Posts Tagged ‘organic lawn care’

Organic weed control

Published by mrgrass on May 19th, 2014 - in Broadleaf Weeds

Most folks do not understand or believe that lawn weeds can be effectively reduced with organic products and methods.   There are several effective sprays which will specifically reduce broadleaf weeds while leaving surrounding turf grass unharmed.  Your lawn can be treated with organic products in the spring and or fall and generally two sprays do just as good a job as conventional treatments.

 
If you have dandelions, clover, hawkweed, or even ground ivy and violets, organic sprays can significantly reduce these weeds and many more in your lawn.  A cautionary note on weeds they are a sign of a bigger problem in your lawn.  Weak lawns with poor soil quality, low soil pH, compaction, and thin turf create the ideal environment for promoting more weeds than grass.  So while you may want to attack the known, visible issue – broadleaf weeds, the big picture issue is generally more complex and should be dealt with first or in conjunction with organic weed reduction.

 
Many weeds indicate a sour soil or compaction.  Plantain and Pineapple weeds (pictured below) are classic indicator weeds growing in compacted soil.  You can see plantain on playgrounds, ball fields, or even paths along roads where traffic causes compaction in the soil.  The solution is core aeration in combination with spraying for the weeds.  Once the weeds are gone, you need to replace the empty space with hybrid turf grasses better suited for the location.  Appropriate timing is critical along with the proper sequence of events for successful results.

 

Plantain weedPineapple Weed means compacted soil

 
Organic weed control should and can be used in conjunction with lime, aeration, compost tea, and a variety of slow release fertilizers for substantial visual results most folks look for when spending money on their lawn.  If you are considering a longer-term approach and want to be environmentally conscious, look for a licensed lawn care company ‘.  As I have said before, even organic products can cause harm in the hands of untrained or unlicensed workers.  If an organic product is designed to attack a pest, be it a weed, insect, or disease, you must be licensed to legally use these materials.  This makes sense doesn’t it?  After all, why would you want to hire a company not truly prepared to do the job right – ethically, legally, and morally when it comes to your family, pets, and the environment?

 
Don’t let weeds get you down this year, now you know you have choices and knowledge is the power for success.

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Organic lawn care demystified

Published by mrgrass on March 13th, 2014 - in Compost Tea, Lawn Care Companies

There are many good reasons to consider adding organic treatments to your typical lawn care program.  Even if you have never thought about organic lawn care treatments, thought them pricey, or even useless; take a minute and consider the benefits to you and your landscape.  Before you select any organic lawn care treatment, it is a prudent to understand the benefits to your lawn, how companies differ, and the cost to you as a consumer.

Rabbit on a lawn

The benefits derived from organic turf care treatments are the easiest to explain because it simply makes sense in the big picture of how things grow and interact in the environment.  The core philosophy of organic lawn care begins with the soil and what lives within it; mainly living things.  A healthy soil should be filled with various bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and other microscopic friends.  The soil itself should contain organic matter which assists in water retention and provides a food source for our microscopic workers.  As our friends breakdown organic matter in the soil, vital nutrients and minerals are released and become available to our lawn.  A healthy soil will also have air pockets to help support plant roots ranging from trees and shrubs to of course, our lawns.  A lawn with air pockets and organic matter is less likely to be compacted and is more likely to hold onto anything applied to your lawn, from fertilizers to lime or other treatments.  Conversely, a sandy soil with lower organic matter or a compacted soil like those containing a high amount of clay are more likely to have runoff or allow products to move into or toward ground water.  As you can see, soil health and structure is very important when it comes to growing plants and can be the root of all problems, no matter how much money you throw at your landscape.  If your soil is out of balance, your lawn will be more susceptible to many issues ranging from disease, insects, weed infestation and more.  Soil health must be the foundation of any sound lawn care program from conventional, organic, or a combination of the two, also known as a hybrid system approach. Organic applications are simply the real deal in terms of improving the overall health of your lawn’s soil.

So how can we improve and then keep our soil healthy since it is the foundation of any lawn care program?  Vital organic treatments would include compost tea, high calcium lime, topdressing, aeration, over seeding, and even fertilizer.  Compost tea adds our microscopic friends to any soil and is sprayed on as an effective means to improve soil health.  Compost tea can also deliver organic matter and other food sources to enrich loam which would otherwise may be low in organic materials and therefore not as healthy.  High calcium lime provides a fast pH change in the lawn and is more potent than conventional limes.  High in calcium, this type of lime also assists in reducing compaction and interacts with organic matter for improved nutrient availability when surrounded by our microscopic friends.  Topdressing is an excellent way to add organic matter to your lawn while also creating a seed bed for filling in those bare or thin spots; a double bonus.  Followed up by aeration and over seeding, these two organic procedures do wonders for opening up the soil, allowing air to filter down and reduce soil compaction while promoting wonderful seed germination and a thickening agent to any lawn.  These are just the basic elements of Chippers organic lawn care program. There are many other organically oriented lawn care treatments we offer that can be viewed at   http://www.mrgrassblog.net/chippers-lawn-care-offerings/ for a complete services listing.  For now, let’s move on to differences in real field experience between lawn care companies.

