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Second alternative to compost

Posted by bestlawn 6 (My Page) on
Tue, May 22, 07 at 23:33

I'm working with a young lady who recently purchased her home but inherited an absolutely awful lawn. I need her to get some organic matter into the soil and naturally suggested compost. The problem is she has a 4000 sq ft yard and she can hardly find the time to rake it (for thatch), much less spread 25 bags of compost. So I need an alternative.

I'm sure compost tea would be best, but I don't think I would be able to talk her into brewing it. She doesn't have that kind of confidence or commitment. I want to get her to love her lawn because right now all she has is mostly weeds. Once she sees some good results, she will become more confident and I will be more successful in convincing her to try other things.

So, I'm wondering if compost tea is available for purchase. Yes, I know it won't so potent as brewing herself, but I gotta do something and the easier the better.

And, please don't suggest organic grains and such. She doesn't need fertilizer right now and besides that, I'll move her gradually into an organic program. I'm afraid to push her right now.

And worm casting is way too expensive.

Any other ideas?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Second alternative to compost

If she starts following an organic rogram (or even a partially organic program) the thatch problems should start to go away. As I'm sure you already know, if she doesn't water and/or fertilize too often, thatch buildup should go away, especially if she mulch mows and works on adding other organic content.

I know nothing about this product, but I remember this thread on turf tea. If you read the entire thread, you'll see that it got somewhat contentious at times.

I would imagine there are other sources, as well.

I've never really understood how compost tea by itself could help very much. It seems to me that would introduce the microbes, but they'd need something to eat as well.

I was going to suggest shredded trees, but it doesn't sound like she'd have the time for that.

Does she pass a Starbucks on a regular basis? If she picked up one silver bag a day and spread it by walking backward and shaking it while moving it side to side, it would only take a few minutes a day. Over the course of a year, it would add up, but if she does it a little at a time, it wouldn't be so noticeable. And that way she wouldn't be likely to get it too thick and repel water. I don't bother breaking up the hockey pucks, but just spread it on the lawn as I walk around. The grounds are about 1.5% N, so they're a green in compost, but it takes a lot to substitute for fertilizer. It still adds organic matter, though.


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RE: Second alternative to compost

Any other ideas?

A light doss with the cheapest sugar you can find? There are already natural bacteria and fungi in there, they're just spored up and starving for lack of organics.

Drop 40 lbs down (10 lbs/K sq ft) just before a rain and get 'em up and moving. And reproducing. Sugar's very high in carbon...er, sucrose is C12H22O11 so it won't add any nitrogen, though.

At least it's cheap, and may help with the thatch issue a little bit. It seemed to on my lawn.


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RE: Second alternative to compost

Hi Bestlawn,

The easiest thing might be just to focus attention on the front yard first. Once she sees the results on a smaller area she is more likely to put the effort into the back yard.

Front yard could get compost plus watering and higher mowing. The back yard could get just the watering and mowing.

It's hard to say what might have the most benefit, not knowing the current state and location of the yard -


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RE: Second alternative to compost

Wow, KelleyNelson, you have ESP. I don't recall mentioning it was her backyard. LOL

Or, maybe you were thinking the 4000sq.ft. is both yards. Nope, just the back. She hasn't yet told me the size of her front yard, only that it is smaller. You're right that it would be more manageable, but she doesn't have major problems with the front that I know kbg filling in won't solve for the most part. She mainly became discouraged over the backyard because estimates she's getting are so high. So, I promised to help but as it turns out, she doesn't have much time to devote and doesn't have anyone to help either.


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RE: Second alternative to compost

I'd buy the best 'farmyard' manure that is available and wthin the budget. Instinctively I think of guano - no science; just gut feeling. Apply it in time for the hot weather. Water enough to keep the bacteria working feverishly and that should lay the foundation for a continuing organic program. There are innoculum products which promise to raise the bacteria population in the soil. This concept is applied in the culture of some commercial crops and I have no reason to doubt that it will work provided the underpinning science is good.


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RE: Second alternative to compost

There really is no alternative to compost if you are talking about replacing all the great things about compost. However, if a yard hasn't been continually bombarded with pesticides and chemicals, the soil probably has plenty of microbes that will perk right up with a little water and food. The most readily available food source will be the grass clippings, but progress is going to be slow unless you add some additional organic matter. Frankly, I'm not sure why you are automatically dismissing grains. They are cheap and easily spreadable. That seems like a much easier sell than convincing someone to spread thousands of lbs of organic matter by hand.


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RE: Second alternative to compost

  • Posted by okcdan 7 OKC - Bermuda (My Page) on
    Sat, May 26, 07 at 14:36

I'll second what billl said, I think she'd be surprised how much difference just one 50lb bag of soybean meal (around $10) would make, and with any basic rotary spreader, could be applied in about 10 or 15 minutes. That, along with proper (tall, mulch) mowing & (deep/infrequent) watering practices would very likely give her the "I want to get her to love her lawn" that you want her to have. All the while, the thatch you say is an issue, will begin to become a non-issue, being taken care of by the microbes and cultural practices.

My 2 cents

Good day, Dan


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RE: Second alternative to compost

How about Whitney Farm's organic fertlizer that are very popular one Fred Myer guy told me. If it is true they are very easily to apply with any spreader. I myself, have just applied it last week and waiting for some results.

-LG


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RE: Second alternative to compost

Check the pH of the soil. Even a rough estimate might be enough to find out if there are more serious problems with the soil then the microbes. Lime/sulfur are easy and cheap to apply and could really help.

