Help me make transition to organic

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by MrC, Jun 19, 2009.

  1. drugrep

    drugrep LawnSite Member
    Messages: 44

    After having a professional soil test done, I've become obsessed with this, and over the past few months, I have had a lot of discussions with University soil scientists, people here, other forums, etc.

    I think the single best thing you can do is mulch mow. It's free organic fertilizer. The microbes will come naturally, you do not have to spend the money on compost to inocculate, microbes will build naturally. Compost is great, but mulching will do it if you're like me and don't want to spend the money on commercial compost.

    From my discussion with University scientists, if your soil is low on something, like mine is low on P, there is nothing wrong with synthetic fertilizers. Organic matter is important and that's where mulching comes in.

    It's going to take 3 or 4 years of nothing but starter fertilizer to get my phosphorus right. It would never get there if I was pure organic.

    When my numbers are right, I may just put down some Nitrogen in the early fall and rely on grass clippings rest of time, but until then, a balance of synthetic and organic (mulching) for me.

    I calculated my clippings, after evaporation of water from blade, I am adding about 4 lbs of organic matter per 1,000 sq ft every time I mow. That's a crapload of free mulch per year to feed worms and microbes.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2009
  2. WannaBeOrganic

    WannaBeOrganic LawnSite Member
    Messages: 90

    There are organic fertilizers that are high in phosphorus. Bone meal is one that's about 4-12-0. That's about 1/2 to 1/4 a typical synthetic starter fertilizer so you just need to apply it 2-4 times as heavy. Not saying it's better or easier but it is possible. Bat guano is also very high in P and there's also rock phosphate which is 0-3-0 and maybe other items you can use.

    If you have an oak tree. Oak leaves are very high in phosphorous. Something like 1-9-0.1. If you're using the super and triple phosphate starter fertilizers some people think that might screw with other trace minerals that are still important to your grass.

    While many universities are studying organic fertilizers and lawn care the people you or I usually have access to seem to not know much about the subject.

    It also ads a bit of nitrogen. Grass clippings have an N-P-K somewhere in the neighborhood of 0.4-0.2-0.4 if I remember correctly. And don't forget to mulch mow a ton of leaves in the fall. That's a lot of free and easy organic matter right there. And since you're low in P find some oak leaves.
  3. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    The is one important consideration about P , that is often overlooked. Availability.

    Much of it is not available to the plants, nor is it available to the "Testing Solutions" at the soil testing laboratory. Testing is in disagreement between 2 different methods of testing, with advocates on both sides.
    There is P everywhere, in all soils around the world. It is just bound up with other elements.

    Mycorrhizae is in the soils also for that particular purpose, of mining P, from the soil for the plants. High doses of P inhibit the growth of Mycorrhizae, so in essence you are adding P to your soil rather than using what is already there.
  4. dishboy

    dishboy LawnSite Fanatic
    from zone 6
    Messages: 6,181

    What percentage water loss or what where your weights before and after drying the clippings?
    At 3% to 5% N this can be a substantial annual input especially if weekly clipping yield is high.
  5. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,335

    An experiment done using the Century model showed N inputs from return clippings can reduce N requirements from 25-60% over time.

    Also might note that attempting to put a N-P-K value to biomass such as oak leaves and grass clippings is making some pretty big assumptions.

    For instance, this publication shows oak leaves to have a N-P-K analysis of 0.8 - 0.4 - 0.2 (percentage by weight).

    Needless to say, that is a pretty big difference in %P to the number WBO supplied (1 - 9 - 0.1).

    Also note what is says on page 7:

    Nutrients listed for organic materials in the following table are averages and may not accurately reflect the quantity in a specific source. Using these values can result in either overfertilization or underfertilization. To determine the quantity of nutrients in a specific source, send a sample to a qualified laboratory.

    So lets look at a few more averages for N - P - K .............

