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swstout
08-29-2009, 11:03 PM
It's been a very interesting week. Today was the most expensive! One of my local competitors went out of business and had an auction for his equipment. I bought a Troy Built 3" Chipper and shredder for $300.00 (Lowe's lists it for about $800.00), an Echo string trimmer for $95.00, and an assortment of attachments for the Echo trimmer (pole saw, edger, and tiller for $125.00) Plus a tow behind drop spreader for $120.00.

Ron, the owner, wanted to know if I would need his help as a sub contractor. Mowing is all he is interested in for evenings and weekends (he got a grant to go back to school to become an accountant).

On Monday, I put an article on lawn top dressing on my blog. I only received 1 response on my blog, but I received 51 emails from interested people in my area (my blog is posted on the Hartsville web site). It seems that nobody offers top dressing service here. I spent most of the rest of the week researching top dressing and learned that the two main organic material components can be classified ad "Green" mulch and "Brown mulch. Green is high in nitrogen and brown is high in carbon.

I also received 29 requests for leaf removal this fall. Leaves are considered "Brown" organic material. Because the soil here in South Carolina has such low carbon content, I feel this is an untapped market. I want to offer a high carbon organic material as a top dressing for lawns next spring giving me 6 months to market it. I have a reliable manure supplier already set up and have worked out a method to mix the various ingredients for a good top dressing.

Here is my delema! I can mix and enhance the top dressing material during the next 6 months to get an adequate supply, but how do I store it? Do I have to bag it to keep moisture out? can I make a compost pile and leave it exposed to the environment? Should I make a compost pile and cover it with a tarp?

I want to concentrate on building soil, humus and organic lawn care services and products.

Any suggestions or experience will be appreciated.

Steve

Little's
08-29-2009, 11:25 PM
Wow, that's a great question and I have no idea the answer. But I would be interested to know too. Sounds like your on to something.

On a side note, how did you hook up with your town website? I would be interested in doing something like that too. What was the approach?

swstout
08-30-2009, 12:35 AM
Wow, that's a great question and I have no idea the answer. But I would be interested to know too. Sounds like your on to something.

On a side note, how did you hook up with your town website? I would be interested in doing something like that too. What was the approach?

Someone on the city council read my blog and called me for permission to add it to their website. I thought about it for a mili-econd and said sure! They contacted me.

I do however spend a lot of time on my posts and get my wife to put in her 2 cents before posting them. Her input is invaluable. Just as much as her questions as her input. I have had more insperation from her questions. 37 years nest month!

Steve

Steve
08-30-2009, 07:59 PM
Steve,

We haven't discussed top dressing on the forum much at all. Can you tell us the basics of what it is, how you do it and how it is helpful?

swstout
08-30-2009, 08:30 PM
Steve,

We haven't discussed top dressing on the forum much at all. Can you tell us the basics of what it is, how you do it and how it is helpful?

This is my draft marketing page. Work in progress.
This pretty much explains it.
100% Bio-enhanced, organic, soil building, top dressing.

<DIR><DIR> improves soil structure, health, fertility, aeration, compaction, thatch build-up, and weed growth
reduces water usage by maintaining soil moisture
reduces rainwater runoff
lessens soil temperature fluctuations
reduces maintenance
eliminates the need for expensive, messy, unproductive mechanical dethatching and aeration
inhibits many plant diseases
builds humus
increases brix values deterring lawn insects
makes the lawns more attractive

</DIR></DIR><TABLE dir=ltr border=1 cellSpacing=1 borderColor=#000000 cellPadding=7 width=590><TBODY><TR><TD width="25%">Component


</TD><TD width="22%">Material


</TD><TD width="53%">Action


</TD></TR><TR><TD width="25%">Brown Organic Material

</TD><TD width="22%">Mulched dry leaves, twigs, dried vegetation

</TD><TD width="53%">High in carbon
Low in nitrogen
Trace elements
Micro-nutrients
Builds humus
Brown organic material decomposes into organic matter at a rate of about 5:1 (5 pounds organic material = 1 pound organic matter)

</TD></TR><TR><TD width="25%">Green Organic Material

</TD><TD width="22%">Mulched grass clippings, kitchen scraps,

</TD><TD width="53%">High in nitrogen
Low in carbon
Trace elements
Micro-nutrients
Green organic material decomposes into organic matter at a rate of about 10:1 (10 pounds organic material = 1 pound organic matter)

