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If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Posted by paulinct (My Page) on
Mon, May 5, 08 at 23:16

Hi folks,

I'm posting this as an offshoot of a thread in the regular (chemical? ;-)) lawncare forum, at the request of another gardenweb member, because that thread veered into organics.

That member said a few things in that thread, but I think the point of contention is this statement by him:

I've stopped calculating NPK and have focused instead on feeding my soil.

I responded with this:

I'm curious, what do you mean by focusing on "feeding the soil" without any reference to NPK? I mean, if you are ignoring NPK, what metrics are you actually focusing on when you decide to lay stuff down on your lawn? I'd be grateful if you could provide numbers so that I can really understand what you are doing.

So, I'm posting here out of respect for that poster. But that aside, can anyone answer my question, which is basically, if you reject NPK as a relevant metric, what metrics do you actually refer to when deciding to lay down so much of this or that organic product on your lawns?

Thank you,
Paul


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Paul,

I follow a plan instead of waiting for the grass to lose green prior to reapplying. I live near year in Grafton MA and have a 3 year old mostly KBG lawn. Prior to moving in to new construction the lawn was a weedfield, prior to that a pasture with all of the good soil removed and sold.

I water infrequently (usually only rain as New England has an average of 4" of rain/month year round).

I mulch mow all leaves (usually bring leaves in from other people's lawns) and grass (3-4"). I have not calculated with that adds to the soil but basically nothing is physicaly removed besides vegtables and that lost to evaporation or leaching.

In the early and mid spring I spread cornmeal and or alfalfa meal at a total of 20-40 lbs/1000 ft^2.

Starting in mid August I spread 10-20 lbs/1000 ft^2 of alfalfa meal,soybean meal or milorganite every 3-4 weeks until I stop mowing. Leaves are mulch mowed and homemade compost is flung into "weaker" areas. I fertilize heavier if I think the soil/lawn needs it and my wallet agrees, otherwise I look for more compost materials on curbs.

I focus on the soil, but my program allows for more freely available N2 in the fall when the grass needs it most.

The corn meal (~2-1-2) is high in carbohydrates and a great fungal food and promotes the Trichoderma fungus which is a competitor of "bad" white fungus.

Alfalfa meal (~2.5-1-3) contains a root stimulant, is readily decayed and benefits bacteria growth. Lawns like a balance of bacteria and fungus to thrive.

Milorganite (5-2-0) is sewer sludge so use accordingly. It is about 30% fast release for a quick nitrogen boost and I like it as a winterizer. It probably supports bacteria better than fungal but I have seen no data to support that.

Soybean meal (~7-1-2) is a great fungal food and high in protein. Easy to spread and absorbs quickly. A staple for fall feedings.

In general I add 60 to 120 lbs of organics per year with varying NPK. Based on the above schedule one could assume an average NPK of 5-1-2 providing 3-6 lbs of N2, 0.6 to 1.2 lbs of phosphate and 1.2-2.4 lbs of phosphate per year. On top of that homemade compost, grass clippings, leaves, etc. are mulch mowed into the lawn.

On a chemical lawn the numbers are more like adding 10-15 lbs/ 1000 ft^2 of inorganic salts that provide no nutrients to the soil and will help degrade exisiting organic carbon in the soil. Removal of leaves and grass further inhibit the carbon cycle.

I like to alternate feedings as I know that my soil microbes have various mineral, vitamin, protein and carbohydrate needs to be fully cycling.

I don't worry about NPK for many reasons, but the largest being is that I am adding at least 60-120 lbs of organic material/1000 ft^2 while removing nothing. Healthy soil is full of microbes and is self aerating.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

If you look at a bag of organic fertilizer you will see that it contains corn, soy, cottonseed, and other grains and sometimes meat products and/or compost. What these all have in common is protein (except for the compost). Organic fertilizer is made from edible food. When you apply it to the soil, it decomposes in the soil due to bacterial and fungal activity. Essentially they eat it, but it is not eating in the same terms that we are familiar with. These microbes need protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes to live and thrive. The plant roots give off carbohydrates as a result of photosynthesis. Protein is stored in the stalk of the plant unless or until seeds form. When that happens the protein usually moves to the seed for reproduction later on. That is why the ground grains we use are so valuable - it's the protein. In nature, without human intervention, animals die and leave a big pile of protein. Scavengers get most of it but a lot goes to microbial decay and then to the soil. That is how the microbes get fed - carcasses of mammals, birds, insects, fish, other microbes, etc.

Alfalfa is 17% protein (according to the link below). If you apply 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet, you will be applying 3.4 pounds of protein per 1,000 square feet. Is that enough? It ought to be enough to provide plenty of green in 3 weeks.

The reason NPK doesn't work is that none of those are food. They might be the components of food, but if they come in the form of ammonium nitrate, for example, that really isn't food. Meat is a very high protein food. Protein is made from amino acids and those contain nitrogen. Meat is also much more expensive usually. Grains are a happy medium for cost, ease of application, and odor. Meat smells bad fast while grains applied at reasonable rates under 40 pounds per 1,000 square feet usually do not smell at all. If you apply a grain and see a pile of it somewhere, that needs to be spread around or you are risking a smell.

Does any of this rambling help?

Here is a link that might be useful: Ingredients 101


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Organic food has a protein level which does translate to an amount of nitrogen (N is a component of proteins).

However, it requires breakdown by bacteria and fungi. Unlike spreading synthetics, it isn't instantly available so the risk of burning is considerably reduced. It's difficult, although not impossible, to overdo an organic feeding.

Synthetics tend to hit all at once and then they're gone (extended release being the exception). Organics last a long time. It's hard to say how long as it depends very much on the weather. A good rule of thumb for most grains is that they start in 3 weeks and continue actively feeding for 3 months at a fairly high level.

However, even after 3 months there's plenty left. They'll continue to decay at lower levels for a full year, and there's still a whisper of decay at three years. In poor weather (drought and 100 degrees), decay stops and starts again when things improve.

So that's the vagrancies of release, and a good reason not to use the NPK rules.

The other part is that nitrogen (especially) from a synthetic application washes out. It's concentrated, and in a water soluble form, so water will leach it out very easily. Whatever the grass can grab while the synthetic is in the root zone is what it gets.

Protein doesn't move much in soil as the molecule is huge, not water soluble, and it's also one that bacteria will grab. Bacteria don't wash out easily because they stick themselves to soil particles.

What you put there stays there. When the bacteria die or are eaten, the nitrogen is then in a form the plants can use. It's also in a form the bacteria can still use, so they're going to grab it as well.

The organic material in the lawn also grabs resources and holds water, which improves the soil.

Bacteria have a limited symbiosis with roots as well. The root outputs a bit of sugar to the bacteria, which then give the root food. Some fungi do the same, and feed the root water from deeper sources as well. Everybody wins.

Encouraging that symbiosis by keeping resources high benefits all the parties involved, and adding protein means plenty of resources for everyone, plus higher bacterial counts in the soil to feed the roots.

That's the other part. You haven't fed the lawn at all--you've fed the critters in the soil that are symbiotic with the grass, or that die off and release resources.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

I think it is slightly important to make sure the type of grass you have gets its annual recommended dose of effective nitrogen which ultimately is a result of protein feeding. My fescue is recommended around 3.5lbs/1000sqft of nitrogen if you were looking at the old NPK recommendations. I don't want to try to feed it exclusively with corn meal all year or else it would be very difficult to attain the recommended protein and ultimately N levels of the grass. If I'm not mistaken, I believe if you divide the protein quantity by 6.5 you get the effective nitrogen which you would use in assessing how much material you need for the season.