I also think grains are the best way to go in terms of getting the organics cooking. Relatively cheap, quick to apply (no fear of burning the grass), and in a days work she can start creating a completely new lawn.

Soil test---->lime/sulfur if horribly acidic/alkaline---->grains---->mulch mow

Should work itself out with minimal legwork.


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RE: Second alternative to compost

hi okcdan,

I think she'd be surprised how much difference just one 50lb bag of soybean meal ......

Is soybean meal better than corn meal in regards to feeding the turf and not the antifungal propery of corn meal?

Thanks!


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RE: Second alternative to compost

"Is soybean meal better than corn meal in regards to feeding the turf and not the antifungal propery of corn meal?"

Soybean meal has a higher protein content (and so a higher N %) than corn meal.


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RE: Second alternative to compost

Soybean meal has a higher protein content (and so a higher N %) than corn meal.

Although you can shock and awe your neighbors by eating either out of the spreader when they ask what you're putting down.

I also found that the birds aren't all that attracted to soy, but the corn calls every granivore within twenty miles. To me, it was amusing to watch the crows and grackles. To my next-door neighbor, it was scary. The bunnies got some, too.


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RE: Second alternative to compost

  • Posted by okcdan 7 OKC - Bermuda (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 3, 07 at 11:32

Hi Ron!

Is soybean meal better than corn meal in regards to feeding the turf and not the antifungal propery of corn meal?

Short answer: Yes.

In terms of feeding, generally speaking, turfgrass is a nitrogen hound.

When you convert the protein content of the protein based feed grains into an "N" value, you find that soybean meal is 6 times more potent than cornmeal, so when I do my fertilization using one 50lb bag of soybean meal, I'd need to use six 50lb bags of cornmeal to get a similar or equal amount of N onto the turf.

Cornmeal really is better suited for use for either #1) a turftype that has very low N needs, or #2) It's ability to help fend off and prevent fungal disease.

Good day, Dan


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RE: Second alternative to compost

Ok, guide me here guys. From what I've learned so far, we can never burn the grass even with too much organic grains. However, I've read somewhere that putting too much nitrogen will burn the grass.

So, I would like to know how much of soybean I need to buy. Previously, I applied 20 lbs per 1000 sqft of corn meal and cgm. What would it be for soy bean meal?

Thanks,

Ron


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RE: Second alternative to compost

  • Posted by okcdan 7 OKC - Bermuda (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 3, 07 at 23:58

Hi Ron,

Apply soybean meal @ 14lbs/1000sqft to apply enough to be the equivalent of 1 lb N per 1000sqft

Good day, Dan


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RE: Second alternative to compost

When you read that putting on too much nitrogen will burn the grass, it was referring to fast release nitrogen. Nitrogen in chemical fertilizers (and some organics like fresh manures and blood meal) is in a form that is readily used by plants immediately.

The nitrogen in grains needs to be released by microbes, so it is released very slowly and won't burn.


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RE: Second alternative to compost

Thanks guys! I was actually planning to buy soybean meal on August but now that I only need 3 50 lbs, I'm tempted to buy! :D hehehe


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RE: Second alternative to compost

Just something simple for now

1) soybean meal or corn gluten meal (whichever is cheaper) to speed up growth which means more organic matter for the soil... Alfalfa meal/pellet for increased root mass = more organic matter IN the soil? Repeat every 3 months.

2) molasses - could work. May object to the funky smell for several days.

3) water deeply and infrequently as NEEDED.

4) mow regularly at the highest setting to keep the soil cool and soft for microherd to roam, eat and poop enriching the soil.


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RE: Second alternative to compost

This thread has been HIJACKED!

Mallory, she needs to just start practicing the cultural aspects and stay off the lawn drugs. When she's ready for something better, and if she's asking for your help, she needs to start applying grains. If she protest, then she doesn't want your help or wants you to do it for her.

I have a neighbor like that. When he sees me working outside he comes out and sweats and curses and "whoa is me" and "I just don't know what to do" and "how do I find time". He even planted three dead bushes on my side of his yard. Bottom line, I've told him what to do, I've offered to help him, but I'm not going to do it for him and have held his hand as much as anyone should.

If she's truly lacking in confidence and commitment then she may be better off in a condominium.

Greenjeans


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RE: Second alternative to compost

Can't disagree with you, GJ, but I think her biggest problem is that her yard is so darned big. Spreading SBM will be much easier than spreading compost although she's going to have to do the compost eventually.

Thanx guys.


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RE: Second alternative to compost

I quite agree with GJ. If I didn't listen to him late March of this year, I'm very sure that my lawn would still be mixed of brown and green blades!

I just saw a video yesterday of how compost is spread. She has to hire someone for the application of compost most especially she's a young lady. She'll break her back in the third application.


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RE: Second alternative to compost

I don't know why she won't hire someone. I set a budget for between early May and the end of September. Knowing how hard it would be with so much area to cover, I worked paying help into the budget for spreading compost and for operating the slit seeder at seeding time. I mention it over and over but get no response from her about hiring help. She approved the budget and even added a hundred dollars to it. Maybe she doesn't know anyone, but even a neighbor teenager is better than no one so long as he follows instructions.


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RE: Second alternative to compost

A low cost/low effort approach is what GJ suggested.

"Mallory, she needs to just start practicing the cultural aspects and stay off the lawn drugs. When she's ready for something better, and if she's asking for your help, she needs to start applying grains."

I think that GJ's approach makes a lot of sense. If your friend doesn't "buy in" to a change in cultural practices, there's no hope for her.

-Deerslayer


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