Turf Organics

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by Chris Wagner, Sep 1, 2003.

  1. Chris Wagner

    Chris Wagner LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 252

    I guess I'll start here...

    What are your preferred turf organic fertilizers? Why do you use them? What is the benefit?

    This year I started using Ringer Lawn Restore. It's pricey, but seems to work a little better than Milorganite.

    Last year I was using Milorganite with some great success. Problem is its very slow release. The little iron in it is a nice boost and I achieved a deeper green with Milorganite.

    Once section of our parish grounds was fertilized much later in the fall last year with Milorganite. This was by far the best turf on the grounds when the spring green-up came around.

    Fertilizing mostly kentucky blue, some rye, and some fescue.
  2. lbmd1

    lbmd1 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 462

    we use North Country Organics 8-1-9 greens grade and have had pretty good results with it. Cost is around $17 a 50 lb bag that covers up to 12k sq ft. Their website is norganics.com I believe.

  3. Dchall_San_Antonio

    Dchall_San_Antonio LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 327

    I don't know what the application regulations are for your area, but any ground up seed, nut, or bean with any amount of protein in it is an organic fertilizer. My preference is for corn meal because it is available nearly everywhere and it's cheaper than dirt. Alfalfa meal or pellets is my second choice. At my feed store they sell 50 pound bags for $6.50. If I drive a little further I can get it for $5. If I drive to the corn belt, it becomes more like $5 for 100 pounds. These are retail prices for small numbers of bags. Similar materials may be cheaper in your area feed stores. Alternatives to corn and alfalfa are ground soy, milo, cottonseed, rice, canola, oat, wheat, rye, and coffee.

    The application rates for all grain/nut/bean based protein fertilizers is 10-20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. So for an acre, you're talking about using 450 to 900 pounds of stuff. Many of you will be buying 1,000 pounds a week and getting discounts I could not dream of. But the cost (again, retail) is about $0.001/square foot - the same as retail for Scott's bags.

    For the life of me I do not know how Milorganite works. :angry: As I'm sure you are aware, it is an incinerated biosolids product. How it can have any nutritional value after cooking at 1,000 degrees F I do not know. But the results are pretty amazing. A similar product from Houston, TX is called Hou-actinite.
  4. SWD

    SWD LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 988

    Milorganite works by retention of certain tace minerals not found in most synthetic fertilizers. The thermophilic process the Milorganite goes through is to remove most harmful bacteria associated with the activated sewage sludge process.
    What occurs in the soil is a repopulation of specific bacteria which converts the trace minerals found in Milorganite while increasing the bacterial count. This is why Milorginate is so slow to activate.
    The thing to bear in mind with soil is that bacterial populations are extremely dynamic. Research has repeatedly shown that a completely sterile soil profile become populated very quickly.
    So, when you are organic, you simply manage a different form or bacteria with the subsequent impact on soil chemistry and turf health.
  5. Dchall_San_Antonio

    Dchall_San_Antonio LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 327

    That's the first explanation of Milorganite I've seen that makes some sort of sense. :)

    So let me see if I understand...obviously the microbes, good and bad, are burned away in the 1,000 degree F incinerator. But the trace minerals remain. Then when the product is introduced to the soil, the soil microbes rush in to take up the trace materials and start the microbial digestion process.

    Research has also shown that when a few key microbial species are killed off, the food chain gets so out of whack that the center of gravity tips toward the disease end of the microbial balance. I agree that a sterile soil does not remain sterile for longer than a few seconds. The concern is when it repopulates with microbes, are the beneficial microbes repopulating at the proper proportion with the pathogens so that it is safe to use? This is where compost comes in. Compost provides all the beneficials in the right proportion to totally suppress the pathogens.
  6. SWD

    SWD LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 988

    Right idea, however, slightly off on soil processes. Pathogens are always present, there is simply no way to erradicate. What occurs is that the relative health of the turf is such that the turf is outgrowing the pathogens attacking it.
    Most soil microbes are repopulated from the soil to turf interface. Simply put, most microbes are there, however, the populations are dependent upon many circumstances.
    The real question, and one that has not been answered is, with organics, when is a saturation reached and the effects of such? Just because a chemical, derived to be considered organic, and safe, does not mean a harmful level cannot be reached.
    Essentially, what is a safe limit?
    I am interested empirically based answers.
  7. woodycrest

    woodycrest LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 435

    It seems to me that if there is in fact a saturation point then the amount of fertilizer applied would have to be adjusted to compensate. Or is it at that saturation point when the turf has achieved a balance and does not require fertilization beyond leaving the clippings after mowing. This being the point in time where the turf can be truly organic and look after itself, besides the mowing of course.

    I think of it like the forest...the leaves fall from the trees and decompose and feed the soil which feeds the trees...etc year after year.

    Maybe i oversimplified it somewhat, but thats the way i see it.
  8. Dchall_San_Antonio

    Dchall_San_Antonio LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 327

    Pathogens are eliminated by the hot composting process - all of them. At least the Federal Government thought so when they developed their weekly testing regimen for compost manufacturers. The acceptable limit is "none detectable" for week after week after week after week for about 25 weeks. But pathogens can return by many means so don't count them out. They live in the balance.

    The process is not as simple as outgrowing the pathogens. Pathogens are out competed for food, poisoned, consumed, partially consumed, and given diseases by the beneficial microbes and macrobes in the soil. Fortunately Mother Nature is in charge of the process. If there was a general problem with the process, we would all be dead or else we'd be standing a hundred miles deep in dinosaur poop and bones. My approach is to keep the pathogens and harmful insects outnumbered or diseased to the point where the beneficials easily out compete.

    I disagree that this is the real question. I believe the real question is this: If you have a potential client asking how much you would charge to do an organic program, do you know what tell him?

    I'm not trying to knock your question. It's valid and worthy of its own thread, but this thread is about something else.
  9. SWD

    SWD LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 988

    Yes, actually I do know what to tell him/her.
    My clients frequently ask questions, a great deal of which are very specific.
    I provide answers based upon desired outcomes including prices.
    The reason I use more synthetics than organics is due to the level of maintenance I perform to achieve the desired result demanded by my clients.
    I typically approach most problems culturally, correcting growing conditions, changing turf species to a better adapted variety, altering irrigation cycles, etc.
    The reason for the synthetics is based upon a more rapid response than organics.
    When I was building and maintaining golf courses, I utilized both organics and synthetics.
    To date, my preferred organic fert is Earthworks, followed by Milorganite. I have used Ringer, Sustaine, Greensand, seaweed extract, kelp extract, have tried introducing microbes and macrobes for maintenance of both C3 and C4 turfgrasses.
    There is a place for organics, I have and will continue to utilize them. Will organics ever replace synthetics? Now that is a good question for another thread.
  10. trying 2b organic

    trying 2b organic LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 566

    I am searching for suppliers and going over price lists for organic fertilizers. Here on Vancouver Island I am looking at about 30 dollars per 50 pound bag. I would love to be able to use feed store stuff and being made aware of the cost of the bulk materials makes me realize the incredible markup that the brand names have. I know I cannot apply corn meal due to the fact that it does not come in pellet form. I am paying 5 times the cost simply to have it in a form that makes it profitable for me to apply with my broadcast spreader. However, I was wondering if i could cut my expensive pelletized organic fert with alfalfa pellets. Would that be legit? Are the pellets the same size so it would spread and mix evenly. If I could find a way to lower my costs I could sell more organic fertilizer programs. Oh, and I want to sell lime but I need a good pH tester. Hanna the best?
    ty everyone.

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