Soybean Meal vs Alfalfa Pellets?

oswiff(NY LI z7a)January 24, 2013

Hi everyone,
New to owning and caring for a lawn and looking to go organic this year.

After conversing at length with dchall, and seeing some great pictures posted, I'm sold on organic fertilizers. As I began calling around for local prices, I found SBM for $18/50# and alfalfa pellets for $21/50#. Fairly close and I haven't shopped around yet.

From what I understand, key difference is protein/nitrogen content. SBM is somewhere around 40% protein/6% nitrogen and alfalfa is more like 14-17% protein/3% nitrogen.

I know nitrogen promotes leaf growth. But that's where it ends for me. Is more nitrogen better, or is more nitrogen better only at certain times of year? Does SBM or alfalfa have any other pros/cons beyond just the protein and added OM value?

I thought I read something about alfalfa having a growth hormone effect?

Your assistance in furthering my education is appreciated.


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The vast majority of soybeans grown today are Genetically Engineered to be herbicide resistant and are not something I would use in my organic garden/yard. Finding Soybean Meal that is free of that gene is not immpossible but is difficult and what is generally available will have that gene and will not be identified as having it.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 7:26AM
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oswiff(NY LI z7a)

kimmsr -- Interesting. That's very helpful to know about SBM.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 8:25AM
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I have been organic on my lawn for a few years and here are some things I noticed.

- SBM does a great job "greening up the yard". I put it down (50 lbs) and 2-3 weeks later, bang, deep dark green.

- Water - It is the most critical part, at least for me, so you have to really watch it closely. Too much and I got nutsedge, too little the grass suffered.

- Weeds - the biggest headache. Corn Gluten Meal worked great to prevent the various weeds. I put it down in March and it lasted till July before I put it down again. The cost was the killer, at least here, 60 dollars for 50 lbs.

- Alfalfa - 14 dollars a bag, 50 lbs, and I liked to add it to mix up what I put down on the lawn. Some people rave about it others pan it. Try it and see what happens.

- Corn Meal - I put it down too. 22 dollars a bag.

- Dried Molasses - I read several people reported good results putting it down and others saying it was not worth the time. I could not find it here until this week and will put it down to see what it does.

Cost - the lawn spray service is 70 dollars 6 times a year and they did a ok job, but I was still hit with crab grass (they said they can't do much about it) and a few other weeds, same response.

Organic Costs - CGM is too expensive now and hard to get. I found a small business that supplies grains to horse ranchers and she has really good prices for SBM/CM/DM and trying to get CGM.

All in all, I like the organic lawn care better than the traditional lawn care.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2013 at 11:10AM
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oswiff(NY LI z7a)

totsuka - Thanks for the info and your thoughts.

Can you tell me more about your CGM applications? Did you put any down other than March and July? Fall? How did you tell it was time to reapply? CGM for me is ~$65/50# so you're not too bad. I agree it's by far the most expensive grain. You mention you get a lawn spray service and still have crabgrass -- is the CGM not effective against the crabgrass, or is it a timing of application/personal preference thing?

Can you tell me more about what makes you decide to go with alfalfa vs SBM or corn meal? Any reason for choosing one over another at certain times of the year? Any thoughts on "effectiveness" of them vs one another?

Sorry so many questions!

    Bookmark   January 25, 2013 at 7:42PM
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Corn Gluten Meal, CGM, works quite well for "weed" supression if applied at the right time, about 6 weeks before the target plant is expected to start germinating. Since the research, and patents, on CGM was done by Iowa State university perhaps this link will answer more of your questions.

Here is a link that might be useful: About Corn Gluten Meal

    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 7:17AM
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No problem with the questions...sorry for slow response, been busy painting the house. Now there is a job I hate.

I love organic, but it's not a short term deal, it might take a few years to get your lawn "back to nature" with some headaches along the way and it's not cheap. At least for me and the wife watches me like a hawk when it comes to spending. Be careful about going overboard on the lawn. It's just the lawn and don't get carried away tossing money into it.

To me, my first choices is CGM but too expensive, then SBM, but could not get it, then Alfalfa, corn meal.

CGM - You have to put it down when the temp is above 50 for more than 5 days...check on the web..there are a few organic lawn sites that give advice on this product and timing. I put it down during March, but that is for Central Fl.

