Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by rutgers1, Nov 10, 2007.

  1. rutgers1

    rutgers1 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 4

    After bouncing back and forth on the issue, I have decided to forgo the synthetic winterizer, apply some Scotts Organic Choice Lawn Food that I picked up for 1/2 price (even though I have read that the micro herd isn't too active in NJ at this point in the year) and hope for the best in the spring. I know that a lot of organic guys cheat a bit for their winterizer and go synthetic or go with urea, which we could probably debate about for 20 pages in regards to whether it is organic or not, but I was just wondering what everyone here does. And for those who don't bend and stick with organics, how has your lawn done in the spring (early green up? late green up?)?

  2. Gerry Miller

    Gerry Miller LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 504

    My lawn stays green longer in the fall and greens up nicely early every year. I never use anything but protein meals, fish hydrolysate, humic acid, seaweed and AACT. While some of the soil organisms do slow down and go dormant, there are other organisms that stay active all winter long. They still need to be fed as well. Nothing goes to waste in an organic system.

    After the leaves have fallen and I've mulched them into my turf, I apply an application of AACT. I will also add fish hydrolysate as my last application to my soil. This just aids with the breakdown of the leaves. Soil temps here are still warm, as they probably are in NJ, but growth has slowed down.

    Stating that there's no soil microbe activity is usually the argument made by synthetic people that attempts to justify using chemicals. And with an organic system, there is no 'winterizer'. That's marketing from Scott's to sell more of their chemicals. Fall is the most important time to fertilize, but the idea that you need 3 applications of high N synthetic fertilizer for healthy and early spring green up is baloney. It does much more harm that good.

    Urea is not organic and is typically a waste of your money to apply urea or any other form of inorganic N late in the fall. Urea doesn't drive off bacteria, it can cause a bloom of some not-so-wonderful bacteria, and harms your fungi.

    Can urea supply N for microbes? Sure it can, but it typically arrives as nitrate, which is more beneficial for bacteria than fungi.

    Typically, in chemical soils, any N put down in the fall is lost before the next spring growth.

    If you have some soil life, then the added N might be held by the biology.

    By adding organic N will result in nutrient cycling improving, and that added N will not be lost.

    Urea is a salt. The conventional perception of salt as being only sodium chloride (NaCl) is incorrect.

    Table salt, i.e., sodium chloride, is only one kind of salt.

    By definition salt is any material that dis-associates in water.

    That means that all salts have a positive and negative charge to the components that will easily be pulled apart by the hydrogen (positive charge which interacts with the negative charged portion of the salt compound) and the hydroxide (OH-, or negatively charged part of the water molecule which interacts with the positively charged part of the salt).

    The fact that the positive and negative charges interact means that the water molecule is removed from the pool of available water. That complexed water can't do what it is supposed to do inside a plant.

    Calcium chloride is a salt (Ca+ Cl2-). Calcium carbonate (lime, Ca+ CO3-) is a salt. Ammonium nitrate (NH4+ NO3-) is a salt. Calcium sulfate (gypsum, Ca+ SO4-) is a salt.

    All these materials basically remove water from the "pool" of water available to plants for their growth. This availability of water is measured as osmosity, or osmotic concentration. The higher the salt, the less water is actually available, the higher the osmotic concentration. If water with high amounts of salt dissolved in it is taken up by the plant, the high salt content will kill the plant.

    Now, the question of urea being a salt.

    Urea disassociates in water. So, end of story there with respect to the ability of urea to remove water from the pool of available water and increase osmotic concentration.

    Any urea containing material delivered in a solid form can be very detrimental to soil biology, depending on how much is applied, in large part because of the osmotic problems inherent in what salts do.

    If the urea is delivered already in solution, then things are a bit different, because water is part of the material being applied, and some of the salt problem is already neutralized. But again, it becomes a question of "how much" osmotic concentration is increased by the addition of this salt.
  3. rutgers1

    rutgers1 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 4

    Thank you for your very thorough response. I have a few follow-up comments/questions:
    1) I know from reading some of your posts that you consider making AACT an artform. I am committed to my lawn, but probably not at the point where I am going to be THAT into the specifics of making AACT. Last month, I made it with vermicompost (in a stocking, aerated for a few days). If I were to do it again, I would probably use compost from a friend's Earth Machine. Is it worth it to follow the same steps at this time of the year (submerge a stocking filled with the stuff and aerate for 3 days)?
    2) Here do you get fish hydrolysate, humic acid, and seaweed? I don't know anything about fish hydrolysate, but I have seen humic acid as a component of Jonathan Green's organic fertilizer. I have also seen seaweed concentrate at my local garden store.