    • Hay-Grass: 1.5 - 0.5 - 1.9 (WBO reports 0.4 - 0.2 - 0.4)
    • Bone Meal (steamed): 2 - 28 - 0.2 (WBO reports 4 - 12 - 0)
    • Rock Phosphate: 0 - 2 - 0 to 0 - 35 - 0 (WBO reports 0 - 3 - 0)

    So I for one would like to know where WBO is getting his information .... anyone else wondering?
  6. WannaBeOrganic

    WannaBeOrganic LawnSite Member
    Messages: 90

    It's called grasscycling, a combination of the words grass and recycling. You get to reuse some of the nitrogen that was put into the plant again. The amount of N you get back is going to be dependent on the amount of N you put in and like most other natural sources, it's going to vary.

    The NPK of oak leaves and grass clippings came from a printout of a Univ of Northern Iowa article I have.

    The analysis of Bone Meal and Rock Phosphate came from the label on corresponding Espoma products. That's the analysis they give for the products they sale. I'd be interested to see a labeled bone meal product that has a P value greater than 25. I haven't seen anything labeled product available to consumers greater than 15 P.

    Bat guano numbers also came from a commercial product.

    Obviously if the guy's so worried about P he should use products with a guaranteed analysis and my recommendations for natural sources were just used to illustrate that it can be done. I could be wrong on oak leaves but I didn't pull the number out of thin air.

    But thanks for helping some guy convert to organics instead of picking on me... oh wait... nevermind.
  7. growingdeeprootsorganicly

    growingdeeprootsorganicly LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 766

    have to agree with the wanna be on the bone meal analysis but i guess depending on the particular product,how it was made i could imagine P being in the 20% range but disagree with his oak leaf #s for p value, there no way it's that high,

    the best way to increase P is like small axe said, get the bugs to unlock it, and use of a chelete like humic acid but it's easier said then done but, topdress with good post, dig some forest humus or soil healthy soil from a natural grass/weed field or inoculate with a commercial myco product at time of seeding.
    bone meal/fish bone is one of my favorite high P ferts but it is very expensive for turf use,bat/bird guano's are king organic type ferts but again big bucks and not for turf use but if you got the coin i say go for it and apply, rock phos is very cheap and a great amendment to add to soil/ post aswell, long term supply, and many other rock dusts are excellent mineral sources containing some P depending? many grain/animal ferts/manures contain plenty of P, i try not to get to caught up on analysis for the simple fact because with true organics these inputs are bug food first and second their mineral value determines how much of that mineral is present in % in organic bound form to a degree i guess?, bugs will make available minuet amounts from it's surroundings as long as the nutes are present, and what the plant asks for, so a product containing 1/1/1 will provide enough nutes as long as biology is working and cycling nutes correctly
    it will provide all the nutes needed for plant growth

    if a soil shows low P and the soil is poor,containing little OM, adding synthedic P sources is only a quick fix and will ultimately lock up other nutes in the process beside leeching away, applying starter fert multiple times a year for years is just plain dumb IMHO.
    build the soil structure, and most impotently built ur micro community, they are the keys to unlocking the bound nutes already present, and the quickest way to that goal is to apply a good compost
  8. WannaBeOrganic

    WannaBeOrganic LawnSite Member
    Messages: 90

    SmallAxe, growing,

    What you guys wrote reminded me of something I read about a year ago. There's a resaerch that has a website where she publishes gardening myths. One of them was about phosphorus and mychorizae. Basically lack of P results in shallow roots, shallower roots make the plant secrete an acid that attracts mychorizae to colonize on the roots to help provide P.

    Found it. Seems appropriate it's titled The Myth of Beneficial Bone Meal

    Haha. Funniest typo I've seen in a while. One missing letter, dozens of jokes running around my head.
  9. growingdeeprootsorganicly

    growingdeeprootsorganicly LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 766

  10. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,335

    Sorry WBO, but your behavior towards me in the other thread put you dead center on my radar. If you are going to post specific numbers and recommendations, you better be damn sure they are correct If you have any doubt, reference your information to avoid any future problems.

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