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  • PRO

    Hi Duncan

    I missed that programme but have a good idea what it would have contained. I am wondering how you are going to use this as ammo and on who ? 

    I have stopped using synthetic fertilisers because of the information in this and other articles. It seems extremely plausible to me. Fertiliser companies are big business and are far too powerful in my opinion. Is it any wonder that the worlds governments are the puppets of these money grabbing, power hungry organisations and as such as no better than them. Alone i cannot possibly make much difference but collectively who knows what can be achieved.

  • PRO

    Hi John, it certainly is a very interesting and thought provoking article.

    I would say it is exactly the same for lawns if not worse because usually all the clippings are removed and no organic matter returned. Compaction is a serious problem in lawns not helped by the application of lashings of synthetic nitrogen and the removal of all the "crop" residues.

    I too have witnessed lawns suffering badly in summer and it is usually the ones which have regular synthetic treatments and herbicide applications.

    Back later when i have more time.

  • It's a great article and well written, (thanks I put it out on my twitter feed). It is a huge shame that such research is now principally US, (although much is coming from developing countries and other European states) - UK seems to be flagging considerably. 

    There is a lot of research about synthetic fertiliser killing soil micro organisms (certainly many beneficial mychorizae is wiped out) and basically halting a fragile ecosystem which we are only really understanding the consequences of.

    I have some bumf on soils which I am happy to forward to anyone who is really interested and explains a bit more the complexity of 'urea' application and whether or not it needs immobilising according to the ammonia needs in a garden or wider. Email me if interested.

  • What I find really interesting is that in the UK garden the primary question is 'what to replace a fertiliser / herbicide /pesticide etc with?' rather than whether there is a need to replace at all or whether to look towards introducing things to attract a natural process - this isn't a criticism it is just really interesting. John's recent thread about testing the biodiversity on garden lawns is something which is incredibly exciting and in the face of severe cutbacks to research, (The >25% cutback to Forest Research is frankly criminal!!), and universities tending to look away from natural sciences in favour of PR or economics, practical study is perhaps the only route left.

    The urban garden is a playground for study and is surely our responsibility to find out more about it, because no one else is. 

    I would love to carry out a study where a similar sized log is left to rot in various garden locations and then after a specific time discover what detritivores have discovered and fed on this log. Where will they come from and how, what will prevent them and why? 

  • PRO

    I would love to do the log experiment -

    Last year I walked through a very overstood Sitka Spruce plantation in the Yorkshire Dales . The floor was sterile due to the dense planting and overstood nature of the site - It was raining heavily yet the forest floor was very dry - only small patches were wet where the tree drip-lines overlapped.

    The ground was about 4 inches deep in dry needles - and it made it hard walking. Underneath these were lots of small (cut) 3-4 inch diam logs from when the tree butts were pruned in their youth - judging the site, that was at least 7-10 years ago - yet the prunings were still in good condition. Not alot of rotting going on their. I wonder what the impact to the under lying soil of this is?

    Pip Howard said:

    What I find really interesting is that in the UK garden the primary question is 'what to replace a fertiliser / herbicide /pesticide etc with?' rather than whether there is a need to replace at all or whether to look towards introducing things to attract a natural process - this isn't a criticism it is just really interesting. John's recent thread about testing the biodiversity on garden lawns is something which is incredibly exciting and in the face of severe cutbacks to research, (The >25% cutback to Forest Research is frankly criminal!!), and universities tending to look away from natural sciences in favour of PR or economics, practical study is perhaps the only route left.

    The urban garden is a playground for study and is surely our responsibility to find out more about it, because no one else is. 

    I would love to carry out a study where a similar sized log is left to rot in various garden locations and then after a specific time discover what detritivores have discovered and fed on this log. Where will they come from and how, what will prevent them and why? 

