Urea- ok for a 'quick greenup'?

shuberAugust 11, 2007

Hello all. Just put down CM due to a disease problem. Grass looks a little brown/yellow. Was thinking about putting down some Urea (45-0-0) to green up the lawn (KBG and TTTF). Any thoughts? I've read all the threads about whether Urea is organic or not, but I'm satisfied that it is. (www.espoma.com). Thanks in advance.

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fescue_planter

Never used it before but that's a pretty high dose of Nitro. If it were me and if it were available I would definitely go the way of a shot of seaweed powder from what I've seen from a lot of posters here.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2007 at 2:25PM
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shuber

Thanks. I have read some things about that too. I'll have to look into it.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2007 at 2:32PM
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bpgreen(5UT)

Are you considering using it now? How hot is it where you are? I wouldn't want to use urea on a cool season grass in the summertime. The quick growth spurt is not what you want in the summer.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2007 at 5:05PM
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greenjeans_il(zone5 IL)

Urea is salt, salt kills microbes, microbes feed the plants. Seems kind of counter-productive, doesn't it?

In my book, urea is never okay. Neither is lime which is another form of salt. Sure, it can be argued "well I'll put the microbes back." If you feel the need to make more work for yourself so be it, but it's not condusive to creating a self-sustaining beautiful lawn. The other idea behind organic lawncare, other than the obvious environmental benefits, is to be able to maintain a beatiful lawn with less work. That can only be obtained by strictly controlling what goes into your soil and salt is not going to help.

Greenjeans

    Bookmark   August 16, 2007 at 7:10PM
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shazam_z3

I'm not sure how you can classify urea as a salt, since it does not seem to meet any criteria for either a basic or acidic salt. Oh well, that's the extent of my chemistry knowledge as it pertains to salts.

Urea is a very popular industrial fertilizer. It's also useful to speed up a compost pile - yes, you or your dog can pee on your compost pile to get it going.

Blood meal is what I use as my hot nitrogen source. Urea is pretty difficult to apply properly.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2007 at 2:57AM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

Shazam,

It's called salt index and urea is barely above the level where there is enough salt to cause damage to soil biology. There is a couple chemical fertilizers with very low salt index but apparently not readily available to us.

Slow release urea isn't as damaging as fast release due to releasing that much salt at once. I've read that little urea along with molasses and compost is no problem at all. How little, I have no clue. it didn't say how much...

Here is a link that might be useful: high salt vs low salt fertilizer

    Bookmark   August 17, 2007 at 10:58AM
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greenjeans_il(zone5 IL)

Thanks for that link, Louis.

Here's more information on salt-indexes. This is from the Oct.2004 SFI E-zine. Scroll down through to "5. Salt Index Calculations". They reference urea as well as a few other fertilizers and amendments.

Greenjeans

Here is a link that might be useful: Salt Index Calculations

    Bookmark   August 17, 2007 at 12:45PM
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shuber

Thanks for the replies. Besides the blood meal and seaweed suggestions, does anybody have any others for a green-up during the summer? I plan on overseeding and applying AM around Labor Day. Thanks.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2007 at 8:16PM
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greenjeans_il(zone5 IL)

Uh...blood meal I'd pass on if you can help yourself. It's pretty volatile stuff and you can get great benefits from other grains that won't do harm if over applied.

After re-reading your original post I'm not convinced you really understand what is happening under your turf. The reason your turf is looking a little brown right now is because it's dormant. Any arguments you may have read regarding urea being "organic" are weak at best and you're not truly ready to adopt an organic program. How much do you really know about it? Have you only read and heard what you wanted to hear; things like "instant green"? You're still trying to read a bag of cornmeal the same way you'd look at a bag of Scott's weed and feed. I know this because I used to do the same thing!

Let me try and guide you the same way someone guided me just a few years ago:
The first step in going organic is to change your thinking. Disregard the turf; pretend it's not there. The turf is not at all your focus and should not even enter the equation until much, much later in the game. Always remember that beautiful turf is a RESULT of good organics and not the REASON for it.

