Corn gluten is often recommended as an organic crabgrass pre-emergent, but studies on its effectiveness have been mixed. Precise timing is key to its success. Since corn gluten is an expensive treatment that can be hard to get right, we generally do not recommend it.
What to do instead? The best way to get rid of crabgrass organically is to crowd it out with healthy turf. Crabgrass is an annual that takes advantage of bare spots on your lawn in warm weather. The best time to establish a thick, lush lawn is in fall, but you can also overseed bare spots now so that new crabgrass does not have a sunny spot to sprout in summer.
Before you tackle your crabgrass issue, take a look at where the crabgrass is growing—you might learn something about your soil that will help you prevent it from coming back again.
Photo credit: mphillips007 / iStock / Getty Images Plus
According to conventional wisdom, spring is the season to feed your landscape. But before you spread that big bag of fertilizer (slow-release organic, of course!), take the time to find out what your soil actually needs. Feeding too much encourages rapid growth, disease, and nutrient run off, while feeding too little deprives your soil ecosystem and plants of the nutrients they need for a healthy summer.
What can a soil test tell you?
- pH level —> How acidic or alkaline your soil is and whether you need to add lime or sulfur to adjust the pH.
- Nutrient levels —> How much nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and other minerals your soil contains and whether you need to amend.
- Organic matter —> How much organic matter your soil contains and whether you need to add compost.
The best times to test are: on new planting sites, before planting your annual vegetable or flower garden, and before seeding a large section of lawn. And no matter the project, always run a test before investing in fertilizer.
Is it best to go with the pros? DIY kits are cheaper and faster, but professional labs will give you more accurate and detailed reports. If you need help interpreting your professional soil test data, contact the lab before submitting your sample in order to request specific recommendations based on your results.
Professional labs in the New York area:
State University & Agricultural Experiment Station Labs
Cornell Cooperative Extension
Riverhead and Great River, NY
Cornell Nutrient Analysis Laboratory
- Also check out the Cornell Waste Management Institute—Soil Quality and Testing page for more information on interpreting your test results.
Soil Foodweb New York
Port Jefferson Station, NY
Harrington’s Organic Land Care
When temps (finally!) start warming up in April, you may be tempted to start your summer irrigation regimen. But spring is the season to give your lawn a little tough love.
Why wait? Letting your lawn dry out in spring encourages it to grow deeper, stronger roots that will be better able to withstand periods of drought once summer rolls around. Too much water at any time of year creates conditions that promote disease, mosquitos, and ticks.
Until the ground dries to about 4" deep in late June, most lawns will be PRFCTly happy with spring rainfall. April showers bring May flowers...April irrigation brings fungus and bad bugs.
Need help knowing when to turn on your irrigation? A soil moisture meter is a must-have tool for watering success.
St. Patrick's Day is one of our favorite days of the year. Clover is everywhere on March 17! So why are those cute little trifolium so hard to find once spring rolls around?
One hundred years ago, clover was considered a sign of a "healthy" lawn. Diversity was prized and the ideal lawn was sprinkled with flowers. Lawns fertilized themselves naturally with regular boosts of nitrogen from clover and mulched grass clippings.
What changed? Chemical companies found themselves with lots of extra product on their hands after the end of World War II. Some of those products could be turned into fertilizer, and some could be used as herbicides. Marketing teams turned clover into the new enemy, selling consumers herbicides to rid their yards of "weeds" and synthetic fertilizers to replace what those "weeds" supplied naturally. Before long, the uniform, military-style lawn became all the rage.
A lot has changed since the end of World War II, but our lawns are still stuck in their Baby Boomer phase. It's getting harder and harder to find those lucky four-leaved shamrocks. Who's ready for a 21st-century clover revolution?
Why is "love" at the heart of your name? Because there's so much to love about your lovely green leaves!
1. You fertilize our lawns—for free. No need for synthetic fertilizer when you pull nitrogen from the air and release it back into the soil every time we mow.
2. You stay green under the toughest conditions. Those nitrogen-fixing roots run deep, keeping our lawns lively and lush even in the hottest, driest months.
3. Pollinators love your flowers—and we love pollinators. (We've got tips on avoiding bee stings in clover lawns.)
4. You're the stuff of childhood memories. Doesn't every kid love hunting for your lucky four leaves?
See you in spring!
The PRFCT Team
De-icers—even those labeled “natural”—can have nasty side effects. Many products burn pets’ paws, mouths, and throats when ingested. (Just think about the damage they do to concrete and cars…) Most contain salts that damage soil, dehydrate (and kill!) plants and trees, and pollute drinking and surface water.
