LawnSite Member
glen allen, va
For the last few years I've heard more and more convincing info as to why I should consider moving my customers and offering new customers an organic approach. It is not very popular in this area, but I feel it will be moving in and I'd like to be the guy at the riegns. My 2 biggest questions are how do you apply enough N w/out charging a fortune and how to control weeds w/out synthetic herbicides?
Then N problem comes in to play when I currently use a 32-8-5 syn. and pay $16 for 50 lbs. Locally I can get (at wholesale pricing) a 3-4-3 for around $30. So when I need to apply 3.5 lbs of N per season on tall fescue I haven't been able to justify the higher cost of the organic fert.
As far as the weed control, aside from corn gluten meal (which is expensive compared to using a one time app of prodiamine) I have no clue what organic post emergent applications even exist. Then of course there are the issues of grubs and disease in the summer.
I'd love to find out how to make this work for a lawn service provider where applications made more than once monthly just isn't posible. Do some guys incorporate some organics as well as synthetics and if you do, is it even worth it? Isn't the syn. apps just working against the soil biology your trying to develop by using the organics?


LawnSite Fanatic
District 9 CA
Do some guys incorporate some organics as well as synthetics and if you do, is it even worth it?

Absolutely. Do what you need to get the site off the synthetics. As you build the system to be more sustainable, you will need less synthetics. Get your turf thick, your soil balanced, and the need for any synthetics will virtually disappear. This will require you to learn where the breaking point of the site is.

Isn't the syn. apps just working against the soil biology your trying to develop by using the organics?

Yes, but you will be unable to break the cycle over night. A realistic expectation, depending on the condition of the soil, is 3-5 years to get the site off synthetics.

As far as x-x-x application .... doesn't matter. Let the site will tell you what it needs, not the local extension or Lesco dealer. The only way to determine this is via soil test and observations (with tissue tests if necessary).

ICT Bill

LawnSite Platinum Member
Howard County MD
First, the big difference in the program is that you are trying to build soil fertility, in fertile soil you can grow anything with very few inputs.
Remember too, that with lawns we are not harvesting a crop so with some very basic changes you can improve soil fertility quickly
By leaving the clippings you are supplying probably 25% of the nitrogen need for the lawn
One of the hardest things to get through our heads is the nitrogen game.

One of the companies Barry from tech terra who is on here quite a bit, showed was with the addition of organic matter, nutrient (specifically N) needs could be reduced by 30%, so by adding organic matter and leaving the clippings you have just reduced your inputs by 55%

I would suggest that you begin a "bridge" program this year with some of your sites in order to get comfortable with the applications and your options

some simple things to consider:
Fall is the best time to fertilize, put this application high on your list, you will want to core aerate, overseed, inoculate the seed with beneficials, top dress with a good to great compost or organic based fertilizer high in organic matter. This is one of the most important steps in the transition

Make sure that your irrigation is set properly, there is a thread going on it right now in this forum. I have heard from many landscapers that this turns properties around quicker than anything, it will also minimize fungal disease and root rot issues

You don't need to fertilize in the spring, you are just promoting top growth which means more mowing, man hours and repair on equipment. Spring is a great time for compost teas

As you raise fertility and stop feeding the plants directly they will have to grow long roots to find nutrients, opening the soil and making the plant less suseptable to drought

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