not develop a thatch problem.(At least with common cool season grasses)

In my experience, I find that, thatch is reduced, in intensity and thickness, with just molasses/sugars, compost and proper irrigation.
The thatch has a lot of, tied up energy/nutrients, in it. Once it starts to degrade and go into the soil as plant food, N can be reduced, for a period of time. Then, long term, with the thatch no longer blocking N from the soil, less is wasted, as well.

Otherwise I pretty much, agree with your checklist.
I think then the key difference between you & I is regional soil makeup.
Here in s. Ohio we're pretty much talking clay...clay...clay...clay...clay...clay & more clay & as you can imagine for the average lawn it takes lot's o' OM, repeated core aeration & time in order to make major in-roads toward breaking that up.

We have a number of clients w/ rhizomous ky bluegrass turf and/or with repeat foot/ vehicle traffic issues over sections of their lawn.
These folks lawns definitely require core aeration from time to time.
i.e: one customer we service allows their entire back lot to be used as the neighborhood's soccer field.
 
OP
S

Smallaxe

LawnSite Fanatic
I think then the key difference between you & I is regional soil makeup.
Here in s. Ohio we're pretty much talking clay...clay...clay...clay...clay...clay & more clay & as you can imagine for the average lawn it takes lot's o' OM, repeated core aeration & time in order to make major in-roads toward breaking that up.

We have a number of clients w/ rhizomous ky bluegrass turf and/or with repeat foot/ vehicle traffic issues over sections of their lawn.
These folks lawns definitely require core aeration from time to time.
i.e: one customer we service allows their entire back lot to be used as the neighborhood's soccer field.
Compaction is definately a reason to aerate. Clay is a problem, even with adequate drying time between waterings.
For lawns, that will pay for ammendments, do you prefer, compost or sand, or both?
 

Marcos

LawnSite Gold Member
Location
Cincinnati OH
Compaction is definately a reason to aerate. Clay is a problem, even with adequate drying time between waterings.
For lawns, that will pay for ammendments, do you prefer, compost or sand, or both?
For new grown-ins & complete renovations, direct incorporation of course sand into the soil is the best way to go.
For everything else that is green & established- compost & some method or mode of incorporation, be it a core aerator, slice seeder or whatever.
We don't like to leave compost just lying on top of especially problem clay as a rule. Compost alone has the tendency to hold & wick dew fall & rainfall at the surface, and of course in situations of underlying clay soil this is a recipe for making a bad problem even worse.

In our sports field turf we have occasional access to deep-tine aerators through a private sports organization.
Afterward, careful dragging in perpendicular directions allows for the pre-broadcast sand to filter down into the soil voids.
They get topdressing in targeted sections early each spring, and between 1/2 to 3/4 ton of cracked corn/acre after all sporting activity is complete in the fall, usually about mid November.
 
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