Feed the SOIL, not the plant

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by Mike Bradbury, Sep 7, 2003.

  1. Mike Bradbury

    Mike Bradbury LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 492

    should be the main idea here. Being "organic" is not about finding "natural" or "organic" sources of water soluable fertilizer instead of chemicals. It IS about using materials that work to create a livable environment for the microbes and earthworms that break down the raw materials we supply into plant usable forms of nutrients.
    FEED the SOIL, not the plant is the idea. Create a healthy thriving soil that ANY plant would grow well in, and turf will be very happy and resistant to disease and weed invasion.
    There are lots of "organic" fertilizers that aren't any better than the synthetics for creating a healthy soil environment. Leather meal is a byproduct of processing leather and a cheap sourse of nitrogen for fertilizers. Since it's part of animal skin it is "organic", but because of the tanning process it's full of heavy metal contamination. Lots of the materials are like that. No other use for them so they are very cheap to buy in large quantity.....
    If a product kills bacteria and soil microbes than it doesn't matter if it comes from dead dandelions, you don't want to use in a "organic" program. Think "sustainable horticulture" rather than "non petroleum based ferts" and you'll have 1/2 the battle won. :blob2:
  2. rhodiestoredwoods

    rhodiestoredwoods LawnSite Member
    Messages: 8

    That sounds great. How do you know what the soil needs? Do you do testing before to figure out what to apply? Do you then follow up with testing later to see how the application worked?
  3. Mike Bradbury

    Mike Bradbury LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 492

    yes, but in the real world, not most of the time. You just find a supplier that grasps/believes in those principles and use their generic program in most cases.
    If someone is willing to pay for ongoing testing, that would be awesome, but I've not met them yet :)
  4. Dchall_San_Antonio

    Dchall_San_Antonio LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 327

    WOW! I learn something from someone every day. Thanks Mike for writing about this. I have never specifically suggested someone use leather meal but I always include it in my list of organic sources or protein. But no more of that!

    My first thought when I read what you said was, 'why would someone go to the trouble of tanning leather and then turning it into leather meal?' What I found was that the leather meal on the market is the BY-product (otherwise known as waste) of leather tanning. They don't just make leather meal out of perfectly good hides. The stuff that falls on the floor in the tanning industry gets swept up and becomes leather meal! And it is full of chromium to very high levels.

    I did also read that the chromium in the leather is not the kind that is available to plants. However, in an organic program, lots of things that are not immediately available get 'attacked' by the abundance of humic acids and suddenly become available in spades! That has been part of the beauty of healthy organic soil. Now I see it can work both ways.

    So thank you again, Mike. This info has been mentally bookmarked. Just to make sure, I will also bookmark the site I found the info on. Not only that but I'm going to send out a message to all the gurus I know about this. Frankly I'm a little unpleasantly surprised, but not shy to adapt to the new info.


    Here is the conclusion from the above link.

  5. dan deutekom

    dan deutekom LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 424

    This is the very thing that gets me worked up about the organic movement. With organics we tend to think of simpler times and ideals. The trouble is even in our organic materials there are synthetics that we do not even know about or consider. Without thorough research (and forums like this) we may be causing more harm then good. What is in that manure we are using? How about that mushroom compost? How was that corn grown? At least with synthetics we are protected by government regulation. So far with organics there is no regulation, standards or even a definitive definition. Until these issues are resolved I doubt straight organic horticulture can make the main stream in todays world.
  6. Mike Bradbury

    Mike Bradbury LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 492

    I see a lot of "what organic source of nitrogen, and how much to achieve xlbs" same with P's, and while that is on some level an "organic" fert program, the READ DEAL ferts are doing much more than that. The fert is a blended mix of materials that will work together to improve the soil. Humates and active bacteria and soil conditioners (cationic exchage ratios) all kinds of "good eats" for the soil. The N and P sources work together with no material source causing the "system" to slow or shut down. When I had a small pesticide lawn biz 10 years ago ("Chem Free") I used the best stuff I could find from BioGreen in Waucanda, IL.
    All food grade materials (you could eat them) and LOTS of very good science. They'd tell me stuff and then I'd read about it in the universitys and such, a year or two later.
    I only did it for 2 years, very expensive and I didn't charge enough to make anything. Now I put in yards and landscapes and don't fert at all. I did an internet search but didn't find anything about them. The main guys were all in there late 50's early 60's then, so they might not be around :( Dave Ellis and Larry something.
    They had a large fert biz in Waucanda so if they're still around someone should track them down!
    Carl Johnson was their on site research scientist and a very good one as far I could tell. Wonder what he's up to these days?
    Really great guys and they would go apesh*t to see a website with this group heading! They would be an INVALUABLE resourse to anyone frequenting this area! If someone in the N. Illinois area would track them down................:blob2:
  7. woodycrest

    woodycrest LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 435


    I understand your point about the need for first, defining 'organics', and second establishing standards and regulations and i agree. THe reason i dont use synthetics is because i dont know how much to use or what to use when.

    As far as corn is concerned, it it grown to be food for us, and livestock, and it grows everywhere and i would think it is very important to the economy. i dont know 'how' the corn was grown, but it is everywhere. I really cant see it being bad if it grown for food and has been a staple in the diet of civilization for many moons. I really doubt that corn meal would ever become a part of the mainstream, but it is an alternative. i really dont think the intention of this forum is to make organic horticulture number one, but for dicussion of an alternative(sorry to repeat myself) to synthetics. The experiments i am doing with corn are part of the research you suggested. I am willing to share my results with anyone who is interested.

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