St. Augustine Organic's

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

  1. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Having a healthy soil with plant friendly, root friendly structure, is the most important part of plant husbandry. CEC, pH, water practices etc, are the limitting factors of nutrient useage, as Kiril suggestted.

    Many lawns are like the stranded lifeboat in the middle of the ocean. Surrounded by water and dying of thirst. Not utilizing P - is a good exa. of how AMFungi works to balance out problems in certain situations. That relationship epitomizes the essential concept of - one way - in which, organic principles apply.

    Is you mix paint and decide it needs more yellow... you add yellow... problems solved.
    When you ferilize soil and decide it needs more P... you add P... problems solved temporarily at best. Many times problems continue and sometimes worsen.

    Were you aware that very few soils are actually deficient in P for growing turf? that, Most soils have an abundance of P? :)
  2. Barefoot James

    Barefoot James LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 984

    Go smallaxe -
    P & K are easy for myco to access especially in clay soils. Clay tends to have plenty of everything and all you need is some mycorrhizae to access this BANK of nutrients. MG is in Canada with lots of sand and not much organic material - probably zero clay. I would drop lots of compost on every property in bulk each year and spoon feed it with light apps throughout the year - until you get the OM count in the soil you need, which is another 4% of OM needed in your case.

    You need to use vermicompost to avoid the salts you probably have an abundance of now in your soil and the amount of compost to raise you OM count to 5% or higher would be an outrageous amount of compost with way more salt than your soil could handle.

    treegal1 and King Phil say to compost it - and they mainly use vermicompost - getting 25,000 sq ft - to an acre to the cu yard of vermicompost - so they are just dusting (spoon feeding) some great available humified compost to the soil - very frequently and spraying compost tea 5 or more times a year.

    As your soil gets more humus and myco going your well on your way to the nutrient cycling you need. I would get the root system you have in place (your turf) on a myco innoculation program. Then add as much fresh vermi and CT as you can each year and you will be organic.

    So get you some worms going!
  3. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    Hey Barefoot, how many of those 5 million worms do you have left?? LOL just having fun
    I prefer to grow them in the soil
  4. Barefoot James

    Barefoot James LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 984

    Heyyyyy... I have a worm guy - so I kill worms. We are working with red wigglers this spring - out side - no more gourmet worms for me.
  5. Landscape Poet

    Landscape Poet LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,638

    Yes, I was. Well especially down here in the middle of Central Florida. Almost every test I have done for everyone this season came back having plenty of P. It only stands to reason why the state has the ban put into place this year when you understand that. However it is amazing how many people I talk too (including some of these squirt techs) that think the next dust bowl is coming because of the ban. Others say that in the heart of Central Florida we will be fine for awhile, others that say we will some how go to lacking P in our soils by the end of next summer. Guess we will see, however the state is still allowing P to be applied if there has been a soil test showing that the soil was lacking P, so I do not think it is a big issue for those that have been doing the correct thing and doing a test first anyway.
  6. lep

    lep LawnSite Member
    from Texas
    Messages: 52

    St. Augustine (SA) turfgrass is actually a high maintenance turf in the South, mostly because of insects and fungi. Regarding insecticides, organics are not tough enough -- so stick with the synthetics and change it up every 3-4 months. At present I switch between Bayer complete (systemic) granular and Ortho Max (bifenthrin, which is topical). Systemic insecticides such as Bayer complete are taken up by the plant and will kill any root/blade eaters (sod webworms, cutworms). Topicals like Ortho Max simply prevent massive insect infestation merely by contact -- that is, they stay off your lawn. (systemics do both -- keep insects off your lawn, and kill root/blade eaters). I have come to the decision that if you don't use insecticides and depend on organics, you will have infestation out of control. Here's why. I have the luxury of walking to work every day and see all kinds of variation on SA. In the early fall, the neighborhood was hit by sod webworms, and one day in August after walking home, I noticed that our entire front lawn was gone and looked like brown thatch. I inspected the lawn and lo and behold there was a white silky-looking spider web structure over the entire lawn ("webworm") and the blade of grass looked like they were chewed up and spit out, taking on a sawdust look. Welcome to sod webworm infestation. Sod webworms have several cycles, and are delived to the lawn via a white moth. The worms burrow down in the root system and come out at night and feed. One worm can consume a sq. meter of lawn in one night! Immediatley, I treated with bifenthrin, using about 3 pounds per 1000 sq ft -- that is, a long-lasting treatment that should last for 3-4 months. On later walks to and from work, I noticed that a lot of neighbors never treated for sod webworms, and the large thatchy-looking areas that were eaten by sod webworm remained in their lawns all through the winter. Now they have the worst looking lawns in the neighborhood, since I believe once underground during the cold season, the webworms have a feast on the root structure -- causing considerably more damage. Point is that organics can not knock such infestations out, so you need synthetics for this. Synthetic insecticides will also keep the chinch bug populations under control -- and recall grubs have their own unique treatment. If you must use synthetic insecticide then apply neem oil dissolved in water using a sprayer. Neem oil supposedly induces a lock-jaw effect on many cutworms/armyworms/webworms.

