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PostPosted: Sun Jun 08, 2003 8:31 pm 
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Location: Southern, Oregon
Greetings to everyone from the Northwest...

I recently changed my maintenance accounts to organic

We are using a Blood and cottonseed meal mix for the turf (perennial rye, zone 7) and will apply a green sand in the fall.

When we aerate we apply Gypsum, because of our clay.

I went Organic at the beginning of the year and am happy with the results so far. In all honesty most of my larger commercial accounts don't get the organo treatment cause I can't afford it. (And still need to make a living). After all in our internet-drivin, microwave, instantaneous, weed and feed green 'em up society. If they want chemical green they get it.

I know organic is the way to go and have been taking the necessary
strides to implement them whenever possible...
My question is...has anyone else personally, or heard of someone, successfully running an organic based maintenance outfit without going broke?

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2003 8:44 am 
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Usually the problem with organic maintenance is not the high cost of supplies but the lack of anything to sell (in good conscience). Is it ethical to sell stuff the clients don't need? Conceivably you could get away with one application of dirt-cheap protein meal at the beginning of every season and do nothing else all year. Where's the monthly income in that? You almost have to get into a monthly spray program with compost tea or molasses/seaweed or something like that to keep some cash flowing. Maybe you could do 3 lesser applications of protein meal throughout the season??

I have an e-friend in Canada who's managing a par-three golf course organically. He's trying to convince the rest of his clients to go organic, too. He's using corn meal rather than blood or cottonseed meal. His biggest problem is the return of the earthworms leaving dirt piles on the greens every morning. I'm hoping to write a story about him, complete with pictures, for Howard's newsletter.

The choice of protein meals should be driven by local economics. If you can't get corn meal for $5/50 pounds, then use alfalfa, soy, canola, or whatever is low cost at your local feed store. If you're in the business, you'll be buying pallets at a time and should get a pretty good price. In some locales, the retail animal feed price is more like $3-$8 for 100 pounds of meal.

Making and selling your own brand of compost is another profit center for you. In this case you're selling beneficial microbes. Check out fisheries or chicken processing places for wholesale prices on guts and feathers. You could compost these and charge retail for the compost, or if they are no longer smelly, you could use them directly (I doubt it, though).

Another source of microbes is to make compost tea and spray that for your clients. The cost to make tea is 1/1000 the cost of commercial compost but the cost of applying it is the same as spraying the old chemicals you might have used in the past. Compost tea is safe, too, so you don't need the rubber boots and mask to spray.

Regarding aerating, many organic turf managers find they no longer need to aerate. As the organic fertilizers return the soil microbes to good health, the microbes provide all the natural tilth that's ever needed. As a side benefit, thatch goes away naturally. Whether its clay or sand, the microbes establish soft black dirt. It helps if the turf is mown high and the owners water properly (deeply and infrequently).

Another issue found in organic turf maintenance is that the clients see lots of spraying, spreading, and maintenance activity on their neighbors' chemically managed properties and nearly none on their organic property. The reason is that the organic program sets it up so that Mother Nature can be in charge. Protein based fertilizers can be applied one time and the microbes will handle everything else for the season. Taller grass and less frequent watering discourages weeds so there is little to no herbicide spraying/spreading. No chemical pesticide spraying will encourage the return of predator species, like ladybugs and wasps, so the damaging insects never get a foothold. Use of organic ferts will see a return of birds who are also insect predators (and manure spreaders). So with less activity on the organic turf, the clients have to be convinced by the maintenance company that the work that is NOT being done on their yard is not being done by design and not by neglect.

And when the wasps return, the owners have to learn to live with them. If they stop swatting everything that moves, the wasps will take care of caterpillars and spiders without being pesky about it. Nobody should get stung by wasps that are left alone.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2003 8:04 pm 
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Location: Southern, Oregon
Thanks for your reply...I appreciate it!
I agree selling organics is a lot harder than implementing organics.
That was a lot of info to digest. I think a little background is in order...

I bought this business from a company where I had been the foreman for over three years. Now, I have some accounts, that have been with me for over four years.

This past year I have never seen as much fungus,(snowmold and redthread) in one year, than I had in three years with a majority of our accounts...Pesticide apps year after year because of chinch bugs or grubs or crane fly or etc.

So I changed over to organics...didn't charge more...have not even mentioned it to one of the clients.

What I still have to do unfortuneately, is apply herbicides.

I guess my master plan is slowly transition over to organics, with those clients that accept a better solution to a green and healthy lawn than the facade of healthy lawn, cause it's "always green...."

Thanks again for your time and input.

P.S 91 degrees and hot today.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2003 12:40 pm 
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What kinds of grasses do you typically mow?

How high do you mow them?

How often do they get watered?

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2003 6:05 pm 
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Location: Southern, Oregon
Thanks for your reply.
Predominately perennial rye...fescue is considered a weed along with burmuda, bent, etc. Although you do see some shady yards that a seeded fescue...cause it's just a matter of time if they are not.

Three inches, as high as the Honda commercial models will go.

Every other day, twice a day...time is arbitrary it changes depending on the property.
Thanks again

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2003 9:53 pm 
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I was hoping something would pop out at me with the answers to those questions to help you get away from herbicides. Are you spraying to eradicate those grassy weeds??? When you have grassy weeds in grass, that can be tough to get rid of.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2003 10:02 pm 
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The majority dont notice unless I tell them...

as for the others, pre-emergent programs and diggin up exsisting areas replacing them with sod or reseeding.

In new turf we try and stay on top of them, before it becomes an eyesore.

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