Is it safe to salt your sidewalk? Not really—most products will have some downside. But slippery sidewalks aren’t safe, either. Instead of risking falls, take the following steps to minimize the impact of de-icer on your landscape, your pets, and the environment:
- Use the bare minimum. Whenever possible, turn to elbow grease instead of chemicals. Remember: The point of de-icer is to make ice easier to shovel, not remove it completely. Read the product label for recommended application rates, and if possible, use less.
- Apply de-icer BEFORE the storm hits. Preventing ice from forming requires less product (and elbow grease) than removing it once hardened.
- Keep de-icing products away from your garden beds. Anything you apply will affect your soil’s composition, potentially damaging your plants.
- Avoid products containing nitrogen-based urea. While it may be less-toxic for pets than salt, the nitrogen in these synthetic products eventually ends up in nearby bodies of water, contributing to algal blooms and other pollution.
- Sprinkle bird seed, instead of sand or kitty litter, on ice to improve traction. Seed will not melt snow or ice, but will make pathways less slippery and provide a welcome winter meal for your feathered friends. Sprinkling sand or kitty litter creates a mess and can clog sewers and drains.
- Put your pups in booties when taking winter walks. In addition to insulating their paws from cold pavement, you’ll protect them from irritation caused by salt and other de-icers. Plus…cute!
Many people never ask whether their landscapers are using chemicals. Are you walking across a toxic lawn to get to your organic vegetable garden?
In many places, landscapers are required by law to inform the person hiring them of any pesticides—natural or synthetic—used on a property. These chemicals are often listed in your contract by brand name and EPA registration number. (All pesticides must be registered with the EPA, but that does not mean they are safe for humans or the environment!)
When your landscaper sends your contract for renewal, take a close look (many people don’t!). See words ending in "–cide"? Long chemical-sounding names that you can’t pronounce? References to "weed and feed" or "broad spectrum" applications? Time to ask your landscapers which chemicals they are using and why, and let them know you want to have a PRFCT landscape.
If they have questions about getting started, send them our way. Please don’t fire them—we want to convert them! With your help, we can transform every landscape professional into a land steward.
Just like your skin, soil craves warmth and moisture during the dry, cold winter months. Bare soil is prone to drying out and freezing, which can damage roots and affect soil quality.
The best protection for your garden beds? The leaves that naturally fall from the trees and plants on your property. Not only will they insulate your soil over the winter, they’ll feed it, too. Leaves decompose over the winter and build the amount of organic matter in your soil, providing natural nutrients that are essential for soil health and reducing the need for additional fertilizer. (Do you ever see bare soil like this in forest floor?)
Plus, you’ll be saving yourself the trouble of raking and bagging, and keeping organic material out of your local landfill. It’s a win for you, your garden, and the planet.
Don’t forget: Leaves are called “leaves” for a reason!
Temps are dropping, winter is coming. Too cold for your compost to keep cooking?
Not if you bring it inside! With an indoor worm composting tower, you can actively compost all year long. Worms (red wigglers are best) live within these self-contained systems, turning food scraps and bedding (shredded newspaper, coconut fiber) into nutrient-rich compost. Once they’ve eaten through a tray of food scraps—raw fruits and veggies, coffee grounds, tea leaves, or finely crushed eggs shells—in the tower, the worms wiggle up to the next, leaving behind a tray of food for your houseplants or garden.
Worried about bugs? Or smell? Keep the bedding:food ratio 1:1 and skip the meat, dairy, and citrus.
Bats get a bad rap, especially this time of year. Instead of screaming the next time you see one, consider the following:
- Every night, an insect-eating bat will eat its own weight in bugs. A whole colony? Hundreds of pounds of bugs a night. More bats = fewer mosquitos in your yard, fewer pests in your garden, fewer pesticides sprayed.
- Bats eat more than bugs. Around the world, fruit- and pollen-munching bats are important pollinators and seed dispersers.
- Installing a bat house (see photo above) is a great way to encourage these furry flying friends to take up residence on your property.
- Using pesticides is not. Pesticides, especially insect sprays, limit the amount of bugs and other healthy food for bats to eat. Pesticides also build up in bats' little bodies over time, which has been linked to immunosuppression and endocrine disruption.
Got leaves on your lawn? This time of year, who doesn't?
We've got good news: Instead of spending your weekend raking and bagging, you can run your mower right over those leaves instead. Mulched leaves not only protect and feed the plants you love, they also help control plants you don't love. Next spring, those chopped up leaf bits can block sunlight from germinating dandelion seeds and other sun-loving weeds.
Need a special mower? Not necessarily. Mulching mowers are most effective, but regular mowers mulch leaves, too. Run your mower over the leaves a couple times and be sure to bag your mower bag.
