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St. Augustine Organic's

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by Landscape Poet, Jan 8, 2010.

  1. Landscape Poet

    Landscape Poet LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,638

    I am a traditional user of synth fert and pesticides, so when I recently saw a thread on this site (http://www.lawnsite.com/showthread.php?t=300085 ) I was very interested. I have long been interested in organic as we were starting to introduce at a State Park system I was working at when I left for another position. They had just started; I helped make a few of the compost bins. OK back on point. So I was very interested in when I found a thread on here about Organics on St. Augustine, however the thread ended up being locked because of what appeared to be some personal issues between a couple of members. If you have read the original thread you will see that the Original poster never got there question answered either. So - what I would like to see is if anyone on here has ever tried a pure organic program on St. Augustine. In particular I am really interested in the effectiveness of the pest control on St. Augustine, in particular in a environment like FL where the chinch bug are outrages and can destroy a entire lawn in matter of a few days. This is not to say that I am not curious about the organic fertilizers too as I am. I would like to convert my own lawn over to an organic as I have been using synth since moving down here and still even after doing complete chemical soil amendments I am still experiencing slight outbreaks of what appears to be grey stripe fungus. I was thinking of starting out with 20lb's of corn meal per 1k since it is stated here in the Organic forum that corn meal is known to help create a environment that helps to defend against harmful fungal diseases by creating essentially good fungus. Problem with that is I have not found Corn meal feed at the local farm store, just cracked corn. Since my lawn is so small - like most FL lawns - it is only roughly 3500 sq ft - I figured it would be cheap enough to purchase corn meal from the local grocery store. So since it is winter here and we just got our first freeze, would putting down corn meal be good now since it will give it time to break down before Feb and March when the turf starts to come out of it. So main questions 1. Experience with Organics on St. Augustine (especially if in similar environment to FL) - has anyone did it and had good to great results 2. Pest control - in particular chinch bug since it is one of my main concerns in my environment in the St. Augustine 3. Corn Meal - good place to start considering the fungus issue and that I have time to allow it to start breaking down before spring here? 4. Any other insight and thought you have would be beneficial. 5. If possible can we get some insight into this without creating a war and getting this thread locked like the other one? Remember the purpose of the thread is to help others, not to sell products or to combat out personal issues
  2. ted putnam

    ted putnam LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,671

    It's unfortunate about the other thread. You will find that there are great minds in this forum that can answer many of your questions. Many of them deal with cool season turf however. You will find with them that the definition of "purely organic" will become an issue in and of itself. As far as your question about the meals. A few farmers in my area that have cattle use corn gluten meal and soybean meal. If they don't have it on hand they can order it. Marcos is one who knows much about the use of meals. Again, he is dealing with cool season turf.I'm sorry I can't be of more help. Good Luck
  3. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    Ted brings up a very important point here. cultural practices are difficult to change in one season, it like saying well I have always been a Ford man but I'm going to buy Hyunda from now on. It takes a little getting used to

    some basics: St Augustine (SA so I don't have to spell it every time) in the out of the bag world need 3 to 4 lbs of nitrogen per 1000 per season to perform well

    SA on a decent site with decent soil conditions and good care will "almost" out compete most weeds, I said almost

    SA has a habit of continuing to grow rhizomes and almost travels across a yard, this is one big plus of SA and Bermuda we can get to the root very easily and populate the root with good guys, either through compost additions or CT or any other inoculant

    SA performs better in an irrigated setting

    It has been my observation that sticking to some cultural practices, like using hebicides occasionally, is OK. There are some that are difficult to overcome with organic solutions

    If we can displace your bagged chemicals with a, preferrably, local and sustainable one I think is a great first step. A good finished compost is always at the top of the list

    I am not great in math but if you are applying 1 yard per 1500 sq ft that is amazingly a lot of NPK, the nice thing is that these forms are not leechable and release over a long time

    Some other things to consider moving toward organic solutions, there is less top growth which means less mowing and less man hours and less equipment maintenance

    There is a start
  4. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    I forgot to ask, is Oviedo FL near Orlando?
    What are your typical soils like sandy?
    You don't have to answer this if you don't want to, how many customers do you have, this is a scaling issue more than anything else
  5. Landscape Poet

    Landscape Poet LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,638

    To your first question ICT

    Yes, Oviedo is about 10 minutes north from the most northeastern city limit of Orlando.

    Soil type - Sandy enough that I could get away with most plantings in a day if I forgot my shovel. Of course the landscape and turf are irrigated. Currently set to receive one inch, once a week.

    Customer count - Right at a year since I started down here - 39 monthly paying customers that are serviced weekly until Thanksgiving and then every other week until March - a few that I do on a call to call basis. However again - this is about my own turf - I would like to experiment with my own first. I have actually had roughly 10 of my customers bring organics to my attention asking for my opinions on them. If I later decide to get my license down here I may include Organics into the program as well as it appears that there is a demand for it, or at least a interest.

