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Soil Test requirements to begin organic program?

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by lawncuttinfoo, Jan 29, 2008.

  1. lawncuttinfoo

    lawncuttinfoo LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,010

    What sould I test for in the soil? My local extension offers 9 seperate tests totalling $70 if all are done, do I need to get all of these done?


    If I do not need to get them all done, which do I need to have done to setup a plan for an organic program?
  2. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,334

    If it is the first time your testing the soil, get the full blown test plus a bio-assay. I don't see a bio-assay option in that list, so I would contact them to see if they offer bio-assays or at least find out where you can get a bio-assay done. If push comes to shove, you can always send a sample out of state to have it analyzed.
  3. lawncuttinfoo

    lawncuttinfoo LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,010

    What does bio-assay stand for? biology assesment?
  4. lawncuttinfoo

    lawncuttinfoo LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,010

    Do you find people are willing to spend $100 for you to give them a price quote?

    How else can you tell them how much there program will cost with out a test?
  5. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,334

    If you don't know what your dealing with to begin with, then you don't know how to proceed. The price is just part of getting the organic program in place. Soil tests should be performed in any management scenario, so the only additional cost would be the bio-assay.

    If your really serious about running a fully organic business, then I would recommend you get a microscope and learn how to do your own bio-assays, since the tests are anything but cheap. Full blown bio-assays are good for Ag and other mission critical systems that require more information to make informed management decisions, but IMHO, residential and commercial sites can get away with the LCO looking at soil samples under a scope to get an idea of what biology is present, and what general direction you need to take.

    Perhaps Bill and Tim will weigh in on this as well.
  6. lawncuttinfoo

    lawncuttinfoo LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,010

    Yes, I do not know what I am dealing with, I do not know how to procede, I do not even know where to start.

    I am interested in starting small, one 5K sq ft yard.
  7. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    www.soilfoodweb.com is a great source for bio-assays, they have good explanations on what it acheives on the site, they also pair that with a 15 minute consultation on the results and what should be done to the to proceed further.
    There are a couple recent posts on books to get to the process. I sound like a broken record but look at NOFA www.organiclandcare.net they have several books. Paul Sachs site has his and others books www.norganics.com

    Organic lawn care is really pretty simple, The first step is to get your organic matter reading from your soil test at 5% to 7%, then begin a program to increase the soil biology. People find composted chicken manure, alfalfa, soy bean meal useful in continuing to increase organic matter, the "meal" also provide protein and carbs to the soil biology
  8. lawncuttinfoo

    lawncuttinfoo LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,010

    Even if I could somehow charge $400 for the year. The $195 for their rec. first time test would be 50% of my cost for the whole year. Any other options for a small yard? this is not an acerage.

    This is a single customer who is willing to switch off of natural lawn of america since I do the cutting.
  9. phasthound

    phasthound LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,058

    My suggestion for a limited budget with one client is to core aerate, seed and top dress with compost. Then maintain proper irrigation, mow at 3 1/2" and leave the clippings. The following year, begin using a good organic fert.

    Weeds should be hand pulled.
  10. lawncuttinfoo

    lawncuttinfoo LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,010

    Everything minus the compost has been done for the past 4 years, so now I will be applying CGM but I would like to do a bit more.

    Correct cultural practices + CGM and hand weed pulling is what I plan for my program so far. CGM will be 2 of my visits and I would like to do more than hand pull weeds for the other 2-3 visits.

    I have seen those topdressing machines that are the size of a large aerator, how do you do this without that machine? fill up a shovel full and scatter it off? seems that would take hours.

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