Archive for December, 2011

Phosphorus (P), new legislation for fertilizer use in Vermont

Published by JKeefe on December 20th, 2011 - in Fertilizer, Lawn Care Companies

Phosphorus use in Vermont changes for 2012

New Vermont legislation that all but bans phosphorus uses on maintained lawns in Vermont is a model following several other states including New York and Maine.  Unfortunately, the message has yet to reach most home owners and businesses within Vermont as it relates to fertilizer usage.  A pile of research and scientific agreement went into drafting this new law as it relates to the removal of phosphorus (P) in fertilizer.  If we recall from chemistry class, P is the middle number in what most folks see on a bag of fertilizer. For example; 23-5-10 with 5 representing P.  As a general statement, unless you have a soil test determining the need for P, or if the your lawn is newly seeded/sodded in the first year, P is now illegal to use in the state of Vermont.  The truth is lots of research supports P finding its way into our waterways such as rivers, streams, and lakes.  As a result, algae blooms become abundant, using up oxygen in the water and thereby causing adverse health effects to fish and other desirable organisms.

Regrettably, some of the new law is vague and does not address specific issues such as acres of agricultural land along the CT River or large lakes; they are exempt.  Another difficulty is in regard to the time frame that you as a home owner can apply fertilizer in Vermont.  The new time frame is capped between April 1st and October 15th.  Similar laws in surrounding states end the season on December 1st versus mid October.  Although December 1st might be a stretch for Vermont fertilizer use and not be applicable (did I mention the ground cannot be frozen?), I can certainly see viable treatments being applied into late October.  Don’t forget, this applies to ALL home owners in Vermont as well as commercial entities including golf courses.  The current fine is listed at around $500 per occurrence.  That could get expensive!  You know what the Borg say on Star Trek the next generation . . . “resistance is futile”.

On the positive side, the mandated 25 ft distance between waterways and the lawn is a nice starting point.  I would actually recommend a greater distance on steep slopes or very thin turf where runoff or erosion is likely to occur.  Remember, green grass is nice when done right, but it’s only grass and effort should be made to prevent potential damage to the home of fish, plants, or other wildlife.  This change in law is another reason why state licensed, seasoned, and experienced companies are so important when it comes to legally fertilizing and caring for your turf.  While most home owners may mean well, it will take months if not years for this kind of word to spread never mind compliance with switching over to a zero phosphate fertilizer.  Don’t forget, lots of people think like this . . .  “If 50 lbs is good, 100 should be great”.  In this case, not so much.

How can you help?  Step one would be to tell your friends to read this blog and spread the word.  Folks need to realize this is an important change.  A really big one!  Second, get a copy of the law as it is drafted by visiting the Department of Agriculture. Or ask your local representative to send you a copy and explain it further.  I have the file in electronic form and could e-mail a copy if asked.   April 1st will be here before you know it, then its game time . . . on unfrozen ground of course!

 On Twitter @MrGrassNHVT

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Lawn & Landscape reflections, planning for 2012

Published by JKeefe on December 6th, 2011 - in Lawn Care Companies, Misc.

Lawn & Landscape relections

With the passing of Thanksgiving and December now underway, now is a great time to reflect back over the past growing season.  As you reflect, write down known problems or areas of success while they are still fresh in your mind.  Doing so now will give you an opportunity to formulate a new strategy for 2012.  For instance, you may have had great success improving turf along a new walkway but failed to achieve a level of desired weed control.  Perhaps you never got to plant that colorful crabapple out front by the light post but really want to in 2012.  Make a list of your top 6 goals for 2012 as it relates to your landscape.  Keeping a short list will provide greater focus of resources, time, and ultimately your ability to achieve the goals once spring arrives.  I have found many homeowners with great intentions tackle too many projects simultaneously only to become discouraged due to poor results.  Creating simple, realistic goals will help you achieve real success and at the end of the day allow you to enjoy the fruit of your hard work.

Maybe you want to plant a new tree out front for color, or your back lawn is a disaster and you simply want something green to look at versus bare ground.  Whatever the goal, write down your thoughts so you can think the process through before implementing any changes or new tactics.  Some projects are best done before others such as planting a new tree or shrub, then finishing off the area with new grass.  Why waste time seeding a lawn area only to dig it back up again to create a flower bed or a mulched space for new ornamental trees?  Thinking through your goals sooner rather than later will allow for a better game plan and easier execution when it comes time to implement your new goals.

Improving your outdoor green space can be a very rewarding experience and provide years of enjoyment during our short growing seasons in New England.  After working on thousands of lawns and landscapes, I can summarize and share some of the most common improvements where professional help might be considered to save time and achieve a specific outcome.  The list below consists of the most common exterior green space home improvements I have encountered but is certainly not limited to just these types of projects.

  1.  Lawn renovation/restoration (lime, fertilizer, compost tea)
  2.  Tree & Shrub pruning
  3.  Tree & Shrub removals
  4.  Tree & Shrub new plantings
  5.  Perennial garden renovation/installation
  6.  Flower garden renovation/installation

Lawn renovations or restorations are what I deal with on a daily basis and many folks don’t realize most lawns can be improved “as is” without starting from scratch.  Most clients are looking for improved turf color, density, and less weeds or bugs.  While the prescribed treatments will vary, most lawns can be dramatically improved in just one year with diligent and professional care.  Tree and shrub pruning is an often neglected area either not being done at all or done incorrectly and may cause future growth and (structural) damage.  Pruning done by a professional on a routine basis is actually less expensive than waiting numerous years not to mention the tree may be injured thereby predisposing it to insect, disease, and ice/snow damage.

Tree or shrub removals usual involve overgrown or dead/damaged plant material that may be a hazard to your home or yard.  Removals can improve a view or add sunlight to a damp, shady location.  Planting new tree or shrubs is a very common activity and usually is on the spring “to do list”.  Be aware however that problems with planting can occur when the planting depth is improper and/or the wrong tree or shrub is placed in the wrong location.  While the job may look sweet and seemingly be destined for years of enjoyment, I am called in (sometimes years later) to diagnose a declining plant for the reasons I just mentioned.  Another fun green space project is the renovation, creation, or expansion of either flower and or perennial beds.  These types of projects can be very enjoyable as the plant material is generally small, readily available, and easy to plant.  While most of these types of goals can be successfully achieved by a homeowner with the patience, research, and time – most will opt for professional advice if not assistance at some point in time.  The key to improving your outdoor green space is keeping things simple and planning out your projects over the winter so when spring arrives, you have a strategy already in place.

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