Red shoes on an organic lawn

Choosing a company to do organic lawn treatments is no easy task.  After all, anyone with a pickup and some basic equipment can claim to have an organic lawn care program; but do they?  You should certainly consider real field experience in terms of how long have they actually done lawn treatments.  Did they purchase a franchise or have they been in the industry for years?  Does anyone in the company have a background or education in the turf industry as it relates to organic lawn care?  These are important questions and separate true professional turf care companies from those who simply don’t have the goods on paper or in reality.  One last cautionary tidbit, even an organic product used to “control” a lawn problem must be state licensed and certified in NH & VT.  Check to make sure the technician doing the work is licensed. Even organic products have the potential to cause harm in an inexperienced worker’s hands.  This all underlines the importance of experience, education, and what you as the end consumer will ultimately be paying for your lawn care service; organic or otherwise.  The classic adage, “you get what you pay for” could never ring so true.  A sincere and clear word of advice; ask the questions before you hire a lawn or landscape firm claiming to have the perfect program.

Our final topic ends with the cost to you as the consumer.  Whether you have a 100% organic lawn program, a hybrid version, or a conventional one sprinkled with some organic treatments; there are long- term cost benefits to using non mainstream lawn products.  For instance, a healthier soil requires less long- term inputs such as fertilizer.  Even though the cost per treatment can generally be more upfront to get your lawn to where you want it to be, the savings come after 3-4 years of following an organic approach.  I have seen benefits from incorporating even a few organic treatments annually into what we would consider a mainstream or conventional approach.

Dog on a lawn

Bottom line, if you mow properly, irrigate correctly when needed, have the right grass types present for your location, and support a healthy soil through a prescribed lawn program, you will have a nice lawn.  I will say it again, you will have a nice lawn, but these rules need to be followed like a prescription.  It is easy to just spray weeds and watch them disappear; it’s harder to properly improve your lawn’s overall health when so many other factors are at play.  Like any ecosystem or micro climate, changing the balance of one thing affects another.  Mow your lawn too short and boom, you just got crabgrass.  There is clearly a place for more organic lawn treatments in any community as it relates to reducing overall pesticide use as a real tool for landscape care.  Yes, the upfront cost may be more, but what is the long-term cost of doing the same thing year after year…with diminishing results?

Food for thought and I thank you for considering this article and others on our blog.  May spring come sooner than later!             

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Compost tea: many benefits for your lawn this spring

Published by mrgrass on February 12th, 2014 - in Compost Tea

Maybe you are an avid lawn care consumer, sticking by tried and true products for years but are looking for that extra edge.  Perhaps your lawn has seen better days and experienced a recent insect infestation or has a chronic disease issue.  Would you like your lawn to green up faster in the spring?  Is your soil compacted or do you have bare spots?  While there is no miracle one size fits all cure to these ailments, they are all valid reasons to consider compost tea this year as a part of your normal lawn care program.  Like most lawn care consumers, you just don’t know what compost tea is and really have not given it much thought.  Maybe you thought compost tea was a new green age beverage to drink on a cold winter’s night?  After all, if your current lawn provider does not offer the service, how important could it be?  The simple answer, “Very”!

Compost Tea for lawns

So what is compost tea?  Compost tea in its simplest form is a liquid solution containing a variety of biological delights including but not limited to bacteria, fungi, protozoa, yeast, molasses, and water.  Most teas are alive and need to be applied soon once mixed so the benefit is obtained by getting the tea into the soil when the root system is most active.   Spring and fall are generally the best time periods to apply a compost tea although any time is better than none at all.  Spring applications have the ability to improve resistance to summer stress which is a valuable benefit to your lawn.

Here are the cold facts.  Conventional fertilizers are not particularly friendly to soil organisms which are part of any healthy ecosystem, your lawn included.  When used over decades, a salt imbalance can and usually does occur, reducing helpful soil organisms over time.  Without friendly organisms in your soil like earth worms, bacteria, fungi, and protozoa, the balance changes and this imbalance is generally bad for a lawn.  Healthy soil full of organisms support early spring greening, thatch reduction, air pockets for healthy roots, and degrade organic matter for themselves and your lawn’s use.  Air pockets mean healthy roots can grow longer when the soil is less compacted.  Air pockets mean water can be stored and drain better.  Bottom line, a healthy soil environment supports a more resilient lawn able to tolerate stress like drought, heat, and winter cold.  Spring compost tea in April and May fires up the soil and gets the lawn growing faster in cool climates; I’ve seen it work time and time again.

Compost tea helps stabilize your lawn’s soil, helping reduce disease issues when used as part of a well balanced lawn program or alone.  Compost tea is not just for those who appreciate organic products and the benefits; this product has a wide range of uses that spreads into ornamental trees, shrubs, and even flowers.  If your lawn is low in organic matter, a delightful way to add some over time is to use compost tea and recycle your own grass clippings when able to do so.

Compost tea improves soil health

Compost tea has a place in any lawn care program and should not be dismissed simply because of its unfamiliarity or because it is not offered by large national chains.  A healthy lawn and landscape can provide so much enjoyment during our short growing season here in New England; why not give your lawn what it needs to be the best and consider compost tea this year.  Compost tea is not a miracle product or elixir but it does make a great companion to any lawn or landscape.

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