So if I exclusively used 44% protein soybean meal all year and I had 8000 sqft yard with the grass requiring 3.5lbs N/1000sqft every year I would figure it out as such:

(0.44/6.5) = 0.067lbs of N per lb of soybean meal.
My lawn 8000sqft x (3.5lbs N / 1000sqft) = 28lbs of N per year.
28lbs N / (0.067lbs N / lb soybean) = 413lbs of soybeans
Meaning I would need around eight 50lb bags of soybean meal per year applied to my lawn. Of course I mix it up with alfalfa, corn and maybe some milorganite but the rates change for each material. Good thing is the bags usually have the breakdown of protein % right on the bag. Now get out your calculators!


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Thank you everyone, that was all very helpful. I'll have to think about it some more and I'm sure I'll have more questions. But for now, just one:

Thinking in terms of NPK I had planned to put down 1lb. quick release N at the end of May. But now I am thinking of using Ringer Lawn Restore. Within the last two weeks I put down 1lb. N, mostly urea. I've had some heavy rain since. Now I'm wondering whether I should put down the Ringer now, anticipating that it will just start to become activated around the time I had planned to drop more synthetics. I understand that it is hard to burn a lawn with organics, but I think there is a good amount of blood meal in the ringer, and I read somewhere that blood meal is converted fairly quickly.

So, is it possible that I would burn my lawn if I put down the ringer now?

BTW, I ordinarly would not be feeding so aggressively in the spring, but I have a brand new lawn this year.

Thanks again,
Paul


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Hey, Paul. I think you would be fine to do it now. If you apply at the recommended rate, you should be fine. Blood and chemicals burn via different mechanisms (I think). One should not bother the other.

I have no idea how much N my St Aug is "supposed" to have. All I know is that if I apply corn meal in February, the lawn will be yellowish in July if I don't apply more corn meal on Memorial Day. And it will be yellowish in August if I do not apply more on the 4th of July. And it will be yellowish in October if I don't apply on Labor Day.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Thanks dchall, I think I'll go ahead and do it. The federal holidays are certainly a convenient way to schedule.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Doing it now is fine. Blood meal is the fastest available, so it may burn--it certainly has a much greater tendency than the grain-based stuff.

However, if you dropped the urea 2 weeks ago and have had heavy rain, it's partially gone at least.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Healthy, deeply green plants with thick root systems that take less water than your neighbors lawns is a pretty useful metric I think. Some people seem to think that's the whole point in the first place.

Get a copy of Teaming With Microbes or a Soil Primer from Acres USA or Soul of the Soil or Google Soil Food Web. Read and learn. The information is out there in abundance. Once you understand the underlying principles it's a relatively simply matter of observing how well your plants are doing and adjusting, or not, accordingly.

YOU. The actual property owner actually managing YOUR property. Not a chem company somewhere that doesn't know squat about your soil or lawn.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Pictures were taken in the winter in Houston. First one is cared for organically while the others aren't. It's my mom's yard and it's about the LEAST maintained yard on the block. Barely ever gets supplemental watering. Rainfall only. Gets a bunch of seasonal weeds. Gets fertilized twice a year. Mulch mowed regularly. That's about as simple as it gets....

That's your benchmarks...


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Thank you very much again, guys. I still have some doubts, and gaps in my knowledge, and of course I have thought about these things before, but when I have assimilated this all a bit better I will be back with more questions. I promise. ;-)

In the meantime, it turns out that I can't find ringer lawn restore anywhere right now. Sure, I can buy it online, but with massive shipping charges. I know I have seen it locally in the past, but not today.

What attracts me to the ringer product is that it seems to be mostly waste from livestock operations (particularly poultry), and I like the idea of fertilizing out of the "waste stream" rather than the "food stream" (meaning crops that otherwise would be used to feed people, as opposed to waste products that, if not converted to feed, become landfill). I know that there is some soy in there too, but in smallish amounts that does not really bother me.

Oh, and I think I was wrong about the bloodmeal content of that stuff. I don't remember where I got that idea, either from a previous formulation of that product, or another product entirely, but it seems that today's ringer lawn restore does not contain any of it.

Anyway, I'm wondering if there is a list out there of organic fertilizers that consist of products normally in the "waste stream." I am thinking that if I can't find the ringer lawn restore soon I will just put something together from other ingredients. I'm aware of milorganite of course, and I very much like the idea of recycling human waste, but something about that product just really puts me off. I'm not sure exactly what it is, but I just don't trust it.

Sorry to ramble, any advice appreciated!

Thanks,
Paul


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Paul, if you can't find Ringers, have you considered Scotts Organic Choice? It is made from Hydrolyzed Feather Meal, Meat Meal, Bone Meal, Blood Meal and Sulfate of Potash.

I used this on my back yard last September. I also dethatched, core aerated and mulched up some leaves. I then used a winterizer in November, with no rain the lawn really looked bad last Fall. This year, the lawn has never looked better.

Now I'm not saying that it was the Organic Fertilizer alone, but the grass is thicker than ever, and compared to my neighbors was the first to green up.

I will be using the Scotts on my Front Lawn on May 24th.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Scott's OC is similar, I used it this spring and it seems to have done alright.

You can also get Ringer shipped to store (no shipping!) if you have a participating Do It Best Hardware somewhere nearby. Pretty convenient!

Good luck,

-Jeremy

Here is a link that might be useful: Ringer at Do It Best hardware stores


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Do some research on nitrate of sodium aka sodium nitrate that is in Ringer... Not the stuff I'd want to put on my lawn.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

re: Lou's pictures

Only in Texas do they paint the state flag on the curbs!


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Only in Texas do they paint the state flag on the curbs!

Because we can.

I think when they picked the design they had curbs in mind. We also wear boots, hats, ride horses, and dance the Chicken Dance, Hokey Pokey, and Cotton-Eyed Joe (the Chieftians/Scaggs version, not the embarrassing techno line dance by the Swedish computer geeks). Oh, and gun racks in the pickups, tumble weeds, and rattlesnake head paper weights.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

  • Posted by rdak z5MI (My Page) on
    Thu, May 8, 08 at 8:28

Paul: I haven't read the entire thread but did read where you want to use "waste" stuff.

Have you looked into Milorganite? If you're near New Jersey, they make another type of Milorganite called OceanGro(?), not sure on the name.

Both are processed sludge.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Lou, I have been reading up on sodium nitrate. I understand how it can burn or weaken plants if overapplied, but I think that can be managed. Do I have it right that the main concern is that it can be harmful to earthworms and soil microbes? If yes, do you know of a source that explains the concentrations at which it becomes harmful? I can't seem to find anything specific. On the chem side I keep reading "great fertilizer," and on the org side I hear "it kills everything." I imagine the truth is somewhere in between, but can't seem to find any scientific discussion. If you have a link I'd be grateful.

Rdak, thanks for the idea. Yes I've considered milorganite, and haven't rejected it completely, but I am skeptical that it is as clean as advertised - not in terms of human pathogens, but rather in terms of whether it is adequately tested given all of the things that could possibly be being dumped into the municipal sewers.