The reason for organics and practicing organic principles is for the soil. It's all about the soil and what the soil can do for us. We only get from the soil what we put into it. If you use urea in your soil now it's the same as using heroin "just this once". Ask any recovered junkie if he can pick up a needle just once and his answer will be yes, but his actions will speak otherwise. If we start making excuses to ourselves now about what is and isn't okay then we'll forever be on the fence and forever be trying to fix a problem with the soil that we've created.

The terms are simple and straight forward where organics are concerned. Read what I posted in "Brand New Lawn From Seed...Now What?" and then let's discuss what's "okay" for the soil (and disregard what's okay for the turf).

Oh yeah, for overseeding you want alfalfa meal and soybean meal. Apply the alfalfa meal AT THE SAME TIME as you seed and not before. Heh, heh...did I ruffle any feathers yet? Wonder when the questions on that one will surface. Start a new thread on when it's best to apply alfalfa when seeding. That will be interesting.

Greenjeans

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 11:19AM
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shuber

Greenjeans- Thanks for your input. You are correct.
Out of curiosity, what is your annual plan? Mine is as follows:
CGM when forsythia bloom- 10-20 lbs./1,000 sq. ft.
SBM around Memorial Day- 10-20 lbs./1,000 sq. ft.
CM around July 4th- 10-20 lbs./1,000 sq. ft.
AM around Labor Day- 10-20 lbs./1,000 sq. ft.
SBM around Columbus Day- 10-20 lbs./1,000 sq. ft.
SBM around Thanksgiving- 10-20 lbs./1,000 sq. ft.

What about watering?
Seaweed, etc.?

Thanks.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 11:40PM
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deerslayer(Z5 NE IL KBG)

According to the salt index calculations posted by GreenJeans, less than 133 lbs of urea per acre does not cause measurable harm. That works out to 3.05 lbs of urea per 1,000 sq ft. 3.05 lbs of urea 46-0-0 contains 1.4 lbs of nitrogen. If you limit your urea applications to 1 lb of nitrogen per 1,000 sq ft, there shouldn't be an osmosis problem.

-Deerslayer

    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 11:34PM
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bpgreen(5UT)

Is there a difference in the chemical formula of the urea that is in the bags from the store and the urea that is in urine? If not, how does it make a difference to the microbes where it comes from? Is it just the concentration?

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 1:06AM
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deerslayer(Z5 NE IL KBG)

The molecular formula for urea is (NH2)2CO. Urea is an organic compound, in fact, it was the first organic compound to be synthesized (man-made). It was first synthesized by Friedrich Wöhler in 1828. Urea in urine and synthesized urea have the same formula. Soil microbes cannot distinguish between the two since they are identical from a chemical standpoint.

Urea is not approved for organic farming because most commercially available urea is synthesized. Nearly all synthesized compounds are not approved. Interestingly, some inorganic compounds are approved for organic farming because they occur naturally. Chilean Nitrate (aka sodium nitrate), an inorganic compound which is found in Ringer's is approved for organic farming because it is mined. Sodium nitrate also can be synthesized. BTW, sodium nitrate does not feed the soil microbes.

-Deerslayer

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 9:59AM
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deerslayer(Z5 NE IL KBG)

The term "organic farming" is actually a misnomer. A more precise term would be "farming with naturally occurring materials". These materials are usually organic but also may be naturally occurring inorganic materials. Synthesized compounds are avoided in organic farming because of the significant amount of fossil fuels used in creating most man-made compounds. One of the basic tenets in organic farming is that it is indefinitely sustaining. Since there is a finite amount of fossil fuels, compounds requiring them for their creation are avoided.

Organic lawn care as defined in this forum focuses more on soil biology than sustainability. Organic compounds feed the soil microbes regardless of whether the organic compounds are man-made or naturally occurring. That's why it doesn't make sense to strictly apply the rules of organic farming to organic lawn care. While there is a significant overlap in practices, the goals are not the same.

