cost of organic

hogan_njApril 20, 2009

I live in nj and finding out the high cost of going organic. My local county extension office recommended corn gluten meal for my weed problem but after shopping around it will cost me around $200.00 opposed to about $35.00 for weed and feed.

I want to go organic but that is a big difference in cost,especially since I am out of a job right now.

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okcdan(7 OKC - Bermuda)

I can't imagine how there can be such a dramatic difference in the cost, particularly these days, since the cost of synthetic fertilizers has gone up so much... Last year, a bag of 34-0-0 straight urea could be purchased at my local big box stores for a little over $10 -- this last weekend I was pricing it & the larger bags (that cover 15,000 sqft) were in the $35-$45 range.... A small bag of urea based fertilizer (for 5000 sqft) was nearly $20, for straight fertilizer, not weed-n-feed (this was yesterday) -- While last weekend, I purchased a 50lb bag of soybean meal for $15.25 -- -- so, the bottom line is that in Oklahoma I can fertilize with either synthetic or organic for virtually the exact same cost....

I don't know where you're pricing your CGM, but $200 doesn't sound right to cover the same square footage that the same bag of synthetic weed-n-feed'll cover...


    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 4:18PM
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billhill(z5 MI - KBG)

Sorry about your employment situation. Organics do not need to be more expensive than chemical lawn care. Your local county extension office is feeding you totally wrong information. I cant believe they are so inept. Corn gluten meal will do nothing for dandelions and other broadleaf and grassy weeds other than feed them real well. When someone asks how to deal with crabgrass organically, frequently they are told to apply 20 pounds/1000 feet of corn gluten meal. What you should know is that it takes time and numerous applications of the stuff over a number of seasons for it to even approach the effectiveness of readily available synthetics. CGM is a very healthy organic fertilizer with some pre-emergent killing properties against crabgrass. It is one of the more expensive grain products used as lawn fertilizer. You mentioned weed and feed. That is the worst approach you could take. If you want to weed, then weed-be-gone liquid selective herbicide  by spot treating your weeds. If you want to feed, then feed - with soy bean meal. In your previous post you said "I just decided this year I wanted to go all organic." You asked for suggestions on what to do and received several good ones, including spot treatment with selective herbicide. If you want a descent lawn, Get your lawn strong and healthy with organic fertilizers, good cultural practices and weed free with weed-be-gone and perhaps some pre-emergent herbicide for crabgrass if it isnÂt too late in your area.

Bill Hill

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 4:28PM
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Thanks Bill,The master gardener at my local extension office had a copy of my soil test results in front of her when she recommended I not go with organic fert. this year.She said I need to get things corrected quickly rather than wait for organic program to work.

She was concerned that my potassium was soo low at 59 that she recommends I go with a step 1 weed and feed or cgm to get ahead of the crabgrass and other weeds that have not emmerged.

Then in about 3 weeks I get a fert. with a low middle number and fertilize. Believe me I am so confused at this point,I just want to do the best and cost effective program for my lawn,it is a mess right now.

The frustrating thing is I waited 3 weeks to get my soil test results back to do anything and it seems like I missed the window of opportunity for the spring, first step.

I do appreciate all advice but I am just confused about what to do at this time.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 6:55PM
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A lot of folks in the midwest can find a variety of feed to put on their lawns and thus talk about how organic is similar in cost to synthetic programs. Thing is it's not like that in other areas. I live in metro Atlanta and have called every feed and seed store in a 25 mile radius and cannot find soybean meal. Nor can I find cotton seed meal. I can find alfalfa. After much search I found someone carrying CGM but it would have cost me also around $130 for my 9,000 square feet of lawn.

I'm committed to the organic idea, but those preaching about the abundance of inexpensive products please know this is not the case in other areas of the U.S.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2009 at 8:21AM
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kmnhiramga--I haven't used anything but UCG from Starbucks on my lawn in years. Your lawn is about twice the size of mine, so you probably couldn't rely entirely on UCG, but you could probably replace half of what you need with UCG. Actually, probably more than that, because my wife doesn't like the smell when it's hot, so I can only spread them during the spring and fall.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2009 at 9:08AM
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If you think that you need to purchase any and all the materials you will use to be an organic gardener it can be very costly, but if you recycle your materials, make compost, put your grass clippings right back where they came from, your lawn, your out of pocket expense will be greatly less than someone with a conventional garden. There is no really good reason to spend a lot of money on "stuff" to grow a lawn of plants of any kind.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2009 at 9:14AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

I consider corn gluten meal to be a luxury. It is way too expensive in my neighborhood to use on a routine basis. Used coffee grounds from Starbucks is the free source of fertilizer. I don't use that because it's a little more messy than I can handle. I use ordinary ground corn because it is cheap around here. Second to that I use rabbit pellets (next cheapest).

