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milorganite not as dark green as synthetic

roody2333

LawnSite Bronze Member
Location
nj
milorganite boasts about dark green from included iron, a lot of youtubers who swear by milo also talk about the 'dominating' dark color a lot,

but it's just not as dark green as lawns being sprayed with what I'm guessing is plenty of liquid iron in the mix, or granular iron, and synthetic NPK.

yes cultivar type also matters, but it doesn't seem like that's the only factor.
even kentucky blue is known for dark color and even when using the best cultivars (blue note, midnight bewitched, bluebank etc treated with milo and even additional ironite doesn't look as dark compared to turf type tall fescue treated with synthetics.


please discuss.

I wouldn't sell out and switch to synthetics, I prefer what's cleanest overall and stick to milo alternated with Purely Organic Lawn Food to keep all NPK levels good and organic but seems strange that lawns being fed milo for years aren't as dark as expected.
 

KerbDMK

LawnSite Bronze Member
Location
Minneapolis, MN
Milo is just an organic (biosolids) fertilizer with some iron in it. It’s not a miracle fertilizer like some people claim it is. It’s just one tool in the toolbox for greener lawns, and the greenest lawn isn’t necessarily the healthiest or the best lawn.

Milo worked well the first year I used it, but it seemed to lose its effectiveness for greening the lawn the second year. I have not used it for several years now, and my back hates Milo.
 

walkinonwater27

LawnSite Senior Member
Location
ct
Milo doesn’t have the highest levels of npk, I’ve never used it but I do apply biosolids every year with 1 round and the dynamic duo I use on sandy lawns is only 4-3-1 100% bio. Synthetic has a lot more targeted nutrients and can provide a darker color. Bios are one of the best things you can put on a lawn imo. Stimulate microorganisms that feed on thatch and in turn provide more waste, helps the soil hold moisture and nutrients, doesn’t add salt to the soil ( acid roof effect) and helps reduce disease outbreaks. I would think the grass would build a tolerance to the same exact product applied over and over. This is where a bridge program comes into play, synthetic and organic both have there place. You may want to check the ph to, I’m sure all organics would have an effect on ph levels.
 

RigglePLC

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Grand Rapids MI
Roody,
good question. It is possible that excess phosphorus is building up--maybe well above recommended soil test levels. Also, as Milorganite has no potassium--deficiencies could occur.
My experience is that liquid iron works better and results in darker green. From what I have heard--dry granular iron may form insoluble compounds and therefore be unavailable to the plant roots. Liquid iron chelate may result in darker green color.
 

phasthound

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Mt. Laurel, NJ
Milo doesn’t have the highest levels of npk, I’ve never used it but I do apply biosolids every year with 1 round and the dynamic duo I use on sandy lawns is only 4-3-1 100% bio. Synthetic has a lot more targeted nutrients and can provide a darker color. Bios are one of the best things you can put on a lawn imo. Stimulate microorganisms that feed on thatch and in turn provide more waste, helps the soil hold moisture and nutrients, doesn’t add salt to the soil ( acid roof effect) and helps reduce disease outbreaks. I would think the grass would build a tolerance to the same exact product applied over and over. This is where a bridge program comes into play, synthetic and organic both have there place. You may want to check the ph to, I’m sure all organics would have an effect on ph levels.
Just to be clear, Dynamic Duo is composted chicken manure and biosolids. The chicken s**t is biologically active and the biosolids act as a food source for the microbes.
 

starry night

LawnSite Platinum Member
@phasthound When I first studied organics for lawns years ago, I seem to remember there were those who believed that synthetics were actually harmful to the biology of a lawn. (could destroy the micro-organisms?)
I only use biosolids, composted poultry manure, and soybean meal on my own lawn. Not the greenest lawn on the street, maybe because it is a TTF blend, but I am sure mine is the thickest and healthiest. Just as a note: I don't do lawn care for others now.
 

phasthound

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Mt. Laurel, NJ
It's true that there are those who believe that. If someone desires a 100% organic lawn care program the only time a synthetic is allowed is a one time application of synthetic product. This pertains mostly to pesticides. If I remember correctly fungicides cause the most damage followed by insecticides and with herbicides causing the least harm to soil organisms.

As far as fertilizers harming soil biology, it's very controversial. There are numerous studies that show many different conclusions. It's pretty clear that conventional agriculture does degrade soils due to high use of synthetic fertilizer, synthetic pesticides and tilling. IMHO, I think tillage does the most damage to soil biology.

In our industry, we don't do annual tilling so I think most of the damage to soil biology is due pesticides and the lack of feeding the microbes.
 

KerbDMK

LawnSite Bronze Member
Location
Minneapolis, MN
milorganite boasts about dark green from included iron, a lot of youtubers who swear by milo also talk about the 'dominating' dark color a lot,

but it's just not as dark green as lawns being sprayed with what I'm guessing is plenty of liquid iron in the mix, or granular iron, and synthetic NPK.

yes cultivar type also matters, but it doesn't seem like that's the only factor.
even kentucky blue is known for dark color and even when using the best cultivars (blue note, midnight bewitched, bluebank etc treated with milo and even additional ironite doesn't look as dark compared to turf type tall fescue treated with synthetics.


please discuss.