I hope this helps to explain an often misunderstood subject.

-Deerslayer

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 11:04AM
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greenjeans_il(zone5 IL)

Here's a good article explaining why urea is NOT organic:

Here is a link that might be useful: How Organic Fertilizer Works...

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 1:08PM
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deerslayer(Z5 NE IL KBG)

Urea is an organic compound i.e. contains carbon. If urea is not an "organic fertilizer" neither is urine. The author created his own definition of "organic fertilizer" in the article above.

Here's a fact sheet on urea.

Urea Fact Sheet

I agree that urea does not support the creation of humus, however, that doesn't change its chemical composition.

-Deerslayer

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 2:30PM
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deerslayer(Z5 NE IL KBG)

Here are some other organic materials that do not support the creation of humus.

"Dried blood, perhaps the most valuable of organic fertilizers, is all but worthless as a source of humus, since it contains practically no fibrous material. Urine, a valuable source of nitrogen, urea and other fertilizer elements, is another organic substance which produces little or no humus. Fish emulsion fertilizer is another non-fibrous organic material that leaves very little residue for humus formation. This does not mean they are worthless: on the contrary these three materials are among the most valuable foods for the bacteria that work on compost. A little of any one of these will start the pile or get it working again whenever it begins to slow up."

Here's a link to the article.

Composting

-Deerslayer

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 3:06PM
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greenjeans_il(zone5 IL)

Hmmm...I'm having a little trouble finding where the author tried to change the chemical composition of urea, or where he created any of his own definitions without logical reason being considered. I admire how quickly you dismiss such an article with unashamed rhetoric.

Using urea, blood meal or fish meal in compost is an entirely different process than placing it in soil. Other than the obvious salt index of 75 compared to 2.8 composted urea is a different bird all together compared with putting it in your soil as a plant food. It changes and the salts are leached before the compost ever reaches the plant. At least I hope the salts leach or you have a really hot compost.

And why shouldn't the lawn become sustainable? It would be easier to build a sustainable foodweb in a lawn than it would in a vegetable garden or farmers field. Why should they be differentiated? You've created you're own definition of "organic lawncare" and claim it be used in this forum.

Who wouldn't want a lawn that's beautiful and looks after itself? Do you want to fuss over it the rest of your life or mow it on occasion? While still being the best on the block? Why be a proponate of a plant food with high osmotic properties that doesn't support humus production? Especially since it's NOT NEEDED. It's pointless and damaging to a truly organic soil. Good soil feeds green plants; not Deerslayers highly osmotic, microbe killing organic idealism feeds green plants.

You said it yourself: Organic lawncare feeds the microbes and the microbes feed the plants.

Putting anything contrary to that principle should be considered harmful. Adding highly osmotic "organic" substances to the soil is harmful no matter what the quantity or measurment. It's contrary to the practice of microbial symbiosis and a host of other principles of organics. It's not feeding the soil and is instead harming it. What part of that don't you get?

Greenjeans

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 4:48PM
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deerslayer(Z5 NE IL KBG)

"I'm having a little trouble finding where the author tried to change the chemical composition of urea"

Where did I say that the author changed the chemical composition of urea? I said that his definition of "organic fertilizer" doesn't change the chemical composition of urea. You need to read my posts more carefully.

"or where he created any of his own definitions"

The author states the following:
"Although urea is an organic compound, by failing to support the growth of soil bacteria, and therefore the formation of humus, it does not qualify as an "organic fertilizer."

It seems to me that the author defines "organic fertilizer" as a compound that produces humus. If you agree with the above statement, blood meal, urine, and fish emulsion are also not organic fertilizers since none of them produce humus.

"And why shouldn't the lawn become sustainable?