    I would like to go strictly organic to see the results down here - with some guidance from someone who has did it.
    I am hesitant about going away from the pesticides down here because of the amount of damage the chinch bugs do to properties down here. Adding to that is the fact that my property is located next to a conservation lot, which contains lots of armadillos. When I first moved in they loved to come tear my SA turf up looking for food. As it sounds like you already know SA most come from plugs, sprigs or sod, so replacing the damage done by these guys is not as easy as it is up north of throwing down some seed. With that said we have the ability as home owners to buy dursban down here in the particle form. So I have been using it without any issues of worms (Armadillo) or chinch bugs needless to say, while others in the neighborhood who are sprayed by the big spray companies are still experiencing light to moderate damage. Knowing the possible side effects of dursban I would not have a issue getting away from it if possible. Yes I have acesss to Bifen liquids/granules too but due to the nature of application and cost of vs the dursban wins every time ( $80 for 50 lb bag which only requires 3/4 of lb per 1k sqft.

    The yard is pretty weed free (with the exception of some Bermuda) as it is mowed at 4.5 inches and the general nature of SA. I have used barricade as the pre-m and spray Manor as post -emergent with great results. If needed I do not have a issue obviously using these if the organics do not work out, however I would like to move organic for a list of reasons if the results would result in a decent looking SA turf.
    My big concern is switching to Organics and being able to keep up the standards of my lawn. You see a majority of my customers are in my subdivision, so obviously I can not have my lawn looking distressed and expect to continue to grow in this subdivision. Even though I do not do applications down here other than occasionally doing some straight fert or soil admin for my older customers, there is a certain standard that I feel is expected on my lawn, as many of my clients have mentioned that they knew I would do a good job on their property based on the appearance of my property.
  6. Landscape Poet

    Landscape Poet LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,638


    I have read through several of the Organic threads - that is what got me to thinking about Organics a little more seriously. So I am aware that it seems like there is a lot of knowledge here on the site about them. Hopefully I am able to get some support with organics in regards to SA.

    In regards to the meals - I am able to find some meals at my local farm supply store - just not whole corn meal - which I have read in THIS thread has the benefit attracts a beneficial fungus called Trichoderma. That is why I thought that would be a benefit to my lawn considering the ongoing battle grey stripe even after soil corrections.


  7. RAlmaroad

    RAlmaroad LawnSite Silver Member
    from SC
    Messages: 2,248

    I use that which works. Often, I spread huge amounts of cow manure from bags on St. Augustine. St. Augustine loves nitrogen. Even though cow manure is cold compared to sheep or horse manure, that is all that I can get. Compost would be great were it available. The only problem is getting enough to satisfy the need for nitrogen. Then there is the need for potassium--I know of no organic means of providing this to turf other than the correct source for specific turfs. St. Augustine will tolerate more chlorine than centipede. Centipede can be poisoned with common fertilize that has a chlorine derived potassium source. And is by most through a slowly declining thinning process.
    Another issue is the pre-em--There is no organic pre-ems out there--I use "Gallery". There is a debate that thick turf needs no pre-em and that is mostly true but few of my yards (all over 15K) are that thick everywhere. There are always some thin spots that need the pre-em especially with high weed pressure in southern area.
    In a perfect world where fungus is a myth or insects never invade there would be no need of fungicides or insecticides but that is not the case so we need these to keep the lawns mostly free. Here again, I know of no organic way for this.
    So my program is mostly chemical with high respect to trees and ornamentals.
    Sandy soil presents a problem with heavy equipment making ruts in the turf so I've elected to use a hand boom attached to my skid that I have mounted on a small wagon that I can move easily on the pavements. Those huge mowers with skinny tires are not good for lawns. I urge clients to pick up their grass clippings during the fungus season. Most organic lesson say to fine clip them to go back to the soil--I've found this a problem in promoting fungus...or building up thatch. Just another personal issue and don't want to debate whether it's right or wrong--"Do that which works"
    Anyway, it would be good for you to keep us posted
  8. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    I never heard that b4.
    How do you know which ferts have chlorine and recognize the centipede poisoning?
    I wonder what affects is has on our grasses.

    I have a large pile of wood ashes that I have been spreading periodically, but I don't think any of my lawns are deficient?
  9. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    Michael, thanks for the details of your area it really helps to define a program better. the difference between your sites and smallaxes are huge, he is actually under about 2 feet of snow right now and you are already thinking "spring"

    Lets try to define more details of a seasonal program, is the 4 lbs of N per 1000 per year a reasonable number? or do you apply more usually

    Is potassium deficiency an issue, how much K is typically applied per 1000 per year
    Calcium is not an issue, how about Mg i know the palms and such like it, how about SA

    Chinch bugs can be handled easily with a combination of cedar oil and castor oil (it will also displace fireants) the cedar oil sufficates them and the castor oil dissecates them. You have to get in the midle of their life cycle so you have to apply 2 times 2 weeks apart

    Fungal issues can be handled with a byproduct of the shrimp industry, it is refined into a liquid and is the active ingredient in our NPP product, sorry about the product plug but I don't know anyone else that makes it. It hydrolyzes fungi on contact, it melts it. It will stop take all patch in its tracks with new growth in 3 days

    There are many meals out there that have the nutrient make up that you are looking for, answer the deficiency questions and we will continue
  10. quiet

    quiet LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 720

    MOP vs. SOP. And the high salt content of MOP is a factor in water retention of the turf blades.

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