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scotts

Eastpenna and Jer, thanks for the tip on Scotts. I'm surprised to find myself looking at one of their products while considering organics (heck I don't think I have ever even bought a Scotts synthetic), but it is looking pretty promising, I'll read up some more. On the Ringer, unfortunately that "ship to store" option isn't available to me since the company has no locations within 80 miles of me. I've tried HD, Lowes, WalMart, Benny's, Ace, Truevalue, two indepedents, and three local garden centers, and totally struck out. Oh well...


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Just an update, I ended up going with a Jonathan Green 8-3-1 product, containing feather meal, bone meal, blood meal, kelp meal, wheat shorts, amino acids (?) and humic acid (?). It was relatively high priced, but I am only dealing with 2000 feet of lawn right now, so the twenty bucks didn't hurt that bad.

I chose this over the scotts because it also contains some iron, and much more calcium than sulfur, which I think is important for me since I am battling very low pH. I understand that increased microbial activity should help move the pH toward neutral, eventually, but I do think the last thing I need is to be adding to my acidic soil is sulfur.

Any thoughts on this product? I think it is simply called "organic lawn fertilizer." Like with the Ringer what attracted me to it is that it seems to be mostly "waste stream" material.

As an aside, this was my first ever application of a non-synthetic fertilizer, and it felt good to do that. Nice earthy smell too. I do still have some leftover synthetic material that I plan to put down, probably at relatively low rates, for the rest of the season until it is gone, but it is nice to have at least gotten started with organic ferts.

Thanks all,
Paul


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

As time goes on you are going to like this more and more.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Thank you David, I sure hope so.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

feather meal, bone meal, blood meal, kelp meal, wheat shorts, amino acids (?) and humic acid (?) // Any thoughts on this product? I think it is simply called "organic lawn fertilizer." Like with the Ringer what attracted me to it is that it seems to be mostly "waste stream" material.

It sounds good. The humic acids are usually chemically reacted out of liginite or extremely old peat (> 1 million years), but they are organic molecules. They've just been stored for a while.

Amino acids...everything contains aminos, including you. Add soybean meal, you're adding amino acids. If they mean they've been added, then they were probably cooked up in a lab somewhere. I have no objection to that, they're chemically identical to what you find in living creatures, and there probably aren't significant enough amounts to call it more than very lightly processed.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

  • Posted by rdak z5MI (My Page) on
    Sat, May 10, 08 at 1:25

That Jonathon Green stuff sounds great.

Good luck!


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Thanks Rdak, I guess my only remaining question is why the wheat don't need their shorts anymore. I'm thinking it must be winter wheat...


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Don't forget earthworms... They do wonderful things to the soil... They make all the nutrients more available to the plants. All you have to do is feed them with grass clippings and leaves along with organic fertilizers. You just have to look at the big picture of how nutrient cycling truly works. You're thinking too narrowly...


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

You just have to look at the big picture of how nutrient cycling truly works. You're thinking too narrowly...

Hi Lou,

I'm not sure what comment of mine you were referring to, but with all due respect I get the sense that you believe nitrogen is not particularly significant to plant growth, and if that is the case I would consider that thinking to be on the narrow end.

I have so many earthworms that a skunk absolutely mauled my new renovation last year to get to them. Google "loaded for bear" on the lawncare forum to find the photos of the initial damage - it got much worse after that. Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming the worms and am glad for their presence. In fact their abundance tells me better than anything I could ever read about just how "dangerous" synthetics are to them, including two applications of insecticide and two of fungus control, not to mention all of the weed killer. I used them, and there was no earthworm holocaust. So I have good reason to doubt some of what I read from the really hard core organic guys on this topic, some of whom tend to speak in absolutes even when the facts don't warrant that, which only makes me even more skeptical.

I always mulch mow and have for years, and that includes massive amounts of oak and maple leaves in the fall, every fall. You'd probably be surprised to learn that I have also composted for at least a decade. Every scrap of paper towel, napkin, coffee filter, coffee grinds, and non-meat trimmings and table scrap goes into that pile, every day. I even throw in the egg shells, they don't bother me by sticking around awhile. Not to mention the occasional leak...

I guess I'm telling you all of this so that you have a better context to understand where I am coming from when I ask pointed questions here. I'm really just looking for answers that I can believe in. And I'm just not there yet with the idea that the "soil food web" can completely replace nitrogen as a very important nutrient for plant growth, or that it can manufacture enough of it to support hungry turfgrasses without additional inputs. And some other things, but enough for now....

Hope that makes sense,
Paul


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Paulinct,

Looks like you have a good program already with the mulch mowing, leave mulching and composting.

I'm really just looking for answers that I can believe in. And I'm just not there yet with the idea that the "soil food web" can completely replace nitrogen as a very important nutrient for plant growth, or that it can manufacture enough of it to support hungry turfgrasses without additional inputs.

That is why we add grains and such. These materials contain proteins and carbohydrates. The meals are eventually broken down by the "microherd" into N,P,K and various other required nutrients for the plant.

Check out "Teaming with microbes" and this forum for additional information.

Who feed the prairies before Scotts? Who feeds the forest?


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Here is a USDA link for the "soil food web". Google it for more.

Happy reading!


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Ha ha it's a great discussion. Did scotts rain down from the sky when the bluegrass and st augustine were evolving? Not trying to offend anyone but if you don't think the grains work, come check out how long my fescue stays dark green and thick after a single dose of soybeans!! Happy reading--


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Hi Gray,

If you look at the text of mine that you quoted you'll see I said "without additional inputs." That was what I was getting at. I understand why grains are added, but the fact that they are being added makes them additional inputs.

Yes, of course nature feeds the forests and prairies, and I don't have a problem calling the mechanism the "soil food web." Here is New England roughly 4/5ths of the land was once clear cut for farming and timber, before westward expansion. Since then much of this land has reforested all on its own. A vacant lot two doors down from me, which was previously farmland, has come pretty far back to forest in just 60 years.

So if I just let the soil food web do its trick, in another 60 years I'm pretty sure I would have a forest too. The thing is, I am trying to grow an unnatural lawn, not a natural forest. What I mean is that the grasses I am trying to maintain apparently need more food than nature would provide in my location in order for them to outcompete other species. Which is why those additional inputs, particularly nitrogen, however derived, become important, and why the soil food web is not the whole story.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Hi fescue,

I don't doubt that grains work, in fact what I was getting at is that the soil food web apparently cannot produce enough plant food for a lawn without them.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

But that's why we put what we do on the lawn- chemical fertilizers are the stripped down nutrition a lawn needs. You're giving it white rice when it would really like a juicy steak. We give the lawn a diverse meal, the soil food web does everything else for us. It feeds the plant, aerates, fights disease, saves water and ultimately promotes weed control. If I continued my chemical treatment from a couple years ago on my colorless, lifeless clay soil (void of any significant earthworm activity) then I guarantee it would be the same junk underneath the grass in 10 years. Even junkier if I bagged the clippings. It would still repel water, give me that thinning stressed grass in the summer, make me mow every 3-4 days in the spring, make me aerate every year, and possibly contribute to the algae blooms downhill in the local pond. I'm ultimately looking for the better lawn and so far it's done a good job.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks2?