Ever noticed that crabgrass pops up in the same spot in your yard every year? It's trying to tell you something about the state of your soil.
Crabgrass thrives in conditions that turf grass cannot tolerate—hot, compacted, or poor soil. It especially loves the warm edges of sidewalks and pavement, and will quickly take advantage of any bare patches in your lawn.
What to do? Feeding, overseeding, and aerating your lawn this fall is key to preventing crabgrass next summer. Crabgrass seeds require plenty of light to germinate and will not be able to compete with your well-established, healthy turf.
For those hot spots near pavement, try using a heat-tolerant ground cover or crushed stone.
Fall's officially here, folks. Have you started overseeding your lawn? Are you OVER seeding? What's the difference?
Overseeding is the process of spreading seed over an existing lawn to fill in bare patches. How much seed to apply? Depends on the type of seed you are using. Look on the package for recommended rates.
Over seeding occurs when too much seed is applied over a given area. Why isn't more better? Too many grass plants growing too close together leads to overcompetition and die-off. In humid conditions, it can also cause mold and other fungus diseases like in the picture above. Gross.
What do grass seeds have in common with pumpkin spice lattes, apple pies, and hay rides? They’re all best in fall.
Turf grasses are cool-season plants—they germinate and grow roots best in cool weather. Seeding your lawn in fall allows grass to become established and better able to out-compete warm-season weeds when they emerge in the spring.
This month is a good time to cut down (weed wack!) or pull out warm-season weeds in your lawn to make room for new cool-season grass seed. Don't worry about removing crabgrass roots—crabgrass is an annual, so those roots will die when cold weather hits. And then they're free organic material for your soil!
Miscanthus sinensis (Japanese or Chinese Silver Grass) used to be the ornamental grass of choice for landscape designers. Showy, low-maintenance, year-round beauty... What's not to love?
Plenty. Those pretty flowers? Full of seeds that quickly disperse in the wind. As a result, this drought-tolerant, sun-loving grass is taking over meadows, roadsides, and forest edges across the country. In fact, Miscanthus is so invasive that it is now banned for sale on Long Island.
What to do if it's already in your garden? Prevent seeds from spreading by cutting off the flowers when they start to resemble a dandelion puff. If you see any baby Miscanthus sprouting, pull them up right away. Baby Miscanthus are easy to remove—mature Miscanthus not so much.
Looking for alternatives? Try native grasses like Little Bluestem, Switchgrass, or Indian Grass.
Photo credit: Ian Alexander Martin on Flickr
Plants sprout from seeds, bulbs, rhizomes, and more, but weeds always originate in the same place: our minds. A weed is simply a plant you've been taught to view as undesirable.
Who taught you? Mostly chemical companies marketing products to keep "weeds" under control. For example, milkweed was long considered unattractive—now we view it as a vital tool to saving the monarch butterfly population.
Times change. Perceptions change. Fashions change: We once thought shoulder pads were a must-have accessory. Isn't it time to rethink our landscaping must-haves? Clover, anyone?
Mosquitos sucking the fun out of your summer?
Reduce the mosquito population on your property by reducing the wet conditions where mosquitos breed. PRFCT watering techniques—seldom and deep—prevent lawn puddles and surface moisture that attract mosquitos.
How to tell if your lawn is mosquito party central? If it hasn’t rained recently, but you hear a “squish squish” sound when you walk across your lawn, time to cut back on your watering.
Can't remember the last time you sharpened your lawnmower blades? Then your mower is probably overdue.
Why does it matter? Dull mower blades tear grass, which invites fungus infections. If your grass has ragged edges or you can see white fibers hanging from the tips, your mower blades are too dull.
How much water do your privet hedges need this summer? Not much!
If your privet was planted over two years ago, let it be. Well-established trees and shrubs in good soil, including privets, do not need any irrigation.
Newly planted privets—less than two years in the ground—should only be watered at the base. Spraying the leaves is the principle cause of scale disease that will kill your privet. See our drip hoses tip for more info on where to place hoses and when to remove them.
If you have ever had moles, you know they can make quite a mess.
Though they provide some benefits such as aerating compact soil and eating grubs; this year we have seen a population spike that has us saying enough with the moles already!
Fortunately, there are toxin-free methods that can help:
Break Out Your Stomping Shoes: Stepping on mole tunnels to collapse them may be the simplest way of solving the problem. After repeatedly having their tunnels flattened moles will move to a less frustrating place to live.
Go Shopping: Another toxin-free option to keep moles away is to use castor oil-based repellents are available in stores.
They buzz. They bite. They suck, literally.