    Bookmark   April 25, 2009 at 3:09PM
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Hello - I posted up in another forum regarding costs, and just found this thread. I have a similar situation (and am in New Jersey). The cost of the purchased grains seems to be prohibitive. I drink a lot of coffee (so does my office) what is the approach with that for amounts and frequency? I am still working out how I want to build my composter. I like and have seen similar to Bill Hill's, but haven't gotten it put together yet.

If I am understanding correctly here, I can - for virtually no cost - fertilize my lawn with compost and other "free" material?

    Bookmark   April 27, 2009 at 4:08PM
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Unless you count your time and labor making your own compost will only cost you what it takes to gather the materials to make that compost. When I was still gainfully employed I would gather materials on my way home from work when they were available, raked up leaves in the fall grass clippings all spring, summer, and fall so the cost of getting that was really negligable. Now that I am retired I need to plan, very carefully, the trips into town to gather since special trips would not be cost effective and wife would probably not be real thrilled if I stopped on the way home from the symphony, a play, or some other similar gathering.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2009 at 7:27PM
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"what is the approach with that for amounts and frequency? '

Coffee grounds are about 2% N, so it takes 50 lbs of grounds to get 1 lb of N, and you should aim for about 3 lbs of N per 1000 sq ft of lawn per year.

What I do is stop at Starbucks when I pass and get whatever grounds they have. I start in one corner of the lawn and fling the coffee out as I walk backward around the lawn. When I run out, I remember where I left off and start there when I get more grounds. When I've covered the entire lawn, I start over.

I have a fairly small lawn and can get enough grounds to make that suffice. If your lawn is large and/or you can't get enough grounds, you might need to supplement with other sources.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2009 at 8:36PM
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bpgreen, I've been doing a lot of research on organic fertilizers, and I'm not so sure about using used coffee grounds solely. What's important in organic fertilizers is the C:N (Carbon to Nitrogen) ratio. Carbon is the food source for the microorganisms, but those microorganisms must have Nitrogen in order to synthesize proteins. If too much Carbon is added, and not enough Nitrogen, then the microorganisms will actually "leech" the plant-available Nitrogen from the soil, creating a Nitrogen deficiency in the plants (immobilization).

Coffee grounds are more like 1% Nitrogen, and 25% Carbon. So, they have a C:N of 25:1, and what you're looking for in organic fertilizers is a ratio of less than 20:1. Anything above that will require a supplemental source of Nitrogen. I'd strongly recommend using a mix of organic "materials" for feeding the soil (or a single source that has a C:N less than 20:1), instead of just using coffee grounds. Even with a mix, you're still looking for a total C:N of less than 20:1. Soybean Meal has a C:N of about 7:1, so it's an example of an excellent single source.

Here's more on the C:N importance of organic fertilizers:

And here's a good list of C and N percentages for various organic sources:,7518,s-5-21-112,00.html

    Bookmark   April 28, 2009 at 10:51AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Chemists have been telling us about microbes for far too long. We need to start listening to biologists if we want to understand the microbiology in the soil. Carbon and nitrogen are not completely immaterial in organic fertilizer but they are not the compounds to be looking at. The CSU link was apparently written by chemists because they completely misrepresent the biology of microbes in the soil. Microbes do not use carbon to make cells and nitrogen to make protein. Microbes use carbohydrates to make cells and protein to make protein. In other words they use food. Carbon is not the food source for microbes, FOOD is the food source for microbes. There is no reason to try to split the hairs any further than carbohydrates and protein except maybe to add minerals, vitamins, and enzymes.

Sure coffee and corn are not the richest sources of protein, but they really do work great. The fact that they work so well makes me wonder if the biology process can even be boiled down to simple carbs and protein. It is seeming to be much more complicated.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2009 at 12:03PM
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Carbon is not the compound to be looking at? I think you've got some reading to do. :-)

    Bookmark   April 28, 2009 at 1:27PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

I read about carbon and nitrogen from 1973 through 2001. I am sick of reading about carbon and nitrogen. I can 100% guarantee you that if I put a pile of black carbon on the ground and pump nitrogen gas through it from now on, in 100,000,000 years I will still have a pile of carbon, not soil or microbe cells. Whereas if I put a pile of sugar (carbohydrate) on the ground, and mixed in some milk, eggs, or meat (high protein sources), within a few days the pile will be mostly microbes even though I did not put any in the pile.

I quit reading about soil chemistry after I started reading about microbes. Then I realized that carbon is carbohydrates and nitrogen is protein. Any university that is still talking about organic gardening and carbon and nitrogen all in the same paragraph is at least 15 years behind. They need to kick the chemists out of the soil department.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 12:26AM
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dchall, I'm not sure why you're being so dense on the topic. What I'm talking about plays right into everything talked about in the link you posted. And yes, I've read it before; several times. Maybe you should read it a little closer. :-)

When organic materials are added to the soil, the carbon in it is used for microbial growth during decomposition. To support the increased microbial growth, Nitrogen is required. If not enough Nitrogen is available in the organic material being added, in respect to how much carbon is added, then microbes will use the Nitrogen that's available in the soil. This is referred to as immobilization, because the microbes are having to use the plant-available Nitrogen to support their growth. This is why it's important to pay attention to the C:N ratio of the organic material you're adding to the soil.