Right, paulinct, but look at guys like dc_hall who has been doing this evidently for a while and can get by pretty well in the long seasons of texas on (if I'm not mistaken) cracked corn alone which has low protein and ultimately low effective nitrogen by itself. I'm not there but I'm looking forward to the day my maintenance drops to that level.


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RE: steak and rice

Hi fescue,

To continue your analogy, if the soil food web, on its own, serves the grass a steak, it is apparently a small steak. We know this because if we do not continue feeding the soil food web with products that could otherwise be used to feed people, other plants will outcompete our ornamental turfgrasses.

So it seems our grass is looking for either more steak, or both steak and rice. There are tradeoffs to either approach, but the fundamental problem is that without additional inputs of some sort, the soil food web by itself cannot maintain lawns in the way we think of lawns. So even assuming a very healthy soil, if we are interested in healthy plants at some point we need to consider what the plants need that the soil, by itself, is cannot provide.


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RE: food

Hi fescue,

I think I was typing over your last message. I don't recall exactly what dchall uses but I thought he used a different product at each feeding to encourage a diversity of microbes, but regardless, assuming that he uses only cracked corn, and that cracked corn is a relatively inefficient source of nitrogen, then that raises for me a different (and mostly OT) question:

Is lawn fertilizer really a good use of a human food resource? Less costly (in a macro sense) than synthetic fertilizers? I know I don't like to waste food, and I think that's true of most of us. Makes us feel uneasy from a morality standpoint. But then we apparently think nothing of dumping hundreds of pounds of food on our lawns, just to make them green, and because we don't like the idea of using "chemicals." Could that be considered gluttonous?

Sorry to go so OT, but your message got me thinking, and I figured it would be OK to hijack my own thread. ;-)


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Makes me feel no more guilty than inefficiently converting hundreds of pounds of corn to crank out enough fuel to drive for a couple weeks. I just look at it as pulling nutrients out of dirt somewhere else and putting it into my dirt. I mean if it's an environmental thing then do we look at the potential harms the chemicals do? My grains can't do that!


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Well, of course, you could use petroleum to drive instead, and this would have less of an impact on the availability of food. This way, instead of converting petroleum into fertilizer for food crops, and then converting those food crops into fuel for your car, with all of the inefficiencies that result, you could just use the petroleum for your car, and let the fields that would otherwise be devoted to producing fuel for your car actually work toward feeding people. It's organic, too!

Yes, I certainly think we should be comparing the costs and benefits of "chemicals" (as people here tend to use that term, as if everything on earth were not composed of them) and the apparently "chemical-free" organics that, of course, were themselves produced with copious amounts of "chemicals." Just because you didn't apply the synthetics yourself does not mean that you are not using them. You are just closing your eyes to your involvement.

Thank you for responding, I think I'll start another post on this topic when I get my thoughts together. Unfortunately it will probably be a long one, there are just so many variables.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

I'm not sure what level of waste or enviro-harm or whatever you're thinking at paulinct, but the line about an unnatural lawn probably sums it all up. Once you've decided to feed your lawn you have to decide how you will do that... and you can avoid that choice by letting it go back to the natural order.

To sort of be on topic, my own personal reasons for using "organic" lawn care are:
(a) might be healthier for my kids to run around rotting grains than whatever the orange pellets were
(b) it's my secret experiment to compare against neighbors, albeit unscientifically
(c) it feels less wasteful to be using renewable resources

As for metrics, well I've been sticking with it for a few years because my soil does seem softer, and I'm able to grow grass on a trouble spot where even weeds wouldn't grow before. It also helps that when I pour a bag of fertilizer into my spreader now, it doesn't sting my hands.

That's a lot of words but no raw numbers =) Oh and I do get weeds just like my neighbors, I don't have a carpet of a lawn because I didn't start over with new grass seeds, etc. But I'm still happy with the results so far.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

but the line about an unnatural lawn probably sums it all up. Once you've decided to feed your lawn you have to decide how you will do that... and you can avoid that choice by letting it go back to the natural order.

Thank you! IMHO that is EXACTLY RIGHT! None of us here who are trying to maintain ornamental turfgrasses in environments where they would not ordinarily thrive, are "green" at all. We are either trying to do the best for our grass, or justifying our behaviors with half-baked theories, at various levels, or trying to keep synthetic pesticides off of our children, or kidding ourselves into believing we are "saving the planet" by shunning urea, or whatever.

But the fact remains that none of this activity is truly "green," and I think that that should be the starting point for any discussion of what exactly we are trying to accomplish here.

Thanks again!

Best,
Paul


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Paul,

Can you clearly and specifically state your point or question?

If one point is that lawns require inputs to stay lawns, then I agree. We input labor in the forms of mowing, irrigation and weeding as well as applying grains, meals, compost, sewer sludge, etc. You will note that some are part of the feed stream and others are a part of the waste stream. To each his own. In nature you will read that animals do the mowing, fertilizing and to some extent watering. The soil food web is in synergy with the animal food web. Animals are not obsessed about weeds and mowing, surburban humans are.

Gibb's free energy states that all systems gravitate to a state of highest entropy (randomness) without the addition of energy. We provide energy to maintain our lawn and are thus abiding by the laws of physics, which is always a good thing.

If your concern is environmental in nature, than do everything in your power to recycle/compost your waste stream and minimize the environmental impact on your feed stream? Grow and buy locally while in season, support the fight against hunger, and live at least carbon neutral. It is not a contradiction to concern about the environment and still maintain a great lawn. The alternatives with chemicals, have a much larger environmental impact. Arguing about shipping cost seems somewhat out of scope here. I often hear a commercial where something like one ton or cargo can be railed 300 something miles on one gallon of fuel. I can find a source if needed.

The web is full of usefull information on this subject and others.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Hi Gray,

Why don't you just read what I have said and respond to that on those terms? Do you think setting up a bunch of straw men and then knocking them down is really convincing? I assure you that you are only hurting your own cause by doing that.

I mean, *I* know why you argue in this way... But really, why not just go ahead and face the things I have actually said, rather than trying to re-frame the debate on your terms, ignoring my most significant points in the process?

Do you think any of the ideas that I expressed were wrong? Why not spell out your disagreement?


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

I have read the posts and thought I addressed the concerns.

What are they?


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refusal to face reality, etc.

Hi Gray,

Nice try, but assuming your good faith, apparently you need to re-read this whole discussion. And if you still can't seem to keep it straight after that, then I imagine that I will reach a different conclusion.

Paul


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honesty

P.S., about the "goodness" of your "faith," of course.


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Re Read of thread

Is this it?

Yes, I certainly think we should be comparing the costs and benefits of "chemicals" (as people here tend to use that term, as if everything on earth were not composed of them) and the apparently "chemical-free" organics that, of course, were themselves produced with copious amounts of "chemicals." Just because you didn't apply the synthetics yourself does not mean that you are not using them. You are just closing your eyes to your involvement.

My response

We input labor in the forms of mowing, irrigation and weeding as well as applying grains, meals, compost, sewer sludge, etc. You will note that some are part of the feed stream and others are a part of the waste stream.

as well as...

If your concern is environmental in nature, than do everything in your power to recycle/compost your waste stream and minimize the environmental impact on your feed stream? Grow and buy locally while in season, support the fight against hunger, and live at least carbon neutral. It is not a contradiction to concern about the environment and still maintain a great lawn. The alternatives with chemicals, have a much larger environmental impact.