    Thanks in advance!
  4. Gerry Miller

    Gerry Miller LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 504


    Making AACT isn't really an art form, but it does require that you follow a set procedure to achieve consistent success. It is certainly worth while to apply the last application of AACT. I would recommend after you've mulched your leaves into your turf. Remember soil temps are much warmer than air temps this time of year. You could have applied the Scott's Organic Fertilizer before applying the your tea. They will work together. However, a protein meal like soybean meal or alfalfa meal or any other meal would have been much cheaper to purchase.

    I use a KIS 5 gallon brewer that allows your to make AACT in as little as 12 hours. Although, I still make most of my brews between the 18 and 24 hour mark. At that time level the maximum fungi level is achieved. Brewing times will vary depending on the equipment used.

    Vermicompost is great stuff to use to make tea. Depending on the diet of the worms, they usually produce a bacterial dominant tea. If they are fed a diet of leaves, cardboard, paper, they will produce a fungal dominated tea.

    I have discovered, in my case, to purchase the compost and food kits that KIS sells. I'm not sure if my compost bins reach the required temperature to kill off pathogens and weed seeds. Although I don't use anything but grass, dried leaves, and small branches that have been mulched, in my compost bins. No animal manures are used. I don't want to spend lots of money on testing to see if the correct organisms are present. With using the KIS products, all the testing is done for you. Their brewers, the compost and food are all tested to their content. Using their system takes all the guess work out of the procedure.

    KIS is also where I purchase the humic acid and seaweed I use on my lawn and plants. The fish hydrolysate I purchase from Schafer's Organic Fish Fertilizer. They use only fresh water fish and they use the whole fish, nothing is removed. They are also the only fish I've found that has 12% Ca content. This allows me to add Ca to my soil at the same time I feed the soil micro herd. It's also the cheapest I've ever seen compared to Neptune's Harvest or Organic Gem.

  5. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    Good for you on the worm compost tea, great stuff. One thing to note about using fish and kelp on peoples stinks. Women especially don't like the smell. Some products really stink and for days, so try it out somewhere before using it on customers yards. One trick to get it smell less is go in the bathroom cabinet and add a little hydogen peroxide to the mix before spraying. It will help a lot
    Neptunes harvest has some great products, they are in Maine I think. North country organics has some good products too, they are in Vermont.

    You can make and apply compost tea anytime you like, but..... the beneficial microorganisms grow out better in 70F+ water, can you do it in your garage or somewhere where it is heated? Good finished compost is always a good choice for compost tea.

    Here is some info on fish:
    The liquid fish hydrolysate process minces the whole fish, then enzymatically digests, grinds and liqueifies the resulting product, known as gurry. Because it is a cold process, gurry putrefies more rapidly than fish emulsion and needs to be stabilized at a lower pH, requiring more acid. Researchers have tried formic acid, sulfuric acid, and others. Formic acid had phytotoxic effects on plants. Phosphoric acid is the preferred stabilizer. Citric acid is used too. Call the manufacturer and ask if you have any questions.

    ICT Bill
  6. Gerry Miller

    Gerry Miller LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 504

    Hi Bill;

    I have used Neptune's Harvest, Organic Gem and Schafer's fish. They all smell different. Tne Neptune's Harvest and Organic Gem did leave a fishy smell, but it's gone in a couple of days. The Schafer's fish smell was gone the next day. And again, 12% Ca content as compared to .75 to 1.75 of the other two brands makes Schafer the clear winner.

    I only use hydrogen peroxide to clean up my brewing equipment to eliminate any bio film. I don't want to kill of soil organisms using peroxide. If you want to reduce the smell, use unsulfured molasses. That will cut the smell dramatically.

    Hydrogen peroxide solubilizes cell membranes of all organisms, so the addition of hydrogen peroxide would be so that organisms would be killed.
  7. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,335

    Gerry, how about you leave the science to the scientists.
  8. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    If you are using hydrogen peroxide often, find sodium percarbonate it is the solid form of H2O2 (actually 3H2O2) and is much cheaper to use. Have you every seen the commercial on television for Oxyclean sodium percarbonate is the main ingredient.
    I agree with you that it oxydizes the some of the good guys. I have suggested using H2O2 seperately on the Fish or Kelp right out of the container.
    Thanks for the Molasses suggestion, I'll have to try it
    We are trying some essential oil tests to make the smell a little nicer, things like cedar

    ICT Bill
  9. Gerry Miller

    Gerry Miller LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 504

    What would you know about that? :laugh: It's amazing you are not crushed to the ground under the weight of your enormous ego!
  10. Gerry Miller

    Gerry Miller LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 504


    I like that idea about using cedar to improve the smell. Let us know if you find a combination that works.

    My wife and kids sometimes complain about the smell of using the fish. But to me, it's like going to the beach. I don't mind the smell, although I must admit, I can't eat my peanut butter and sardine sandwich after applying the tea. LOL!:laugh:

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