</TD></TR><TR><TD width="25%">Composted
manure

</TD><TD width="22%">Composted
manure

</TD><TD width="53%">Adds bulk
Adds uniformity
Adds micro-macro nutrients
Adds trace elements
Sustains , Micro-organisms

</TD></TR><TR><TD width="25%">Sharp sand

</TD><TD width="22%">Sharp sand

</TD><TD width="53%">Adds uniformity

</TD></TR><TR><TD width="25%">Aerify

</TD><TD width="22%">Bio-enhanced liquid aerifying agent

</TD><TD width="53%">Aerates lawn to a depth of 10" plus. Reduces irrigation needs. Allows air exchange. Breaks up clay soil. Relieves soil compaction.

</TD></TR><TR><TD width="25%">Liquid dethatcher

</TD><TD width="22%">Bio-enhanced dethatching agent

</TD><TD width="53%">Supplies soil with the beneficial bacteria and enzymes needed to convert organic material in to organic matter building soil fertility and increasing humus production

</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>

Steve
08-30-2009, 08:36 PM
What kind of equipment are you using to do the top dressing? Are you using the tow behind spreader? How thick should it be?

Also how often through out the year should this be done?

swstout
08-30-2009, 08:51 PM
What kind of equipment are you using to do the top dressing? Are you using the tow behind spreader? How thick should it be?

Also how often through out the year should this be done?

I have a tow behind drop spreader (not broadcast spreader) but I probably will dump and rake in. This will fill in low spots and be more uniform. After spreading I will apply Aerify, Mature's Magic, and the biological dethatcher with a tow behind sprayer.

What I posted was my first draft. There will probably be many changes and additions before I'm satisfied with it. I'm not planning to start until spring. Have too many things to work out, refine, develope into a process. Storing the top dressing is my main problen point.


Steve

Steve
08-30-2009, 08:53 PM
Very interesting stuff!

Is the top dressing service something you can do all year round or are there some seasons that are better times than others?

swstout
08-30-2009, 09:01 PM
Very interesting stuff!

Is the top dressing service something you can do all year round or are there some seasons that are better times than others?

From the research I have done so far, spring is the best time for warm climates and Fall is the best time for cold climates. I have seen recomendations for frequencys of once every year to once every 5 years.

The major drawback (from my research) is cost. I am trying to overcome that by combining aerating, dethatching, insect control, fertility, irrigation savings, soil building, etc. in an Organic All-In-One process.

Steve

Steve
08-30-2009, 09:06 PM
The major drawback (from my research) is cost.

Do you mean that it costs a lot to perform this service and the customers may not be willing to do that?

What makes it a costly service?

picframer
08-30-2009, 09:25 PM
Do you mean that it costs a lot to perform this service and the customers may not be willing to do that?

What makes it a costly service?

It's a slow process, we have 9 to do so far, not a service I promote a lot as it's quite labor intensive.

You need to cut the grass very short, then remove all thatch, rake in your top dressing, rake in seed, roll then spray. I have landscape rakes that attach to the tractors but they do not do as good a job as a hand rake unless the customers lawn is uneven or has bumps, then the tractor excells as it levels everything.

Top dressing in our climate is done in September and October, it's a pretty big business here and some companies specialize in it.

swstout
08-30-2009, 09:29 PM
Do you mean that it costs a lot to perform this service and the customers may not be willing to do that?

What makes it a costly service?

I think it is fairly labor intensive and the "pre-made" topdressings are very expensive. Some of large population areas that have this service offered by a few contractors seen to have developed a process just for this service. They have large commercial duty drop spreaders with raking attachment for even distribution and who make their own top dressing.

I am trying to develope a service process for small population areas that will produce dramatic visual results quickly. Market a "Keep up with hte Jone's" attitude at a reasonable cost that instills quality and value added feelings.

Steve

swstout
08-30-2009, 09:34 PM
[quote=picframer;57102]It's a slow process, we have 9 to do so far, not a service I promote a lot as it's quite labor intensive./quote]

How do you store your top dressing? Bagged, covered, piled?

Steve

SuperiorPower
08-30-2009, 10:40 PM
I have no personal experience with anything other than manure but I do know that manure stays mostly most when it is uncovered and even composts nicely. At the very worst you may have to water it down on occasion to keep it moist but I don't see that as being a problem as long as you have an occasional rain and with snow, etc.. I have however seen regular compost piles outside, uncovered but don't know how the compost turned out.

