Espoma or Alfalfa

tmal14March 28, 2013

I have a question about organic lawn care.

Here's my situation.

My lawn is approx 10k sq feet, and I'm thinking of going organic this year to feed the lawn. My local feed store has alfalfa pellets for 16.25/50lbs. If I'm not mistaken I would need to apply the alfalfa at 20lbs/1k sq feet so I would need 4, 50lb bags which would cost me $65 per application. With 4 applications/season I would spend about $260 total to feed my lawn.

Or my local garden center I can buy the 4 step Espoma program (covers 5k sq ft) for $100 of which I would need 2 programs which would cost me $200. Milogranite also comes to about the same price as the Espoma.

What are the pros and cons to each? Would the alfalfa be significantly better than the Espoma/milogranite program? Also does the alfalfa need to be applied as often as the Espoma/milogranite which is at 4 times a year?

My lawn needs a lot of help, and I would prefer to not dump a ton of chemicals since I have two little kids.

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Depends really what you are trying to achieve. Each of these has a little different reason to use. Why not mix it up a little. Alfalfa is low in nitrogen (about 2.5), but is a great growth regulator. Milorganite is a little higher in nitrogen (5%), but has a nice kick of iron which greens the lawn up nicely. Assumming you are talking about espoma 7-2-2 its hydrolized feather meal and manure. Feather meal is very slow to break down which is not a problem, just takes longer for the soil/grass to process.

There is some real intelligent people on this website that have been doing organics for years (like dchall and kimmsr). Not sure about Kimmsr, but dchall uses Alfalfa pretty exclusively

If your going to hit it 4 times a year, maybe mix them up a little bit. Milorganite to start (get that Iron in there), next feeding do the Alfalfa, next one Espoma, finish out with a mixture of Milorganite, Alfalfa, throw some cracked Corn in their (if avalable in your area).

It's also good to know where you live, what type of grass you may have, are you willing to get a soil test.

Regardless, throwing down these type of products can only help.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 4:28PM
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I live in Cleveland Ohio, and my grass is a mixture, but mostly fescue from what I can tell.

The espoma program I was looking at is the one listed here, which has 4 distinct steps

I'm looking into getting a soil test once the ground thaws, we are still under snow as of this week.

I'm just trying to get my shopping list lined up so I'm ready to go once spring arrives.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 4:46PM
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I'm sort of in the same position as you. I'm in northern Indiana and am going organic. I've applied compost this week and am torn between Milogranite or CGM as my first application as it warms up. I'm thinking Milogranite for the iron. My lawn is nice but my soil test came back high ph and phosphorous. My local garden center wants me to go CGM, Milogranite, Espoma, Milogranite, Espoma. I should just listen to them but the bulk feeds as fertilizer perks my interest. I can get SBM and Alfalfa at about $15 for 50lbs. I'll probably mix it up and see how it goes. I think it will make it fun. One thing I like is that it sounds like you can't really mess up with applying the organic feeds. A good place for soil test is A&L Great Lakes Laboratory in Ft Wayne. Look them up on the web. My came back quick.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 11:54PM
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CGM is very high in nitrogen (like 9%) and in your case with the high phosphorous good since it's "0". Some people use it as a pre-emergent, but reviews are extremely mixed. This is the only thing I will not go organic with is my pre-emergents. Just won't take the chance.

Again, the mix being recommended is good, but many people just prefer to go with Grains like Alfalfa, Cracked Corn, Soybean, etc. It's based on what you can get in our are many times. There is always debates on whether Milorganite is organic as it does contain some metals. But again, many people on another forum swear by it.

There is another great forum and a page called Bestlawn / Around the yard. Extremely active forums with some great input . They aslo have a Organic FAQ (I beleive developed by dchall who I noted earlier). Check it out, you won't be disappointed.