Mosquitos are they last pests you want swooping in while you’re trying to relax in your backyard on a summer evening. So, make sure they don't see your lawn as an open invitation.
The most effective way to control mosquitos is to get them before they grow into bloodsucking adults. Overwatering your lawn and landscape encourages water to gather, and subsequently encourages mosquitos to breed. Target their breeding grounds by eliminating that source of standing water.
Refrain from broadcast pesticide sprays for mosquitos. These sprays are short lasting, kill pollinators, and are harmful to children and pets.
Our advice: Water seldom, water deep. That method will provide your landscape with the moisture it needs during the summer months, while discouraging mosquitos from calling your backyard home
Your Seed is Planted, Germinated, and Growing. Now, how to water PRFCTly?
Now that your new grass seedlings are more than 1.5 inches tall it is time to encourage their roots to grow deeper by watering properly.
Allow the top inch of soil to get dry between waterings. Depending on the weather, this might mean watering two to three times per week for 10 to 20 minutes. Try to restrict this frequency to newly seeded areas.*
Do NOT "set and forget" your irrigation system. Overwatering will lead to weak and fungus prone grass.
Less is more.
Grass is grass, right? Actually, no. Choosing the right seed makes a big difference.
There are four main types of grass, each with its own personality.
Kentucky Bluegrass: Classic color and texture, disease prone, tolerates high traffic.
Perennial Rye: Fast growing, strong roots, needs full sun, poor drought tolerance. *
Fine Fescues: Tolerate shade and acid soil, low fertilizer, light traffic.
Tall Fescues: Drought, insect, disease resistant. Moderate shade/full sun. Fast growing. The best for Long Island.
Grasses are generally sold as mixes of these varieties. How to choose?
There is no absolutely correct mix, so take our suggestions as a guide and find a local provider who is knowledgeable.
We recommend this for Northeast lawns:
Medium to High Maintenance: 65% Kentucky Bluegrass**, several different varieties 15% Perennial Rye 20% Fine Fescues.
Low Maintenance: 65% Fine Fescues Blend, 15% Perennial Rye, 20% Kentucky Bluegrass. Or 100% Tall Fescues blend.
Average to Low Traffic: 100% Fine Fescues blend. Or Shady Tall Fescues.***
Got Bare Patches?
Mixes with at least 10% Kentucky Bluegrass will help fill in patchy areas.
*Annual Rye (vs. Perennial) is included in many contractor mixes. Fills in fast, then dies, creating space for weeds. Not recommended.
**For high traffic lawns use a Bluegrass heavy mix.
***High traffic doesn't work in the shade. Consider using path materials
Leaves are a Down Parka For Your Landscape
It is a common sight this time of year, homeowners and landscape crews raking and bagging leaves. They’ve got it all wrong!
Leaves are a valuable resource many homeowners let go to waste. Bare soil is naked! It is exposed to freeze thaw and prone to drying out. Leaves are natural blanket that protect your soil, and feed it too. They breakdown over the winter and build the amount of organic matter in your soil, providing natural nutrients that are essential for soil health.
Use your mower not your blower. Mulching mowers chop up the leaves so they make better mulch: more compact and faster to decompose. Mulch mowed leaves can be left right on the lawn or bagged and placed in shrub and flowerbeds. What is a mulching mower? It has different blades. On the outside it looks the same as conventional mower but should be labeled as "mulching" or "3 in 1."
Many of you will be celebrating Arbor Day this week by planting trees in your yards, parks, or elsewhere in your community. We could not be happier! But before you pick up your shovel, please take a moment to locate the root flare of the tree you are planting.
“What’s the root flare?,” you may ask.
The root flare is where the roots of the tree begin to spread out from the trunk. You should be able to locate this flare even in young trees in nursery containers, but you may have to brush away some soil to find it.
Once you find it, do not bury the root flare when planting the tree.
Why? Covering the flare will bury and destroy bark that the tree relies on for oxygen and protection from diseases. And roots that are buried too deeply often grow upward in search of the proper mixture of water, nutrients, and oxygen. Roots growing in the wrong direction can eventually wrap around the tree, strangling the trunk as it grows.
Show your trees how much you love them this Arbor Day. Plant them properly and you'll be enjoying their company for decades to come.
This spring has been a bumper year for dandelions on the East End. Before you mow them down or grab your spade to uproot them, did you know…?
• Dandelion flowers are an important source of pollen during the spring months when bees and butterflies emerge from hibernation and few other flowers are available.
• Dandelions are natural aerators. Their roots push through compacted soil and leave mineral-rich organic material behind when they die.