I have to ask though, what kind of manure are you going to be using (chicken, turkey, horse, cow, swine, etc.). As I am sure you know already, different types of manure have different chemical consistencies. Very different. But I am sure your research has revealed this to you. Plus the difference in chemical consistencies, there is also a great difference in odor. Unless you have a good place in a VERY rural area to do this, I doubt that you would be too interested in using any poultry or swine manure due to the odor. But like I said, I am sure this is all old news to you.

Keep us posted, this is rather interesting.
Eli

picframer
08-31-2009, 05:25 AM
[quote=picframer;57102]It's a slow process, we have 9 to do so far, not a service I promote a lot as it's quite labor intensive./quote]

How do you store your top dressing? Bagged, covered, piled?

Steve

I ordered 18 yards, it will be delivered this week and we will cover it with a plastic tarp, for lawns requiring 4 yards or more, we have it delivered. My supplier Kel Anne Organics stores it uncovered.

picframer
08-31-2009, 05:27 AM
I think it is fairly labor intensive and the "pre-made" topdressings are very expensive. Some of large population areas that have this service offered by a few contractors seen to have developed a process just for this service. They have large commercial duty drop spreaders with raking attachment for even distribution and who make their own top dressing.

I am trying to develope a service process for small population areas that will produce dramatic visual results quickly. Market a "Keep up with hte Jone's" attitude at a reasonable cost that instills quality and value added feelings.

Steve

My cost is $29.80 a yard, I charge clients $49.00 a yard plus labour.

swstout
09-01-2009, 10:43 PM
[quote=swstout;57104]

I ordered 18 yards, it will be delivered this week and we will cover it with a plastic tarp, for lawns requiring 4 yards or more, we have it delivered. My supplier Kel Anne Organics stores it uncovered.

Topdressing is not offered in my area except in 2 cu. ft. bags at Lowe's. Very expensive!

I am looking into producing my own, so storage is of prime importance.

The carbon content of South Carolina soil is only about 1% so Browm organic material is important. Leaves and pine needles will supply the carbon if I have enough Green organic mater for the needed nitrogen. I am looking at a 20:1 ratio which will require a 1 part Brown organic matter to a 2 part green organic matter. At 1/4 inch topdressing this will require 0.8 cu. yd. per 1,000 sq. ft. I have almost 3 acres of wooded land with hardwood and pine trees in abundance and have a inexpensive source of cow manure for the misture.

Any help will be greatly appreciated

Steve

picframer
09-02-2009, 04:38 AM
[quote=picframer;57121]

Topdressing is not offered in my area except in 2 cu. ft. bags at Lowe's. Very expensive!

I am looking into producing my own, so storage is of prime importance.


Steve

That would be expensive I suspect.

There are three companies here that make Organic soils so I guess I am fortunate as I don't think I could ever produce enough to cover the lawns we do.

I have seen two of the operations although I haven't asked any detailed questions on how they are making it, I deal with a place called Kel Anne, the owner Mike is a super fellow, when we met in the spring he was telling me they go through something like 50,000 yards of product a season, it's a pretty big operation.

My experience is limited to playing around in my back yard over the years, I know covering it with a tarp in the winter is critical to keep the heat in and it has to be kept moist, not wet.

I'll see if I can find some info from Mike and will email it to you, I talk to him pretty much every day.

swstout
09-02-2009, 06:14 AM
Thanks, I apprediate it,

Steve

picframer
09-02-2009, 06:20 AM
Thanks, I apprediate it,

Steve

I have been searching for a spreader to speed this process up....OMG $13,000 was the cheapest, this is such a big market here I am going to see if the rental places have anything

swstout
09-02-2009, 06:42 AM
I have been searching for a spreader to speed this process up....OMG $13,000 was the cheapest, this is such a big market here I am going to see if the rental places have anything

I know I could not use such a spreader as I don't have the population to support that kind kind of volume (only about 7,000). The average size lot here is about 5,000 sq. ft. so I am only talking 4 to 6 yards per job. If I can set up 15-20 jobs for next spring, I should be able to market other services and products.

Mowing jobs here at this time is non-existant. Anyone with a mower is doing it for practically nothing. I am looking for services that other companies don't want to offer!

Steve