You can put CGM down anytime you want, but be careful about watching out for cynch bugs if that is a problem in your area. I put it down in March and late Sept. (Of course, don't put it down in the snow, depending on your area).

CGM worked great against crabgrass, I did not have a problem. When I used the lawn service, wham, I got crabgrass and other weeds that they can't defeat anymore. The restrictions on the commercial lawn spray companies is preventing them from using what works to what might work.

Alfalfa is cheap where I live. 14 dollars a bag from Farm City, but they won't order the SBM anymore due to low demand. It was 34 dollars a bag 2 years ago. Last week I found a lady out in farm country that sells grains on the side and she said she could get SBM for 19 dollars a bag which is pretty good price.

Corn meal is a weaker fert. but a lot of people claim it prevents fungus problems. I put it down a few times and still got hit with fungus, but Florida to me, is difficult for lawn care so I think fungus is a never ending problem.

It's not cheap going organic, but I really liked the results I got using this process, except weed control. CGM controls some, but not all weeds so you will still go out there and yank them.

Also, if you can get a soil test to give you a basic starting point that is a good idea. Then dethatch you lawn. I did not do the dethatch thing and regret it. The machines are cheap, 120 bucks off Amazon.

Then, if you can get the CGM, put it down as a prevent for the weeds. Figure out your temps for you area.

You can always toss down the alfalfa. I like the smell, and it is small pellets so just toss them by hand and water them in.

Wait a month and see if the CGM greens up the lawn, which is should. Then in June try SBM.

It's a lot of fun to see the results and I tried different products on different areas of my lawn. The area between the sidewalk and the street has always been a headache for cynch bugs due to the heat.

Also, I put some of the alfalfa pellets into old milk jugs and let it sit for a few days, boy does it stink, then poured the stuff on the base of the various bushes and trees.

One thing I did notice was my oak tree really "greened up" going organic compared to my neighbors trees.

Don't store any of these grains in your garage, house them, use them same day or next. If not, mice etc..might find them..also they might have bugs in the grains so never store them, buy them and put them down.

I'll search around and see if I can find that really good organic site I used to read. Now those guys...they got it down...lost that url when the computer crashed.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 11:07AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

In 2011 I used CGM every month at 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet at my wife's request. My lawn has never looked that good but it did not seem to do anything to suppress weeds. If eight applications didn't do anything, I'd be surprised (pleasantly) if one or two helped out.

I do not use corn meal as a preventative. I use it to kill disease after I determine that I have it.

Be careful about dethatching your lawn. If you have St Augustine, a dethatcher will shred the lawn and kill it. Before it has a chance to return, every weed there is will have taken over.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 8:44PM
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CGM did not work? What time of year did you start putting it down? For me, it was March, and based on the temps. I had good luck with it.

Tks for dethatch advice...I did not want to do it, but one section in the back is just too heavy with thatch..the organics is suppose to prevent that..but did not work there..I was reading another site and the guy recommended using the greenworks machine...and adjust it for the SA grass...going to give it a shot...

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 3:17PM
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Dethatching, and aerating, lawns is only necessary where the soil is so devoid of organic matter that the Soil Food Web cannot function. A thatch layer up to 1/2 inch thick can be beneficial in a healthy lawn because that will aid in holding soil moisture in, aid in suppressing "weed" growth, aid in keeping the soil cool, and provide a food source for the Soil Food Web, just as a mulch on a flower bed will do.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 7:22AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Thatch almost never forms under organic care. The reasons seems to be that the soil microbes and moisture allow better decomposition of the dead grass at the surface.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 2:19AM
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oswiff - I'm not sure of the availability of various grains in your area, but I tried craigslist(under farms) and found a farmer that is selling grains on the side. She has pretty good prices (for florida). SBM - 19 dollars for 50lbs, dried molasses - 14 dollars, corn meal -13 dollars, alfalfa -15 dollars, all 50 lbs, but she can't get CGM, which is too bad.

You might give CL a look, if nothing else, it's nice chatting with the farmers...

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 9:39AM
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Some might find this article of interest.

Here is a link that might be useful: About Soybeans

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 7:08AM
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The areas I dethatched have really improved...and I am very happy with the results.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 3:09PM
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