    For fungi, corn meal actually minimizes germination of herb seeds (weeds) in the spring and also supports colonization of many beneficial fungi and bacteria. Corn meal mainly enhances growth of a particular bacteria which minimizes fungal growth. There would be no problem using corn meal form the grocery store if you can't get it form a feed or fert store. I use it a lot, and it helps minimize brown spot. I also use nitro-phos for brown spot prevention.

    For fertilizer, look up Microlife and Milorganite. Microlife is an organic mixture of bat guano, molasses, alfalfa, etc that results in an N-P-K of 6-2-4, which I use about every 3-4 months from spring to fall. Milorganite is sewage sludge from Lake Michigan (Jones Island Sewage Treatment Plant, Milwaukee, WI) and is also a 6-2-4. MIlorganite is rich in iron, and I apply it in Nov and Dec (in the winter) and obtain a dark green SA turf that looks like Kentucky blue grass all winter long. If you winterize with a winterizing fert in Nov, and then apply Milorganite in Dec, your SA will be dark green all winter lawn providing you don't get a freeze -- which can simply kill the turf. (Again, notice that we did 3 things already for winter prep that most neighbors don't even consider: insecticide every 3-4 months, corn meal, winterize, and Milorganite. A lot of this is not cheap - but you have to maintain your investments.

    Another organic treatment is that you have to apply a 1/4" to 1/2" of compost or cow/sheep manure at least twice a year to your SA. This is one of the best ways to maintain a rich and vital microorganism enviroment in your SA. Composts and manure prevent many root diseases, and research has shown that spagnum peat moss prevents take all root rot (TARR), which is a nasty root disease that looks like chinch bug infestation. Root disease often result in light green or yellow blades of grass.

    Last, you have to aerate about twice year.

    Lessons learned are that if a synthetic insecticide has not been used in about a year -- I can guarantee that there will be huge thriving populations of insects in your turf. Corn meal help minimize fungal diseases that can never be figured out -- fungal attacks are like a moving target and can be very challenging to control. Compost and manure support a healthy microorganism environment -- so that nutrients are taken up and metabolized, and invariably fungi is under control. Once a year, I apply Spectracide Illuminox for broad spectrum fungal control -- however, the local fert store owner said to be careful about using antifungals -- since they can wipe out a lot of the beneficial microorganisms.

    Get your soil tested as well at your local co-op. If you want to go on steroids for organic, then look at
  7. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    Interesting post indeed
    organics on steroids look to the soil food web, but use toxic pesticide to wipe out complete populations in the soil

    You are also nuking the very fungi that stop infestations of things like sod web worm

    Mother nature hates a void, by indescriminantly nuking the soil you are leaving a void, pathogens can and will move quickly to fill it
  8. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,334

    :nono: Now you should be supporting the whole pesticide approach ....
    after all, it does provide a valid reason for repeated applications of CT. :laugh:
  9. JDUtah

    JDUtah LawnSite Silver Member
    from UT
    Messages: 2,636

    Only 2% of my lawns had an insect infestation last year, and a little over 3% a fungal. IMO there is no need to knock out the bugs on a routine basis.
  10. starry night

    starry night LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,141

    After those many and varied apps and treatments, leps lawn has to be
    paranoid and schizophrenic. :)

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