You don't appear to understand what sustainable means in organic farming terms. For example, using feed grains as fertilizer is not a sustainable practice from an organic farming point-of-view. This is because of the large amounts of fossil fuels (tractor fuel plus the energy required to create synthetic fertilizers and pesticides) needed to produce the grain. There is a finite amount of fossil fuels available, therefore, the practice of using feed grains for fertilizer is not sustainable.

"You've created you're own definition of "organic lawncare""

The only thing that I said about organic lawncare as defined in this forum (by that I meant the Organic Lawncare FAQ) is that it is more focused on soil biology than sustainability. Do you disagree?

"Adding highly osmotic "organic" substances to the soil is harmful no matter what the quantity or measurement."

The article that you posted indicates that less than 133 lbs of urea per acre results in immeasurable harm. Where is your proof that any amount of urea is harmful?

"What part of that don't you get?"

What part of the above don't you get?

My comments on urea have been focused on its chemical composition and properties. If you carefully read my posts in this thread, you'll see that I didn't say anything about using urea as a fertilizer in an organic lawncare program.

That said, I believe that urea has a place in a primarily organic lawncare approach. I have had very good results using urea 46-0-0 as a late fall fertilizer. I learned about it in this forum. Others have had good results as well. BTW, other than the late fall application of urea I use traditional organic fertilizers.

The downside of urea is that if used exclusively, it will eventually deplete the organic material in the soil. This is why it is a good practice to apply compost annually if you use primarily urea based fertilizers. Very good results can be achieved with the above approach without depleting the soil. Many golf courses have used urea based products plus top dressing for many years with excellent...

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 6:27PM
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deerslayer(Z5 NE IL KBG)

GreenJeans, I just noticed that I didn't respond to one of your major points.

"Using urea, blood meal or fish meal in compost is an entirely different process than placing it in soil."

I didn't say that it was the same so what's your point? I linked to the article because it was the source of my quote regarding blood, urine, and fish emulsion not producing humus.

-Deerslayer

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 8:00PM
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deerslayer(Z5 NE IL KBG)

For those forum readers who have some common sense, I'd like to pose a few questions.

Q. Which professions base their livelihood on their ability to produce decades of healthy and lush turf that is heavily used while keeping material and labor costs to a minimum?

A. Golf course and sports field grounds keepers.

Q. Are most golf courses and sports fields strictly organic?

A. No

Q. What do the grounds keepers use to keep their turf healthy and lush for decades?

A. First of all they use good cultural practices which includes proper mowing, watering, and aerating. They fertilize primarily with slow release urea based fertilizers and top dress with compost or sewage sludge products such as Milorganite. Miloraganite has been used as a top dressing by numerous golf courses since 1926. In fact, Milorganite comes in a finer grain specifically designed for golf course greens.

I don't recommend caring for your lawn like a grounds keeper...it's too labor intensive for a relatively low use home lawn. I simply wanted to point out that there are other approaches to lawn care that are very effective. Keep thinking on your own. Don't simply drink the organic lawncare Kool-Aid.

-Deerslayer

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 2:38PM
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woodycrest(Ontario, Canada)

im not getting into the urea discussion , but a lawn certainly can be self sustaining. mowing, water and sunshine... these are the secrets :) i look after 3 acres that prove it. right now the grass is crispy crunchy brown, but the autumn rains will perk it back up with no other input.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 3:16PM
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deerslayer(Z5 NE IL KBG)

Woodycrest, I agree that cultural practices are more important than the type of fertilizer used, if any. I've seen before and after pictures of the golf course that you maintain. They strongly prove your point.

-Deerslayer

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 3:24PM
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shuber

Wow! Nothing gets the blood boiling like this issue. Anyway, does anybody have any comments on my annual plan? THX.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 7:36PM
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bpgreen(5UT)

How warm is it at Thanksgiving where you are? SBM needs microbial action to break it down into something the microbes can use, so unless the soil is at least 40 degrees F (I think), the microbes aren't going to be active and it will just sit there until the spring.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 8:20PM
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