Guidance Needed

lboyce(Z5NY)April 11, 2008

We are wanting this year to use organic fertilizers on our front yard. I was reading, of course, I cannot find it now, about using coffee grounds, soy bean and something else and I know now is the time to start.

Could someone please refer me which should be applied first and time to apply? I am always happy to read if there is a website on what to apply and when.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!


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billhill(z5 MI - KBG)

Hi Linda. There is little you could do better for your lawn than switching to organic fertilizers. There are many to choose from. For me, the workhorse of organic fertilizer is soybean meal. It is rich in nitrogen, cost effective and usually available at farm animal feed stores. Many like to diversify there fertilizers by switching between soybean meal and corn meal or cracked corn, Alfalfa pellets (rabbit food) is also used. Commercial organic fertilizers are available from Scotts and Milorganite. Both are generally available at Lowes, Home Depot, or Mennards. Used Coffee grounds are very good and available free for the asking from Starbucks and other coffer stores. Here are a couple links to get you started. "Organic Factsheet" Bill Hill

Here is a link that might be useful: Organic Lawncare FAQ

    Bookmark   April 11, 2008 at 7:15PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

I have to say that the Ohio State website is exactly what I have come to expect from universities. That link is possibly the worst written piece of instructional prose I've ever seen. It looks like random sentences about gardening, both chemical and organic, scattered around into random paragraphs. Now I know where the word, sophomoric, comes from. The most hilarious paragraph states the following...

There are two key points to keep in mind when going organic. The first is that compared to conventional lawn care, organic methods take longer to produce visible results in most cases. Since the organic approach stresses the ongoing building of soil, there are no quick fixes as promised by chemical fertilizers. Secondly, perfection is an unreasonable expectation. Tolerating a few weeds or insects here and there is part of the natural organic approach. When natural organic methods are used consistently over time, a reasonably uniform green lawn that is resistant to adverse environmental conditions and/or pests can be expected.

Last weekend I sprayed vinegar on some weeds. Twenty minutes later the weeds were crispy black spots. I know the article was talking about fertilizer, but the blanket statement was so negatively stated as to send people away rather than encourage them to press on. And "secondly," perfection is absolutely a reasonable expectation. In fact most people on these forums are extremely proud of the look of their organic lawns. The funniest part is the expectation of a "reasonably uniform green lawn." Uh, yeah! My lawn is awesomely green - beyond my wildest expectations for any fertilizer. But I would want to give them another chance. Maybe I missed the good part after I got blinded by the part about using chemicals to kill your grass. Bill Hill, what is it you liked about the site?

Back to the question, any ground grain can be used as an organic fertilizer. What you are after is the protein as well as the carbohydrates, vitamins, enzymes and minerals. NPK is no longer a consideration. Soy has a very high protein content per pound. So does cottonseed meal, alfalfa pellets, and a refined product called corn GLUTEN meal. Coffee grounds and ordinary corn meal are nearer the bottom of the list if you are ranking by protein. Still, I use ordinary corn meal almost exclusively. I use it at 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. For corn meal (or coffee) that is not overdoing it. For soy bean meal, that is near the upper range of too much of a good thing. If you use too much, when it gets wet it will turn very sour smelling before the soil microbes can decompose it. Over application is only a problem from the smell standpoint. It will not hurt the soil or grass unless you smother the grass. Coffee grounds have the advantage of being free and available in huge quantities from Starbucks.

If you look at the ingredients of a bag of commercially bagged organic fertilizer, you will see a bunch of ground grains, maybe some feather meal, seaweed or kelp, and/or some blood meal. Feathers have the disadvantage of decomposing very slowly. Blood has the disadvantage of decomposing so quickly as to burn the roots of your plants. What is really good about the commercially bagged ferts is that they contain a mix of grains to satisfy the tastes of all your soil's microbes. In the commercial bags, the ratio of the mix is not going to hurt anything, but you have to be careful if you mix your own. I simply buy plain brown bags (50 pounds) of corn meal from my local feed store for $6.75.

Now if you'll look at the ingredients of a bag of dry dog or cat food, you will find the same ingredients as in the organic fertilizer. If you cannot find a good source of ground grains, you can use Ol' Roy dog food from Wal-Mart and still save money over the commercial organic ferts.

Protein is made from amino acids, which contain nitrogen. The link below provides information about the NPK of various grains and other materials. I have another link that shows protein, but it is on another computer. But the amount of nitrogen is proportional to the amount of protein. If you rank order the materials on the list based on nitrogen, you will get a good relative measure of protein.

Here is a link that might be useful: NPK of stuff

    Bookmark   April 11, 2008 at 9:30PM
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"If you cannot find a good source of ground grains, you can use Ol' Roy dog food from Wal-Mart and still save money over the commercial organic ferts."

If you're going by protein content, though, you may get more bang for the buck using cat food rather than dog food. Cat food has almost twice as much protein as dog food. Of course, if the cat food is twice as expensive, that changes things.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2008 at 10:07PM
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Cat food frequently has a high salt ratio, though, so check it before you put it down. If you're using it once a year or so, that's not going to be an issue.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 5:56AM
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iboyce, "Try always to learn from the mistakes of others; you do not have time to make all the mistakes yourself and you do not have to pay for the learning" (ole people seh). So we listen to others and we read, fiction and non-fiction. I place non fiction writing into two main categories for my own convenience. "Science" and "Experience". I handle the scientific better because they always state the experimental conditions. For example, 'water boils at 212 degrees Farenheit' is true.
'Pure water boils at 212 degrees Farenheit at 14lb/ pressure' frames the fact within certain conditions and makes me inquisitive about purity (of water, mind you!) and pressure.
I could delve further and find out about Messrs. Boyle and Charles. Traditionally, "extension" was the communication process by which the science (University findings) would become the practice (improved farming methods). That laudable objective appears to be alive and well, judging from the wealth of information the Universities disseminate.
"Experience" writing is the kind you will find on this forum and other similar sources. We are not pure scientists but we do things and we observe and we conclude and we find opportunities to express ourselves. It is a great place to learn many things but we do need to be slightly quizzical (healthily skeptical) about what we read and hear. I believe that this causes personal growth.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 7:40AM
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Morpheus--Thanks for the info about salt. Salt is already a problem here because of the arid conditions, so I wouldn't want to make things worse.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 12:03PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Everyone should know that I have a problem with soil testing, but if you have salt issues, then a soil test can help. The only soil test lab I know of that can do a good soil test is the Texas Plant and Soil Lab. Salt and salt ratios is one of the routine tests they do with their normal soil test.

Here is a link that might be useful: Texas Plant and Soil Labs

    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 3:07PM
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