well balanced article on organic lawn care

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by ICT Bill, Dec 7, 2007.

  1. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    by Tony Avent
    Written for The News and Observer, Raleigh NC

    Why is it that the grass, that refuses to stay alive and healthy in the lawn, but upon moving into the mulched flower beds, it grows like never before? Why ask why?

    The catch word is organics. For every organic gardener, there is a different definition about what is organic. Before you get your back up, let me say that I am far from being a granola crunching, Silent Spring toting, environmentalist whacko (borrowed the term). As one who started out as an advocate of using chemicals as needed, my views have certainly changed with introspective experience and an increase of knowledge.................

    One of the biggest problems in growing lawns, is the lack of any addition of organic matter to the soil, hence the need for large quantities of commercial fertilizers. Finally, it has become politically correct to let clippings fall back into the lawn...that one took a while!

    The lawn clippings by themselves are of no benefit without microbes to help them decompose. If we are killing the microbes with high salt commercial fertilizers, what have we accomplished. Through the use of organic fertilizers, we need to correct the nutritional balance of the soil. It is at this point that the microbes begin to work for the soil.

    Most turf diseases in home lawns can be easily avoided without the use of chemicals. First the maintenance of the lawn must be performed properly...cut the right height, etc. By having the soil microbes at work, and the nutrients in balance, the lawn grasses are no longer under stress. As we have talked about stress earlier, the less stress...the less diseases !

    Being a good organic gardener has been tough, due to the lack of mainstream information. In that vein, I want to recommend a book for everyone that deals with soils and soil chemistry in an easily understandable format. The book is An Acres USA Primer by Walters and Fenzau, ISBN 0-911311-37-8 by Acres USA Press.

    At this time, organic fertilizers are sort of a catch-22 proposition. There are a number of organic fertilizer lines on the market, but very little good information to go with them. We have worked closely with Fertrell, a Pennsylvania company that actually manufactures many of the products on the market under a variety of trade names.

    What makes a good organic fertilizer. It's not simply putting some cow and chicken manure together in a bag. Just as chemical fertilizers are mixed with a little of this, and a little of that, the same process is followed in the manufacture of organic fertilizers. Organic fertilizers, as a general rule, are not something that is dug out of the ground and sold.

    The use of organics fertilizers without knowing the desired result, is of little more benefit than using chemical fertilizers. The information demand from consumers must increase, before the information will become available. Organic fertilizers must be used in conjunction with information from your soil tests, which unfortunately are also lacking in much necessary information.

    As I have warned many times, beware of the magnesium and calcium levels in the soil, for it is their balance (5:1 calcium to magnesium ratio) that controls the availability of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium to the plants. Unfortunately lime recommendations are made without regard to whether these readings indicate a need for calcitic (without magnesium) or dolomitic lime (with magnesium).

    Finally, there are a few good organic landscape companies in the area, so check the yellow pages. To me, organic landscaping does not mean, simply not spraying chemicals, for this in and of itself will not work. The reduction in chemical usage, MUST be accompanied by a program of stress reduction through soil nutritional balance, increase the use of organic matter, and good maintenance techniques

    Bill here, You will be interested when this was written

  2. Marcos

    Marcos LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,720

    You don't have to be so melodramatic !!!

    It's because it has more r-o-o-m.
  3. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    I wasn't trying to be dramatic, OK maybe I was. Caught red handed
    I thought it was interesting that it was 13 or 14 years old and it sounds like it was written yesterday

    There are lots of reasons why. I see lots of lawns that are extra thick, I don't think its a ROOM issue with the right environment grass plants will grow literally on top of one another.

    Compaction comes to the top of my list or it is being out competed for nutrients by tree roots, moisture availability, etc, etc, etc
  4. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,334

    Generally speaking, turf will out compete trees for nutrients & water.
  5. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    You actually bring up a subject that I have been thinking about lately, maybe I should start a thread on it.
    Competition in the yard for nutrients, when the typical home is first planted generally shrubs and trees are put too close together, fast forward 15 or 20 years. They are now trying to outcompete each other for nutrients and water.
    What is the responsible way to handle this, some shrubs 15 or 20 years old are irreplaceable, same wih the trees. I love the look of azaleas and red maples 20 years old but often they become leggey or do not perform well because they can't get or have already taken the nutrients from the soil.

    I know its a broad subject but I have been thinking a lot about it lately
  6. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,334

    Absolutely. It seems to me there is a fundamental connection missing between site design and long term maintenance. I believe the problem lies with designers who have little understanding of maintenance past the first few years after construction.

    This problem not only manifests itself as competition issues (water, nutrients, space, light, etc...), but is also manifested as resource management issues (eg. irrigation, labor, and other inputs). If I had a nickel for every poorly designed irrigation system that essentially was worthless after the landscape matured.... :hammerhead:

    The same thing can be said for planting high maintenance landscapes (eg. turf, formal pruning, plants not sized correctly for location, disease susceptibility, etc....). It fundamentally comes down to lack of foresight and poor resource management.

    More consideration has to be given to the individual plants and their needs as they mature. The desire for the "instant" landscape needs to be curbed as well as the desire for exotic landscapes (eg. not appropriate for the region). A little planning and patience goes a long way, especially when you consider the monetary value of a mature (and more importantly healthy) landscape that is sustainable at a reasonably low cost to the property owner.

    In my mind, a properly design landscape should see a net reduction of inputs over time, not an increase, which unfortunately seems to be the norm. :(
  7. Prolawnservice

    Prolawnservice LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 612

    I think a large portion of the problem is landscape architects and designers not knowing the actual plants well enough. On top of that, never doing maintenance work themselves, they don't understand the challenges they create.
  8. phasthound

    phasthound LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,123

    When I'm in the right company, I like to say that the biggest pest in the landscape is the landscape designer. And the next biggest pest is the installer.

    So many problems can be avoided by properly planting the right plant in the right place.
  9. Prolawnservice

    Prolawnservice LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 612

    the landscapers golden rule.:)
  10. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,334

Share This Page