I need Clarification

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by greenskeeper44, Nov 11, 2008.

  1. greenskeeper44

    greenskeeper44 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 417

    I have a lawn care company that offers both synthetic and organics. I would like to go to all organics but I am confused why synthetic fertilizers are supposedly so bad for the soil. I went to Rutgers and have a degree in turf management and we were never taught that theory. I understand how organics work but it seems silly not to use synthetic fertilizers. I know that you need to add organic materials in turf programs and that you have to feed the microorganisms through compost teas and topdressings. The thing I dont understand is why you all say that synthetic fertilizers destroy the soil and microorganisms. I know that phosphurus can be bad for waterways. Im talking about Nitrogen. I even went back to some literature by Nick Christians about fertility and I quote from his book "Like natural organic fertilizers, the carbon in urea and methyleneurea is a source of energy for microorganisms in the soil" It seems that this contradicts the belief that synthetics are bad for microorganisms and the soil. Im not saying that your wrong but Nick Christians is one of the most intelligent and respected turf professors in the world. I know pesticides are bad but why are synthetic fertilizers so bad and if I reallly need to eliminate them for an organic program?
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2008
  2. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    One issue is the salt in fertilizers, a lot of the information is really from the Ag side, they have huge areas to cover and need the most inexpensive product they can find, all of those are very high in salts

    Basically you are selecting for a very small diversity of microorganisms, only the ones that like salty soils, the salt is not kind to most of the beneficial microorganisms, nematodes, worms, bacteria, fungi do not do well in that environment. it is the wrong food for them to thrive

    If we move to the landscape side instead of Ag. the other issue is, by feeding the plant directly the fertilizer melts into the first 2 or 3 inches of soil, the roots of the plant go no where else. not great for drought resistance, We are not building soil organic matter and supporting the microorganisms that can get nutrient cycling going in the soil

    This is what we are trying to do, get the soil food web going so that it can support itself and the plants that have their roots in it, nutrient cycling is the key. fertile soil that feeds the plant instead of fertilizer that feed the plant directly

    If you can get organic matter above a minimum of 2%, preferably 5 to 7% and support the microbes with compost teas you no longer will need fertilizers

    I know many lawn and landscape companies that have not used fertilizers in over 15 years, none, zero, zip. They have some of the best clients in their areas, top dollar. I know one that has a client that pays $750,000.00 a year to take care of their property. there has not been a old style fertilizer on the property for over 10 years, it is truely a beautiful site

    But I rant

    the answer to your question is ........... you are unable to get nutrient cycling going with old style fertilizers, compost and compost teas no problem
  3. greenskeeper44

    greenskeeper44 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 417

    That makes sense but I guess my big problem with going completely organic is that you have to use some type of nitrogen source until the microorganisms and organic matter has built up in the soil so they cycle the nutrients themselves and organic fertilizers are so expensive and no one wants to pay more for the higher service. They want to protect the environment but if it cost $15 more per treatment then they could care less. I really want to do this I just need help in figuring out how to make it more economical. I tell people that you will be using less inputs over time but that doesnt make sense for me if i dont have to come back and apply something to make money. Just need help in making it happen next year
  4. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,334

    Responsible use of synthetic ferts is not going to do that much damage. Nothing wrong with bridge programs, and in some cases, may be your only choice. It doesn't pay to be 100% organic if you have zero clients.

    That being said, your goal with any program should be low/no inputs.
  5. Barefoot James

    Barefoot James LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 984

    Just keep using synthetics. They are great organics suck - don't use them, they don't work. Use what you know and are trained to do....LOL:laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh:.
  6. dtally

    dtally LawnSite Member
    Male, from Rock Hill, SC
    Messages: 82

    One question to consider. Who waters the grass lands and who fertilizes the forest? Organics. Ever seen a ChemLawn truck in ther woods or grass lands, other than maybe to take a #$%#.
  7. dtally

    dtally LawnSite Member
    Male, from Rock Hill, SC
    Messages: 82

    "Bridge Products" is a good way to go. Nutrients Plus has some really good products as well as a page you can work up a program and cost. Bill's ICTea (123 Tea) is a great product. The main objective is to increase the organic matter in the soil, a source for food and living area for the good guys.

    I have been using organics for two growing seasons on mainly cool season lawns, and have had unbelievable results. Cost is an issue, and you have to really keep up with the numbers. With synthetic prices rapidly on the rise, it want be long that organics will be cheaper. Somewhere I read that 2010 or it may have been 2009, that 10% of the households will be organic. Thats 1 in 10 homes, how many on your street?

    One thing that I have noticed, which may make little difference ,is that the organic lawns (no pun intended) seem to grow very evenly. No high growth areas and no suppressed areas. One selling point is that an organic lawn uses much less water... some say 30% to 60% less. My lawn has had nothing on it but organics for over two years and I only watered my lawn 3 or 4 times the entire year, and in SC it was a drought year. Other lawns in my neighborhood died. Actually my lawn has had nothing but organics...new construction and the good old SC red dirt (clay).

    I started top dressing this year on a few selected lawns, mine included. What can I say... best lawns in the bunch. Great color, thick turf and very moist blades of grass.

    As treegal would say, compost, compost, compost.

    This is the place to get all the help you need, great people, great products and more knowledge about organics that one can digest.
  8. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,334

    Organic lawns don't use less water .... give it some thought ... think soil.
  9. MaineFert

    MaineFert LawnSite Member
    from Maine
    Messages: 115

    Thanks for the plug! Nutrients PLUS are a great way to incorprate organic matter into a lawn care program, as well as compost teas and topdressing. Like Bill said, if you can get the nutrient cycling going and the soil food web working, you will need less inputs of synthetic nitrogen over time. We are practicing this method with our lawn care clients as well and it has worked out really well, and has been cost effective.

    Jim Allen
    Nutrients PLUS
  10. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    Maybe a better way to say it is: they perform better in drought conditions

    Dtally's own experience is that he watered much less, reasons? probably deeper roots (cooler soil) and organic matter that holds water and builds perosity i.e. holds water longer in the soil profile. Because the soil is in better shape so is the plant in it

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