If beyond that you are critisizing us for the use of grains/waste to feed our lawns instead of chemicals, due to argicultural practices than I believe this debate is reaching the point of minimal retuns. We are pulling minute materials from the non human food chain at PPM levels and are not providing considerable impact to the demand. If you have evidence suggesting that it is more environmentally friendly to spread Scotts than grains, I would love to review that article!!

The best envirnonmental practice would be to only use the waste stream. I am about 50% of the way there. I live in an upscale community and have an obligation to provide the remaining 50%. I believe that the organic program I follow is the most environmentally sound. I enjoy what I believe to be a better solution to lawn care, eat organically and do my best for the environment.

If you wish to d**n us for taking care of our lawn at all, than once again I think this conversation has reached the point of diminishing returns.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

"Thank you! IMHO that is EXACTLY RIGHT! None of us here who are trying to maintain ornamental turfgrasses in environments where they would not ordinarily thrive, are "green" at all."

How about me? I've been working on replacing my mostly KBG lawn with streambank and western wheatgrass. Both of these are native and not traditionally lawn grasses. In my area, most people water daily (and have already started). I water once a week or less and haven't even tested my sprinkler system yet. The only thing I use to fertilize my lawn is used coffee grounds (picked up from Starbucks when it is on the way).

Is my lawn green enough?


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Is my lawn green enough?

Is the lawn green enough to make you happy? Good. What anybody else thinks does not matter.

In my case, that answer is generally, "No," although that's changing with the Mag 3. I'd still like it two notches darker, but that would practically be black.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

I can understand that. It seems that it isn't as bad if you're living in a large city like Houston but if you live outside of city in the middle of largely undeveloped land like mine, you're bound to get something... I suppose that's one of drawback of living in largely undeveloped land where there are a lot more small animals roaming around. So far a skunk hasn't come to my backyard and stink it up but apparently i have mole/vole somewhere digging holes in certain spots where rocky soils aren't right under the lawn. Annoying...

When you have a nice nutrient cycling going on, you don't really have to do much except apply soybean meal in the spring and fall like my mom's lawn in houston with millions of earthworms in the ground helping provide P and K (from leaves and grass clippings). Nitrogen tend to be limited and have to get some input from us.

However, I can understand where you are coming from. I mean soybean meal is FOOD and I wonder just how much supply we have and just how much demand are there for soybean meal? How much of it are really going to lawn? it may be a drop in the bucket, who knows? I've taken a look at Scott's organic fertilizer since it is waste from chicken factories. I've applied it last week. Honestly, I have no idea what to look for out of it as my lawn has already greened up nicely.

If I was forced to use synthetic fertilizer one day, I would go with slow release urea and some potassium like 24-0-11 in the spring and fall only. Either no or very little potassium. There is no way of having a nice lawn without any nitrogen input. I've seen sad looking lawns just because they never got any nitrogen input. Bermuda is the worst offender. Zoysia can get by with a lot less nitrogen input.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Paul (in CT):

I think I get what you're saying, and its an interesting point. What I think it boils down to is that organic does not necessarily mean sustainable -and so in that sense, is not as "green" as it could be.

I think there are 2 (definitely more) viewpoints of "green" that are blended together in the world of organic agricultural:

1) Minimizing the use of and exposure to chemicals that harm people or the environment

2) Maximizing the sustainability of agriculture by extensive use of recycling, reusing, and most efficient approaches, etc. (composting, recycling, etc.)

People who mostly focus on 1, with little thought about 2 will scoff at the use of things such as Milorganite or living in an "Earthship" that's built out of old tires. But they will have no problem with using alfalfa or corn on their lawn. People focusing on 2 are just the opposite: they see Milorganite as a great re-use of human waste (and would be even happier if they could get it from their local sewage treatment plant) and earthships as a way to keep tires out of the landfills and put them to good use, but they'll see the use of alfalfa or corn on their lawn as an inefficient use of products that could be used for food (for humans or livestock).

Instead of arguing about it, though, I think we should understand both of these points of view and try to rise to the challenge of both!

So, since this is the organic lawn-care forum, the question should be about lawn care:

How can we maintain a satisfying lawn in a manner that reduces the impact of harmful chemicals, pollution, etc. in the most sustainable and energy-efficient way possible?

I don't know the answers here, but I suspect they're much farther reaching than just the lawn. And even if we can't come up with a final solution, it may point towards a framework for making decisions and how to decide at what point the cost of maintaining the lawn isn't worth the price.

-Paul (in VA)


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

How can we maintain a satisfying lawn in a manner that reduces the impact of harmful chemicals, pollution, etc. in the most sustainable and energy-efficient way possible?

Exactly. I have just reel-mowed my Mag 3 lawn for the 11th time this season, an average of every 3 days so far since April.

I am not doing this again. Frankly, I'm exhausted, it's getting harder to punch through the very dense growth, and it's just not worth my time to save that much energy.

That having been said, my Robomower is out for repair. Until it's back, I'm borrowing my parents' gas mower, biting the bullet, and using irreplaceable fossil fuels when it's not necessary that I do so. That rankles.

But not as much as wanting to go to bed at 7:30 PM because I'm completely exhausted.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

"Is my lawn green enough?

Is the lawn green enough to make you happy? Good. What anybody else thinks does not matter. "

Excellent response, Morpheus, whether you intentionally used a different meaning of green than I intended or not.

We need to be happy with our choices. Whether we seed an elite KBG to get the deepest green, use grains (that were probably grown with lots of chemicals) to have a chemical free lawn, use Milorganite, which has some heavy metals or seed natives to reduce water, the choices we make are our choices and we need to be happy with them.

I'm happy with the green color my lawn is turning, even though it is a MUCH lighter green than the non-elite KBG varieties I started with.

Morpheus, you'd probably hate the color. But my goal is to have a grass that will be some sort of green with little or no additional water in a desert. KBG doesn't come close. TTTF does better, but at .75 inch per week, still uses too much water for my purposes.

I should have bitten the bullet, killed the existing lawn and started from scratch, but I've been overseeding and trying to get the natives to dominate by cultural practices. I think this year is the year I start to really favor the natives, in part because I had a sprinkler die on me last year and a chunk of lawn died (KBG has some drought tolerance, but no water for a month of 90+ temperatures is a bad idea). So I now have a base of native grass with sporadic tufts throughout the rest of the KBG lawn.

I figure that if I water just enough to keep the fire risk down until after the fireworks season, then quit watering, the rest of the KBG will die off. I'll then seed my natives once more, and next spring, I'll have a pale green lawn that will stay pale green if I water every couple of weeks, or maybe not at all. Note that nearly all of my natural precipitation comes as snow, from October through May. Grass growing months average about an inch per month of rain.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Morpheus, you'd probably hate the color.

Probably, but I'm in Pennsylvania and we get an average of 45" of rain a year in a moderate climate that's neither very hot nor very cold at any point. I made different choices for a different environment.

Native grasses in Utah sounds very smart and wouldn't require the water KBG will--and that the environment provides here naturally except during a drought.

If you're happy, what I think is irrelevant.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

I tend to go with supply and demand. I would prefer to use Beluga sturgeon caviar from the Caspian Sea as a fertilizer, but the supply is too low and the demand too high leading to high prices. Even salmon caviar, commonly used as fish bait here in the US, is priced too high for me. When I look at the supply of various other protein sources, I wind up with the grains. Fortunately there is enough corn left over after making food and booze that our pets and livestock can afford some. That is the stuff I go for. People do not compete for the grains I use, animals do. And as I have said elsewhere, any food shortage in any part of the world is a political problem not a supply problem. Sometimes governments have an interest in starving certain populations to force them to move away.

