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Is organic maintenance really just job security? Diff between us and the agg industry

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by JDUtah, Jul 8, 2008.

  1. JDUtah

    JDUtah LawnSite Silver Member
    from UT
    Messages: 2,636

    So, I have noted a few times where the more researched people in this forum mention that most the 'organic techniques' discussed is overkill for landscape maintenance. The fact that they have been down the intellectual path and have since reached that conclusion makes me curious of their reasoning.

    My first thought was, wait in the organic maintenance industry, microbes, microbe food management, soil management, and the like, are based off of NATURE and the way these plants live/thrive in nature. Shouldn't the principles and practices apply greatly to the landscape maintenance industry?

    And I believed it for a couple days. We need to do it in this industry. Why would the agriculture industry need specialized organic practices and the maintenance industry not? But then the thought came....

    In the agriculture industry, the envorment does not function like nature designed it. Crops in high concentration and high harvest. Yearly tilling of the soil. Regular pesticide treatments to kill insects, plants, fungi, etc. that might compete with the production plant, etc. The practices in that industry make the plant and ecosystem function in a way that it was not designed to. Learning details about how the natural plant world works and developing techniques to help mimic that is a VERY GOOD application of effort and energy. IE, till the soil and disturb the microbes, killing some?.. when planting, treat it with a microbe innoculant (Compost Tea) to re-introduce the microbes so the plants you just planted will better absorb nutrients the way nature intended.

    But now for our industry... we don't remove high yields of crops, we don't till every year, we don't do many things to disrupt the natural cycle, so why do we think we need to constantly restore it? Our argument is... get nature to function like it did before humans got involved. Problem is... the only way to get nature to function like it did before we got involved is to get "un-involved". Step away and let nature do its work -- without us!

    Nature decomposed the rock into minerals, added organic matter, and produced soil for plants to grow on its own. I think it can handle it. I'm not saying all organic techniques are unnesseary, but it does help one to question, is it really overkill to do all this stuff to maintain something that you claim nature built by itself?

    I know it is a little stirring, but I think it is important to have a good why before any how... so... why are organic practices really better for a landscape? Why are organic practices MORE applicable to the agriculture industry then ours?

    Rip it up.
  2. treegal1

    treegal1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,911

    in nature the plants waste is just dumped by the tree, , , or what ever down on the ground to? compost? trees dont rake themselves? more applicable? i dont understand they cross over just fine, and edible landscapes are very popular now, we just did a scape, front all native, back all garden, trees, garden, pond, no grass=$saved
  3. jeffinsgf

    jeffinsgf LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 641


    In my opinion, the answer to your question is speed. Yes, if we step back and let nature take its course, the process will eventually do its thing. However, our great grandchildren will be dead. We used organic procedures to make a short cut between where we are and where we should be. If you scrape a thousand years worth of topsoil off a subdivision, build houses and then the owners of those houses want landscaping, you need a short cut.
  4. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    One word........nutrient cycling................sorry that was 2 words

    If you can get nutrient cycling going you only need a few pushes to keep it going. We are trying to support and reinforce the good guys that keep nutrient cycling going.

    remember that whole soil food web thing, if we can get that structure in place and support it you will need very few inputs

    We are actually trying to manipulate the soil to be in a certain place in succession, turf likes 1:1, trees like something different
  5. DeepGreenLawn

    DeepGreenLawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,372

    I thought, and still think, that our ultimate goal is a zero input lawn. Get the soil built up, the organisms in place and your good to go. Maybe a CT treatment once a year to replenish any missing guys and a top dress every other year or 4. I think that is what most of us would like to get to. But doing a 1/4" topdress once a year will take a while to get the lawns soil to that point. Along the way though should see less and less inputs.

    I personally would like to see two top dress treatments a year for the first 2-3 years. Then we can back off to one a year.

    I just got done with a customer today where we are probably just going to tear up the yard, mix in a lot of compost, and be done with it. Reseed, spray CT and then come back every 6 weeks with a CT treatment until they get a good foot hold. This is a fescue only lawn, we don't see many of those here, mainly in older neighborhoods. This lawn will be YEARS ahead of a sodded lawn in that the compost will already be deep into the ground for the plant to feed off of rather than a 1/4 to 1/2 inch per year. If that with run off of compost, etc.
  6. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    Nutrient cycling.........two words

    Nutrient cycling ..........what

    old growth forest


    aspen grove

    corn, wheat, rice, soybeans, sorghum, tomatoes, thyme....

    Different plants, different succession, different nutrient cycling

    turf 1:1

    New turf? get the bacterial going first
  7. JDUtah

    JDUtah LawnSite Silver Member
    from UT
    Messages: 2,636

    Bill, I appreciate your patience in that nitrogen thread. :) I am writing my thoughts on the study which in turn should open that discussion to the microbial role. I should find questions to let you let some stuff out. I think you have stuff you want to say?

    Imagine a world in which most nutrient cycles were modeled and understood for each common plant (well ecosystem, well soil food web, well...). And a world in which we could quickly establish that cycle in any landscape or agg, climate permitting.
  8. JDUtah

    JDUtah LawnSite Silver Member
    from UT
    Messages: 2,636

    Ok, so for landscapes it goes back to establish a mature process and then let it work with as little association as we can.

    But for an aggriculture application, the cycle is repeatedly broken and hence a need for constant re-adjustment (like microbe treatments).

    I think tree might have expressed the key in another thread... waste. Nature cycles nutrients just fine, but then we get involved and influence that cycle. The idea of organic maintenance is to include us in that cycle in a healthy way? Take waste that we produce and get it back into the cycle? Thus we become a permanant part of the healthy cycle? (there's the job security?)
  9. DeepGreenLawn

    DeepGreenLawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,372

    The agg thing is true. Farmers farm the same peice of land without replenishing it and they soon have dead ground because they used up all the nutrients. There for they have to be replaced.

    Lawns, the contractors take away all the good stuff so we got to replace it. The lawn however is not harvested so it doesn't take the nutrients as fast. It also receives the nutrients needed to replace it in a natural process after it is rebuilt with our practices, a zero input lawn. If the lawn is not a natural occurring product it may take a little more input to keep it going due to the wrong environment.

    Please correct me if I am wrong.
  10. treegal1

    treegal1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,911

    Ok ag, we have recently been/ teamed up with an organic farm, they where having some real troubles( they actually where making anaerobic tea) and had no idea of how soil work, and no test at all!!! not to mention that they had plowed the ground to death!!!

    new system no plow, good tea, proper compost, and 35 soil tests later, they have something to actually sell, and few weeds to contend with.

    also did i mention that they get 4x the total crop yield and 2 extra crops!!!!

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