To put it in a little simpler terms for you, go out to your lawn and set some grass clippings on top of the soil, and also set a handful of saw dust on the soil. The sawdust has a C:N of about 600:1 and the grass clippings are about 19:1. Post back the results of how long it takes each to decompose. Also, have you never read the posts on here about people who've had trees removed? As the roots/wood decomposes, the microbes must use N from the soil because there is not enough N in the wood, which is exactly what I'm saying here. A quick search on here returned this thread (and many more): Does tree sawdust affect lawn?.

You seem to confuse what chemistry is all about, as well. For what ever reason, you think that chemistry = synthetic, and synthetic alone. Chemistry is a very important part of biology, and without the understanding of chemistry, there would be no understanding of biology.

I can 100% guarantee you that if I put a pile of black carbon on the ground and pump nitrogen gas through it from now on, in 100,000,000 years I will still have a pile of carbon, not soil or microbe cells. Whereas if I put a pile of sugar (carbohydrate) on the ground, and mixed in some milk, eggs, or meat (high protein sources), within a few days the pile will be mostly microbes even though I did not put any in the pile.

That tells me you aren't following what I'm saying, at all, because I never said anything even close to that.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 1:50PM
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Reading through your earlier post, all I can say is wow.

Microbes do not use carbon to make cells and nitrogen to make protein. Microbes use carbohydrates to make cells and protein to make protein.

Do you know what the word carbohydrate actually means? It means hydrate of carbon, expressed as Cx(H2O)y. An example is glucose C6(H2O)6 (usually written C6H12O6). So saying microbes don't use carbon couldn't be further from the truth. And microbes use protein to make protein? Hrmm, not sure what to say about that one.

In other words they use food. Carbon is not the food source for microbes, FOOD is the food source for microbes.


    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 2:14PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

skizot, your 14:14 post is exactly what I'm talking about. Carbon is a black compound that has no food value; however, in its gaseous form (CO2) it can be absorbed by plants. Through the process of photosynthesis, carbohydrates are made. At that point the carbon you are talking about becomes food. So why don't we just talk about food instead of the esoteric "carbon?" Talking about carbon is meaningless. Talking about carbohydrate has some value. Microbes cannot take black carbon and make food out of it. They can take CO2 and make food out of it. If you want to talk about CO2 we can do that. If you want to talk about carbohydrate we can do that, but to talk about carbon is meaningless unless we are all scientists and have the background in organic chemistry to understand that "carbon" = carbohydrates.

Microbes use protein to make protein.
Here is how that works. Microbes eat food containing protein. Protein is made from amino acids. Amino acids are nitrogenous compounds like carbohydrates are carbon compounds. Nitrogen has no food value but amino acids and protein are absolutely required. When we, or microbes, eat protein, our digestion system breaks apart the proteins from the plants or animals into amino acids. Then our bodies recombine the amino acids into protein that WE need to make muscles, hair, etc. In nutrition they talk about complete and incomplete proteins. Plants like beans and corn are both incomplete proteins, but when you eat both beans and corn, our body can make complete protein out of them and we can survive. We cannot survive on a diet of only beans or only corn but we can survive on beans and corn. Similarly microbes need to eat protein to make their own protein. The entire food chain, or food web, relies on breaking protein down and recombining the amino acids into new protein.

I'm not trying to be hard headed about this. I'm trying to make it understandable. I can understand eating food to build muscles, skin, and organs. I can't understand "making cell walls out of carbon." I've studied both chemistry and physiology, so I really can understand what you are saying; however, physiology is the one that makes sense in this case. We are talking about creatures that do not photosynthesize their own food. They have to "eat" food like us (more or less). Greens and browns and carbon and nitrogen are all esoteric ideas that really refer to food. Sugary food is mostly carbohydrates. Protein from plants is still mostly carbohydrates, but it also has enough protein to put it into a different category.

Am I being helpful or hard headed? It could be that you are the kind of person who gets it when talking about C and N. I am not. Nothing about C and N made sense until I realized they were talking about carbohydrate and protein. Perhaps we could agree that there are two different ways to look at the same issue. You can be the one who explains it one way and I can explain it the other way. Rather than confronting each other when we see it, we can start out by saying, "An equally valid but different way to look at it is like this...." And I will admit that I confronted you first on this topic. I could have used different wording.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 12:56PM
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If all you wish to do is add some Nitrogen so your grass grows greener then coffee grounds is a good substitute for the synthetic fertilizers, however if you wish to make your soil into a good, healthy medium for your grass to grow in that will require more work and study since you need to look at your soil and know what is there and what it needs. What is the soils pH? What is the soils cpacity to hold moisture? How well does that soil drain? What kind of life is in that soil?

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 8:49AM
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