I think organic can be sustainable if you take properly from the waste stream and not from the food stream. By 'properly' I mean it would replicate the complex recycling that happens in nature. Every creature eats and recycles waste products in a special way. Eventually it all goes back to the soil where the microbes finish the cycle. If you want to get concerned to the nth detail, consider that every plant and creature is in the middle of both a food and waste cycle.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Wow, miss a day and the thread takes off. Thank you everyone for your input.

Gray, I didn't mean to be insulting to people using grains. I've been trying to avoid them but given what I can find locally I am pretty sure I will be using them to some extent myself soon. I'm just trying to get comfortable with exactly how I plan to care for my new lawn, and this is one aspect of that.

Lou, I'm glad we found some common ground, so to speak. And I'll probably end up using synthetics in just the way you suggest that you might, if you were so inclined.

BPgreen, I think what you're doing there is absolutely great! I personally won't try that for my own personal aesthetic reasons, and that bothers me a little, but apparently not quite enough to change course....

Paul (in VA) I thought you put that very well. I have a half-written post somewhere breaking the different perspectives into more categories, but I like your approach better.

Morpheus, IIRC you use a hybrid approach. After all of this discussion I think that makes the most sense for me too, just probably with fewer grains.

I hope I didn't miss anyone.

I apologize if I come off bullheaded sometimes (often? ;-)), but unfortunately I am a lawyer so there is nothing I can do about that... Seriously, I've been trying to get my head around the "correct" (subjectively speaking) approach to caring for my lawn since renovating last fall, and this has really helped me clarify some things that have been bothering me. I don't mean to shut down this discussion or anything, and would love to hear any other thoughts on this, I just wanted to say "thank you."


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Hi David,

Just saw your post, looks like I was typing over you. I thought the GW software used to warn people when someone else posted while you were typing, but this doesn't seem to be happening for me lately, no idea why.

Anyway, I agree the whole thing is very complicated, and I think in part I'm just suffering from "analysis paralysis." I mentioned previously that I like the idea of using slaughterhouse waste, particularly since my eating habits make me responsible for some of it. And yet, even much of that material - not all of it, but a good chunk - can be used to feed livestock, which puts it back into the food stream and leaves me feeling wasteful for using it.

But in the same way, that "leftover" corn that you mention could be used to feed livestock is, of course, also back in the food stream. Is that what you were getting at by saying that everything is in the middle of both streams? If so I guess the question would be which materials are actually more likely to end up as waste, and I have no idea how to approach that. Reminds me of Woody Guthrie's "Deportees" and his reference to oranges piled in their creosote dumps, and the total insanity introduced into agricultural production by subsidies and price supports.

(whoops, was that out loud?)


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

...I am a lawyer... Aaaah! Nuff said. That clears up a lot ;-)

Ag subsidies. If you follow the money, it goes from the consumer through the farmer, add in the (welfare) subsidy paid by taxpayers, and then to DuPont, Monsanto, John Deere, and the county tax collectors. At least that's where it goes in my world. Any time the subsidies go up, the taxes or cost of equipment/chemicals goes up to compensate for the farmer gouging the taxpayers.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Morpheus, IIRC you use a hybrid approach. After all of this discussion I think that makes the most sense for me too, just probably with fewer grains.

Yep. I'm not above and beyond spot-treating with Creative Chemistry as required, but what I use has to pass my very bright line of comfort. Round Up passes without nicking a heel. Certainty passes easily. Weed B Gone passes but barely and rarely.

I tend to alternate grains and Milorganite (the only waste-stream product I can easily get here). I also don't like dipping from the food stream too often if I don't have to, but also don't want to overdo the Milorganite. If I had a ready source of feather meal, etc., I'd use it. I don't.

unfortunately I am a lawyer

Didja hear the one about the lawyer and the shark...

Sorry. But if I hear one more joke about the Aspie programmer...

Any time the subsidies go up, the taxes or cost of equipment/chemicals goes up to compensate for the farmer gouging the taxpayers.

Regrettably, roundly true. Subsidies would have their place if they actually meant we ate American-grown food. In so many cases, it's imported for no good reason.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Didja hear the one about the lawyer and the shark...

I've heard them all, no worries, just a career mistake on my part... ;-)


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

paulinct, you might also think that I am the oldest person on earth but I have worked in an era when foliar analyses were not a tool, when the most commonly used fertilizer was ammonium sulphate ('salt' as in "I salted all my citrus trees over the week-end"), when 'planters' would seek any elevated position to observe the comparative green tints and hues of the fields in their vista to decide which ones needed 'salting'. Those were the days when planters could tell by touch whether a transplanted clump of sugar-cane would make it or not. I was the young, full-of-myself skeptic whose mission was to prove them wrong by 'the judicious application of science'. They were not always right but they were never wrong!
We have come a long way and I do not think that any of us would want it otherwise.
Decidely, the most important tenet in diagnosing plant problems is 'know what a healthy example of the species looks like'. Now, I think that I know Stenotaphrum secundatum, St. Agustine grass, having studied it as a pasture grass. There was a time when I could rattle off its properties and compare it with half a dozen other pasture grasses. One thing which I remember is that it is light green in color. Now there are improved varieties and who knows what their true (genetic) color is? Because, even in the experimental stages, these varieties are selected under a regimen of fertilizer application, at the sod farm -more of the same- and I, the end user am led to believe by all and sundry that the light green color of my 'Floratam' front lawn is not normal and it needs a fix, organic or otherwise.
You are quite correct that the front lawn is an almost unnatural phenomenon.
Mother Nature protects bare ground in my neck of the woods with sandspur and spurges.
The debate which you have started (purposefully, I think) is healthy and timely. Land, rain forest or reservoir, farmland or farmyard, real estate, or recreation field is a finite resource and its prudent husbandry can determine the life expectancy of the planet as we know it.
I also expect that Science will continue to provide the solutions to our (self inflicted?) dilemmas.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Hi Ron, you don't sound that old to me, I mean, I thought that was coherent.

;-)

Seriously, it was more than that, and if I understood you correctly I agree with you that our genetic meddling has made things much more complicated, mostly because the results are appearing and "diversifying" so fast, and there is no real body of knowledge about caring for all of these new plants.

Thank you for your thoughts on this debate. Yes, I did start it intentionally, but I honestly did not know where it would end up. I had my own ideas, and of course I was also trying to smoke out a few ideas that I thought involved logical fallacies (some of which I still think do), but I also learned a lot, and that was really the point, at least from my perspective.

Best,
Paul


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

P.S. And, of course, if I missed an aspect of your post that you would like to see thrashed out, please by all means bring it back up, either here or in a new thread! I enjoyed reading your post very much.

Paul


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Just a quick note on the food stream vs waste stream thought.

Most of the corn grown here is "dent corn" NOT sweet corn. Dent corn is used to feed livestock, which uses only a fraction of it to gain weight - most of those calories are burned up just living, eating, breathing, etc.

I know corn gluten and ethanol are made from dent corn (I confess I'm not sure abou corn meal) so if you are concerned about taking from the food stream skipping a few burgers ought to equalize things.

