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  • New direction?

    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



  • #2
    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?
    Northern California

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    • #3
      Local website blog

      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


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      • #4
        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?
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        • #5
          Top Dressing

          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>


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          • #6
            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?
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            • #7
              Equipment

              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


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              • #8
                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?
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                • #9
                  Seasons

                  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


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                  • #10
                    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?
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                    • #11
                      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.
                      Andy
                      Halifax, Nova Scotia

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                      • #12
                        Costs

                        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


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                        • #13
                          [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


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                          • #14
                            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

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                            • #15
                              [QUOTE=swstout;57104]
                              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.
                              Andy
                              Halifax, Nova Scotia

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