  • PRO

    All Hail the Lawn!

    soil fertility deterioration has been well observed for many years by the general overuse of chemical fertilisers and the massive underuse of organic material

    at the centre of turfgrass science

    http://cropsoil.psu.edu/turf/extension/factsheets/renovation#Causes

    they state

    Most lawns should be mowed at two inches or above and on a regular basis as long as the grass is growing. How frequently you should mow depends on the growth rate of the grass. No more than one third of the total leaf surface should be removed at a given mowing. Thus, if the turf is cut at two inches, it should be mowed when it reaches a height no greater than three inches. Clippings do not need to be removed provided the lawn is mowed on a regular basis


    It is a  world wide problem that of soil fertility deterioating.

  • PRO

    Soil is an undervalued resource/environment/ecosystem and this is a really interesting article that seems to give weight to what the soil association and permaculture groups have been telling the 'mainstream' for years. There is't enough research in the UK. It'd be interesting to compare a log on my neighbour's lawn with one on mine - he bleaches the pebbles in his front garden and has a 'scorched earth' policy - nothing stays on the soil surface for long enough to rot. He makes beautiful compost but I've never actually seen him use it on the garden.His lawn is a smooth, even green, no moss, no daisies, just turf. Mine is, well, you can probably guess...

  • PRO

    Thanks to everyone who has taken the trouble to read the article. I came across it a while ago whilst researching organic versus synthetic fertiliser, and organic methods. The only way we can make a difference is to spread the message and hope more people do the same.

    Although i do make some of my living out of lawn care i would be happy if it was made illegal to apply pesticides and synthetic fert to lawns. I do nothing to my own lawns and they are full of native wild flowers such as dandelion, clover etc etc. I don't refer to them as weeds as to me they are'nt and i love to see bees visiting the flowers. 

    The soil is the foundation of life and we abuse it in every direction i look. There are of course some people who are aware of the harm they might be doing to the soil but i would say the majority are unaware and some of these don't even care! Coming from an agricultural background i am well aware of the attitude of farmers in general and i have to say it is improving, but the majority of them could'nt give two hoots as long as the yields are good and their bank balances healthy. I think they look on the likes of me as some kind of tree hugging, organic nut case and the source of much amusement. I don't care about that but i do intend to change as many people as i can to my way of thinking - customers watch out.

  • A little word of caution.  It is the overuse of readily available sources of nitrogen that could also contribute to the problem.  The overuse is often a result of the calculations used when assessing nitrogen needs, which often assume that the soil contains relatively little.  Therefore farmers, growers and indeed greenkeepers add all of their annual N requirements as base and top dressings.  The actual theoretical plant needs also assume maximum yields, which is idealistic to say the least!  The net result is much of the nitrogen disappears down the drains as soluble nitrates.  Luxury rates of N affect many plants by stimulating top as opposed to root growth - one of the reasons why overfed turf grasses are not particularly drought tolerant (feed 'em hungry is a good greenkeeping maxim).  Organics such as hen and pig waste can cause problems, as they are high in readily available N and have a comparatively poor C content.  So it is ignoring C in the 12:1 C:N ratio that is the main problem surely?  Although even this ratio is simplistic as many organic compounds are broken down very quickly producing just C02 and water.  The message from Nature, as often, is that compexity and diversity are better than simple quick fixes.

  • PRO

    Thanks Andy, you raise some valid points. Organic feeds are often made from chicken manure and this may be a problem - i will have to research what the carbon content is likely to be. I think it will be different from batch to batch and from different manufacturers. 

    Organic liquid feeds are frowned upon by some organic growers as they are quick acting and dont add any organic matter. Some do feed the microbes in the soil however and must be better than synthetics.

    I expect the ultimate way to feed is to apply aerobic compost to beds and lawns. This is easily applied to beds but applying organic matter to lawns is much more complicated. It has to be fine grade and applied on a dry day when the grass has preferably been scarified . The cost of top dressing puts most people off and it is unsightly for a week or two. 

    If i could persuade my customers i would be feeding all my lawns purely by top dressing twice a year. The thing is that synthetic fert has such an instant effect that playing the long game with organics will take a while to prove. 

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