Disclaimer: I'm not a vegetarian - I LOVE steak - but beef is one of the most inefficient uses of corn there is. What you use on your yard pales in comparison.

I think it's valid to debate using food as fuel, just realize that this corn isn't for human consumption, it's food for our food. Also ethanol is not so much an end all solution, as a step in the right direction. Long term it would be better to use prairie switchgrass - which can be grown with much less fuel and messing around than corn and grown where corn can't. They can even get oil out of algae, so corn based ethanol is just a first step - I sometimes wonder if some of the 'food for fuel' rhetoric has been fed by big oil, though the previous posts are very well reasoned out.

Recycling feathers for yard fertilizer does sound good - tho even those feathers were being fed dent corn at one point. I guess what I'm trying to say is that there's no one easy answer, but a whole lot of ways to take steps in the right direction. Which is what I'm here trying to learn how to do.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Feeding corn to cattle is also unnatural. They evolved eating grass, not grain.

Corn fed seems to mean there is a different taste to the meat. I've eaten grass fed/finished beef recently and it tasted very much like beef.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Hi Lucy,

Thanks for posting that, I was not aware of "dent corn." Is that just a byproduct of sweet corn production (the unsellable bits and pieces?) or another crop entirely?

I ask because, if it is the former, then I'm encouraged that cracked corn is more in the waste stream than I thought! But if it is the latter, I think another way to look at it is that the really important resource is the croplands, not the plants themselves. That is, apparently we are using croplands to grow plants destined to become fuel and animal feed (and, to a much less extent, lawn fertilizer). If this is putting a strain on the amount of cropland available for raising human food (which I would assume), then I imagine we are cutting down the forests (to get more cropland) faster than we would be otherwise.

Paul


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Dent corn is not a by-product of sweet corn. They are two different things. Seed catalogs and two seconds in an actual corn field will tell you this.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

So I guess it is just too bad for me that I don't have any seed catalogs or cornfields to consult.

I also guess that you don't like where I was going with my comments on dent corn, and not having any substantive response, but really wanting to kill any further discussion on the subject, you gave it your best shot.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

If this is putting a strain on the amount of cropland available for raising human food (which I would assume), then I imagine we are cutting down the forests (to get more cropland) faster than we would be otherwise.

I have no worldwide data on the subject. I can say definitively that my home state of Pennsylvania (corn country, in other words) contains about 1% virgin forest.

That sounds awful, but most of the rest has been maintained by the state government and doesn't count as old-growth forest any longer. We've since learned that letting the system naturalize and not interfering is best.

(snark) Big flipping surprise there. (/snark)

The amount of restored forest is soaring, and even our scrubland is starting to undergo species succession. None of those areas will be considered old-growth forests for at least 200 years, as the whole system has to undergo a full natural cycle before it's considered virgin again.

Still, it isn't dropping, it's rising. There's no cropland stress here.

Still and all, further reduction of cropland by...hmm....let's see... (snark) maybe not burning food for fuel, or throwing it away (/snark) would be a good thing. On the other hand, if they wanted to use that to alleviate world hunger, that would be a good thing and I'd be the first person to commend them on that.

What, no world hunger? (snark) American! (/snark) Haiti, Bangladesh, and Egypt are having food riots right now. Shipment isn't the problem. Availability and price are.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Hi Paul,
Dent corn is a separate crop and the vast majority of the corn grown in this country. If you use cracked corn or get whole corn on cobs to feed squirrels - that's dent corn, usually bright gold and very hard when dried. If you let an ear of sweet corn dry out it doesn't look anything like that - it gets white and wizened. Another sad fact is that corn and cotton are the two crops that take the most fussing to grow - lots of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

My point is (without any attempt to start a word war on vegetarianism) that meat and especially beef is a MORE inefficient use of resources and I LOVE steak! So rather than get upset about using corn, soy or alfalfa - which feed our food - on our lawns. We might be better off cutting back on meat.

That cropland could then be used (ideally) to more efficiently to grow food directly for humasn consumption. So no, I'm not saying don't eat meat. I'm saying if you feel bad using food for our food on your lawn skimp a burger or two.

And Morpheus, some of the big rice producing countries are stockpiling not selling their surpluses, which leads to further stockpiling by worried people which does cause some of the shortages. There's food it's just stockpiled and not available.

The "food" that's being burned for fuel is animal food - with the exception of Brazil which depends on ethanol from sugar. If you feel that strongly about it you may want to consider a vegetarian lifestyle. There's an old book called somthing like "Diet for a Small Planet" that goes into a lot more detail on what I'm talking about and it may interest you as this obviously something you're passionate about. Since writing doesn't convey tone of voice be assured I'm not trying to pick a fight.

Oh , and it's not just forests - grasslands are valuable ecosystems in their own right and we have very little virgin prairie let as well.

Since I'm writing on my lunch hour, aand have written WAY TOO MUCH! I won't be back till tuesday, so I hope I haven't offended any one, I'll explain moire then if necessary.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

For a guy that likes to go on about ag topics you just don't seem to have much information handy. Have you ever lived or worked on a farm??


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Moratorium request!

If you do organic lawn care, post in this forum.
If you do chemicals, go to the other forum.
Otherwise post somewhere else. Nobody on this forum is dumping nuclear waste on their lawn.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Fescue planter--Who posted anything about dumping nuclear waste on their lawns? I didn't see anything in the thread about nuclear waste. The only mention of nuclear is in your post and most of the references to waste were to the waste stream. Can you point out which post you feel is encouraging the use of nuclear waste on lawns?


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

You couldn't dectect my sarcasm? As in what we do organically/chemically with our lawns is probably not going to doom the planet and is personal preference. If you really want to continue to debate whether using grains on the lawn or for fuel is going to boost global starvation, I can't stop you but I do think personally it is beyond the scope of this forum.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Who posted anything about dumping nuclear waste on their lawns?

Huh. That would be a great source of iron. Eventually, anyway...and you wouldn't have to turn on the lights at night to mow...!


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Hi Fescue,

If it weren't for the fact that many involved in organic lawncare (or at least many of the vocal posters on this forum) tend to deride the chem folks for screwing up the planet out of their own ignorance and selfishness or whatever, I would agree with you. But given the state of the discussions on this forum I can't. Apparently, when chem-folks do it, they are evil, but when organic folks do it, by using products produced with massive chem infusions, it is ok, so long as it wasn't their hand that brought the pesticides and urea to bear. I gather this is what you believe, and though I think that is terribly misguided, that is totally fine with me.

Just to make clear how fine that is with me, having instigated this whole discussion, I myself plan to use a lot more grains in the future, even though I see them as so wasteful, just because I want a nice, green lawn. So there's your conundrum: do you criticize me for being so obviously selfish in the service of my "organic" lawn," or do you come to terms with what you yourself are doing?

Regardless, I hope you see that, though I have thought at times to break this discussion into subthreads (which I still think would be useful to keep folks who are interested in certain aspects of the discussion involved), I have not.

So all you have to do to ignore any discussion of these things that are apparently uncomfortable for you, is to ignore this thread. I would not have thought that this is the way it is on the "organic lawn forum," but apparently it is just that way. And that idea is reinforced for me every day now that I finally see what is going on here.

What are we doing here, people? If not simply for the health of your lawn, why is "organic" the better approach, in any way?