Keep in mind, you are trying to mix the diet up (just as people like to do) for your Organisms. The more mix the happier they are :)

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 7:30AM
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TNJDM, so you use a synthetic pre-emergent? Kind of a hybrid organic program? Which pre-em do you use? I am a little nervous about this part of the organic lawn care side of it too. I understand that once I get my soil right that it should take care of itself but I already spend a lot of time in the yard and I don't know if I like the idea of pulling weeds for hours on end. My lawn and my neighbors are pretty nice so an invasion of weeds I see unlikely but I'm still a little nervous.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 10:31AM
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I think many of us suffer with this Hunter. There is no doubt that the better soil by going organic should help the "lawn". The thicker the lawn, the better for weed control, but nothing will totally stop weeds as a result of how we get them (wind born, etc.)

I think a lot of this depends on the size of the lawn, is there a weed problem, etc. I just don't find it a lot of fun hand picking weeds over 11K+ sq. ft.

I do use a synthetic pre-emergent. The 2 most popular are the ones they sell in the big box stores, like HD, Lowes, Wal-Mart. Scott Halts which has Pendimethalin and some that contain Dimension. Pendimethalin does not last long, so I prefer to spend a few bucks more and get professional Herbicides like used on Golf Courses.

I actually do the pre-emergents 3 times a year and mix up what I use. Some have a much longer life than others. I just put a bag of XL 2G down for the spring which is a combination of benefin and orzyalin. I also have used Team 2G (Benefin and Trifluralin), Barricade, and Dimension which all have longer "life" in the soil to suppress the seeds. If you struggle with more broadleaf weeds than grassy weeds, Portrait with Gallery is extremely effective.

In order to be effective, these need to be watered in relatively quickly to work as they need to sit where the weed seed reside and germinate, hence once they are washed in, no foul for animals or kiddies (of course, probably another debatable subject).

Of course, another "non-oranic" way I control them is, having bermuda, when it is totally dorrmant, being able to hit anything green with post emergent herbicides or round-up.

I have gotten so anal with all thsi organic stuff and pre-emergents, I have all kinds of spreadsheets of what they are, what they contain, etc. My wife thinks I'm loosing it.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 2:04PM
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Why do you think you need 4 applications of anything each year for your lawn?
Before doing anything you need to know what the soil is, what the soils pH is, what nutrients (if any) are present in the soil, and how much organic matter is in your soil. Then you can make intelligent decisions about what to do to get your lawn to where you want it. throwing a bunch of "stuff" at the lawn may feel good but could be a waste of your time, energy, and money.
Start by contacting your Ohio State University Cooperative Extension office and find out about having a good, reliable soil test done and then dig in with these simple soil tests to see what else needs to be done.
1) Soil test for organic matter. From that soil sample put enough of the rest to make a 4 inch level in a clear 1 quart jar, with a tight fitting lid. Fill that jar with water and replace the lid, tightly. Shake the jar vigorously and then let it stand for 24 hours. Your soil will settle out according to soil particle size and weight. For example, a good loam will have about 1-3/4 inch (about 45%) of sand on the bottom. about 1 inch (about 25%) of silt next, about 1 inch (25%) of clay above that, and about 1/4 inch (about 5%) of organic matter on the top.

2) Drainage. Dig a hole 1 foot square and 1 foot deep and fill that with water. After that water drains away refill the hole with more water and time how long it takes that to drain away. Anything less than 2 hours and your soil drainsâ too quickly and needs more organic matter to slow that drainage down. Anything over 6 hours and the soil drains too slowly and needs lots of organic matter to speed it up.

3) Tilth. Take a handful of your slightly damp soil and squeeze it tightly. When the pressure is released the soil should hold together in that clump, but when poked with a finger that clump should fall apart.

4) Smell. What does your soil smell like? A pleasant, rich earthy odor? Putrid, offensive, repugnant odor? The more organic matter in your soil the more active the soil bacteria will be and the nicer your soil will smell.

5) Life. How many earthworms per shovel full were there? 5 or more indicates a pretty healthy soil. Fewer than 5, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, indicates a soil that is not healthy.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 7:37AM
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