I wouldn't sell out and switch to synthetics, I prefer what's cleanest overall and stick to milo alternated with Purely Organic Lawn Food to keep all NPK levels good and organic but seems strange that lawns being fed milo for years aren't as dark as expected.
If you live in an area where soil pH tends to run a little higher than optimum (7+ or so), ammonium-based synthetic fertilizers will tend to green the lawn more than biosolids containing iron because they can lower the pH enough to allow better use of soil nutrients like iron.
 
OP
R

roody2333

LawnSite Bronze Member
Location
nj
dynamic duo I use on sandy lawns is only 4-3-1 100% bio. Synthetic has a lot more targeted nutrients and can provide a darker color. Bios are one of the best things you can put on a lawn imo. Stimulate microorganisms that feed on thatch and in turn provide more waste, helps the soil hold moisture and nutrients,

true that, organic IS better overall for the soil biology, also helps fix clay/sandy soils,
and have seen plenty of plugs side by sides of Org VS Synth with the Org being much deeper and robust and just overall healthier grass.

This is where a bridge program comes into play, synthetic and organic both have there place. You may want to check the ph to, I’m sure all organics would have an effect on ph levels.
Someone told me there's reason not to flip flop with organic and synthetics in terms of nutrients (not counting herbicide), saying that one sort of nullifies the the other. I have to look into that more.

Because even though I prefer %100 organic, there could be a scenario to use synthetic, e.g to get a very fast Spring green-up on a new lawn seeded the previous Fall (and possibly seeded later than preferred) to beat the weeds by feeding it synthetic for quick top growth.
or if overseeding in Spring and there's not really any existing weeds to justify Tenacity, since spring seeding and opening the turf risks Spring weed problems, one might want to use something like Scotts synthetic seed-Safe Starter w/ included weed preventer (tupersan) if something like Tupersan powder by itself isn't available at the moment..


true pH could be a factor too, I forgot to mention that.
have been adding lime to kentucky blue lawns though to get it a bit more alkaline but they were already about neutral which I don't think would make such a difference (color chart comparison, not lab numbers, but still pretty accurate). Also most tall fescue lawns I've tested were neutral as they prefer.

I think maybe height of cut and mowing frequency also matters, IOW, if a tall fescue lawn is left to grow a couple weeks it usually gets pretty dark at the tips. but all that mid-blade growth might not be as dark and overall might not appear as dark as something cut more frequently but still at a decent height. AKA not 'high maintenance' cultivars which only some cultivars rank well in (if watered can cut them much shorter and they do ok but most will do best 3-4" tall fescues.
When cut often/weekly, it helps the tips and entire blades stay green from not breaking the 1/3 rule ever or even coming close.


Besides that though, I think potassium and possible other additives being sprayed like micronutrients, magnesium etc I'm not sure about, might help overall for a cultivar to looks its darkest.
Synthetic has a lot more targeted nutrients and can provide a darker color.
IOW, iron should create a darker green but good potassium levels etc might be needed even though their main usage is not known to just for iron absorption.
As I read here before, so many lawns are tested are low in potassium, even if using something like a big box store Scotts 5 step program, K will probably test low. I think Scotts only would give you some potassium in their winterguard step anyway, and in a cheap quickly depleted form.

I've been supplementing with expensive (in comparison to other forms, but IS the best form and IS cleanest) Southern AG Sulfate Of Potash just too boost K that reads Zero, and then hoping the bit of K in Purely Organic Lawn Food alternated with Milo keeps NPK correct without having to keep supplementing SOP- So I think it could be this too since these lawns were only recently put on that type of program.

I could care less about color actually, I care more about low maintenance in terms of herbicide usage, density and less need for overseeding, low water needs, etc, but I think others look at color more.
 

walkinonwater27

LawnSite Senior Member
Location
ct
I think all your I thinks are spot on, it’s all about balance of nutrients, I do not offer an organic program mostly because people don’t have the patience to wait a few years to build up a soil that can feed itself. Also getting rid of weeds is a pita with all organic programs.
could care less about color actually, I care more about low maintenance in terms of herbicide usage, density and less need for overseeding, low water needs, etc, but I think others look at color more.
but I am on the same page as this statement. I only spot spray on every lawn and some lawns receive barely any weed control because they are thick/ mowed high and aerated/ over seeded if needed until only aeration is needed every few years. I make sure they get some sort of bluegrass in sun and fine fescues one the shade that will keep spreading over the years to help keep the weeds choked out.
I also prefer people do not water the lawn unless where in drought conditions. The more frequently the lawn is watered the more it needs water, you just have to let the grass get used to having to survive on its own. Unwatered lawns always look the best imo, healthy root systems, minimal weed growth because the soil isn’t wet for seed germination, rarely do I see fungus on unwatered lawns. Try telling this to a customer with a 5k irrigation system and they turn that sucker on as soon as I pull out of the driveway.
A lot of color depends on the turf, some can just get darker than others, a lot of times I have to tell landscapers I work with to use the intermediate blends on certain properties otherwise its going to look like a half sod half seed Frankenstein and you’ll have to start from scratch.
I find as long as the turf is dense with minimal weeds and no crabgrass rarely do I get a call saying the lawn isn’t green enough. But I have run into people who are that picky.
 
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