Best,
Paul

P.S., Morph, I loved your response to the previous post, and literally laughed out loud at it: you really have an eye for that kind of thing, please 'em coming! Brings us all back to a common sense, if just for a moment.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

I live in a sphere.

I have a sphere of control. In these sphere, I make all my decisions and am totally accountable. I proudly use organic lawn care and take care of my lawn in the most environmentally friendly way that I know. I believe my practices to be better for the environment that I control. I have yet to see evidence to the otherwise.

I have a sphere of influence. In these sphere, I post on websites about things that I do in my sphere of control and the rationale for such. I donate where I think I can make a difference; I freely discuss my opinions and enjoy open discussion.

I also live in a sphere where I have no control or influence. In this sphere, I have absolutely no impact to my surroundings. I can expand some energy here, but it is useless. I should not worry about things that I can't control or influence. Many live in this sphere.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Hi Gray,

You said:

I proudly use organic lawn care and take care of my lawn in the most environmentally friendly way that I know. I believe my practices to be better for the environment that I control. I have yet to see evidence to the otherwise.

I agree, there probably is no evidence "otherwise" to your narrow statement, which of course totally ignores the effects of your landscaping decisions on the world outside of your own little plot of land. I realize from what you say that that is intentional. And like I mentioned previously, that is fine by me. But the same argument would certainly support using natural gas-derived urea, assuming that it is used in a way that is helpful for the grass and not harmful to the soil, in your own particular "micro-environment," on the theory that societal costs that extend beyond our own little plots of green are totally irrelevant.

Is that what you mean? Regardless, I hope you see my point.

Best,
Paul


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Thanks Paul,

I did some research and math around cornmeal, which I suspect is the worst case scenario with respect to amount of maintenance required and low protein concentration of the crop (assuming NPK is relevant).

Link on corn yields and fertilizer consumption

According to the link above, corn yields about 150 bushels and requires about 130 lbs of nitrogen. A bushel of corn is about 56 lbs so one pound of nitrogen is equivalent to about 65lbs of corn. Most of us will usually spread 10-20 lbs of corn meal for an application and treat it like a chemical 1 lbs N^2/fertilization. Other grains like alfalfa, soybean meal and waste products like cottonseed meal will have a more favorable ratio of lbs of grains to lbs of nitrogen (or environmental impact to process it) and are applied at the same rate.

With corn a typical fertilization is about 1/6 to 1/3 equivalent pounds of Nitrogen to make it.

Granted the manufacture of corn also expends energy in the form of tilling, harvesting, sorting and packaging. Any CO2 sequestering is destroyed with the yearly tilling. I have no idea how to quantify this but bear in mind that the chemical fertilizer you are buying are a more processed (commercial) version of this nitrogen product and additional energy costs have also been occurred with precipitation and drying of the chemicals into a user friendly easily spread able product. Lets call it a wash.

Unless you are applying more than 270 lbs of corn per year you are not exceeding the 4 lbs of fertilizer/.1000 ft^2 annual requirements of a KBG lawn. Most of us add about 100 lbs of grains/seedmeal/sewersludge/other organic fertilizers per year. If corn is the worst case, we can assume that we are expending at maximum 1/3 of the chemical that one with expend with a chemical program. I suspect based on the analysis above that the numbers are much lower.

Here is a link to how urea and ammonia are synthesized
Keep in mind that this is just for the active ingredient in fertilizer and that additional processing is performed to turn these gasses and liquids into slow release pellet materials.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

The other thing is that if the application of grains concerns you...... find something else to use. There are an awful lot of very good choices.

Honestly its hard to take all this "concern" seriously. I had an organic lawn for many a year before it ever got a single app of grain and it didn't suffer the absence. Find a material(s) you like, work with it, and move on.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Gray, thank you very much for taking the time to put that together! It will take me some time to work through that all myself, but that is exactly the sort of analysis I have been looking for and can't seem to find. I really appreciate your doing that! I'll get back to you when I have something to say... ;-)

Decklap, what sorts of materials were you using before, and why did you stop using them? I ask because my local sources for anything are harware stores, garden stores, box stores and the occasional low volume feed store. Did you have other sources before you switched to grains?

If my "concern" is hard to take seriously, let me try to re-phrase it: I don't believe that anything I do on my couple thousand square feet of lawn is going to have a material effect anywhere else in the world. Though theoretically of course it does, I feel comfortable enough with the "drop in the bucket" concept to go with it. I mean, industrial ag must spill thousands of times more toxins in a year than I will use on my lawn for the rest of my life, even if I were to go with with a full blown lay-down-the-death-and-destruction-no-matter-what four step program.

That said, I still think it is worthwhile to try to manage my little stand of grass in the most efficient way possible, even if the only thing to benefit (besides my grass (and soil)) is my conscience. What I really can't stand is the thinking that "if it's organic, it's good, and if it's synthetic its bad." That is just completely non-sensical to me. The reasons why become most obvious when discussing urea (the first ever synthesized organic compound, and such an important fertilizer, which some apparently think is evil incarnate when produced from natural gas but the height of greenness in the form of chicken$hit). But though that is a gross example, the same kind of muddy thinking is IMHO pervasive in the organic gardening world. So I guess my "concern" isn't "concern" so much as it is skepticism from having read too much, ahem, fertilizer.

Hope that makes sense,
Paul


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

That said, I still think it is worthwhile to try to manage my little stand of grass in the most efficient way possible, even if the only thing to benefit (besides my grass (and soil)) is my conscience. What I really can't stand is the thinking that "if it's organic, it's good, and if it's synthetic its bad."

Thank you, Paul. I couldn't agree more.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Gray, I had a moment to look into your figures and I got stuck. Did you get your numbers from page 7 of that presentation, titled "Impact of crop rotation?" Particularly the row involving the rotation of corn and soybeans?

Thanks,
Paul


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thanks

Darius, glad I'm not alone. ;-)


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Paul,

Page 11. It is the assumptions page. I used the lower inferred distribution of 150 (149.6) bushells/acre or corn per 130 (129.5) lbs/acre of nitrogen.


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Did I use anything before? Are you saying that you didn't think it was possible to have an organic lawn without grains?? Is that what this is about?

Cock-a-doodle do, Milorganite, fish emulsions and/or meal, top dressed compost, compost tea, clippings, cottonseed meal, kelp, my own diluted urine. This notion that somehow grains are necessary to the concept isn't reality. They got a little bump in use among hobbyists because they held a price advantage. By and large that doesn't exist anymore.

And I've haven't "switched" to grains. Im smack in the middle of a major city so feed stores aren't easy to come by and driving 45 minutes each way to the burbs to find one is just dumb. When its been handy for me to buy a bag of SBM or Alfalfa I have but they aren't regular apps.

And to the extent you or others feel that this is a "good vs. bad" issue or that you've been judged I have to say you really ought to step up and take some ownership of your role in that equation. In discussing the impacts of various treatment methods we are only talking about simple facts. That's it.
IMO people are solely responsible for how they respond to them.


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Corn Gluten

What's the best date for a fall feeding of corn gluten meal to eliminate Annual Poa next summer in Z6 (upper south)?


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RE: If not NPK, what are the benchmarks?

Stan--you'll probably get better results by starting a new thread with a subject that describes what you want to know.

This thread really doesn't have anything to do with controlling poa annua.


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