• Dandelions indicate a lack of calcium in the soil. Their tap roots can pull calcium and other minerals from deep in the soil, making dandelion leaves a healthy addition to your lawn and your diet.
• The best way to prevent dandelions from popping up in your lawn is to mow high (3.5-4") and reseed bare patches in the fall. Tall, thick grass leaves little room for sun-loving dandelions to take root.
• Dandelion puffs are a blast! Have you ever met a child who didn't agree?
Last week, we talked about the importance of leaving your grass clippings on your lawn as a natural fertilizer. Worried about thatch? If you're fertilizing PRFCTly, you don't have to be.
Thatch is a naturally occurring layer of decaying material that accumulates in soil. A ½" layer of thatch is healthy. It acts as insulation for soil and roots and a cushion for your kids' knees when they fall on the grass.
Thatch build-up is not caused by the presence of clippings. In fact, having organic material like grass clippings on your lawn feeds the same microbes that remove excess thatch from your soil.
Problems occur when soil is pickled by the salts and acids in chemical fertilizers and pesticides, preventing the natural composting process from taking place. Material builds up, resulting in a thick layer of thatch that attracts pests and creates conditions for fungus to spread.
Instead, prevent thatch build-up by fertilizing your lawn with natural fertilizers like compost tea and, of course, grass clippings.
Seems like we can’t go outside these days without seeing an ad for a tick spray company.
A word of warning before you call someone to nuke your yard: Synthetic tick sprays are toxic and create a false sense of security. They kill pollinators (butterflies!), they do not kill all the ticks, and new ticks wander right back in soon after the spray is applied. So what else can you do?
Organic sprays are a non-toxic option, but they also kill beneficial bugs. If applied early in the morning or at the end of the day, there is less damage to our pollinator friends.
The most environmentally-friendly and secure option is to apply tick repellent to yourself, your kids, and your pets. Spray yourself, not your entire property. We keep a supply by our office door and always cover our legs and ankles before we head outside.
Got new trees and shrubs? Drip irrigation can be an effective way to keep them well-hydrated this summer, but keep in mind the following before you put down those hoses:
- Place drip tubes beyond the root ball, as well as on it, to encourage roots to grow into the surrounding soil.
- Water newly planted trees and shrubs seldom (less often than your lawn) and deep (12-18"). Too much watering encourages excess growth, a magnet for fungus diseases and sucking insects.
- Remove tubes after two years. Your plants will be well-established and just won't need the irrigation anymore.
* Photo from the U.S. Department of Agriculture
Last week, we talked about the benefits of natural fertilizers like compost and compost tea. So what's the difference between the two? Why brew tea when you could just apply compost?
+ High in microbial content to feed your soil
+ Contains some soluble nutrients to feed your plants
+ Rich in organic matter that helps improve soil structure
– Heavy and messy to apply
– Will end up all over your clothes (and your kids and pets) if you play on a lawn treated with compost. Best to apply in spring or fall.
+ High in microbial content to feed your soil
+ Contains some soluble nutrients to feed your plants
+ Only requires a small amount of compost to feed a large area of land
+ Easy to apply throughout the year using a sprayer or watering can
+ Good for lawns or gardens that need to recharge their microbial battery
– Does not contain organic matter for your soil
– Requires special equipment to brew (but our how-to instructions make it easy)
It's hot. Is your lawn looking not-so-hot?
Watering frequently may seem like the best way to perk up your grass during warm weather, but beware! Over watering (every day or two) can encourage shallow rooting, fungus diseases, nutrient run off, and mosquitos.
What is the PRFCT amount? It varies by soil type, amount of sun, and amount of water per minute you are applying. PRFCT watering is seldom and deep to encourage roots to grow down below the hot, dry surface.
Rule of thumb for well-established lawns: Wet the soil 6" down, then allow to dry 4-6" down before watering again. How to tell? Dig a hole or use a soil moisture meter.
Does your lawn seem to turn into a mushroom patch overnight?
That's OK! Mushrooms generally do not indicate poor lawn health and will not damage your lawn. Typically, they are the fruiting bodies of beneficial soil fungi that sprout after a rainfall.
Don't want them? Knock them over with a rake or broom and wait for the sun to return.
If it hasn't been raining, those mushrooms may be caused by over watering or poor drainage. Remember our tip about watering seldom, watering deep?
Something slimy slithering through your garden? Slug and snail season is back. These pests can often wreak havoc on lawns and landscapes. While a nuisance, the good news is they can easily be controlled with safe, non-toxic methods:
- Watering: Snails and slugs thrive in high humidity, damp conditions. Frequent watering, and areas of standing water, creates an ideal environment for slugs and snails. Deeper, infrequent watering make your lawn less hospitable for these pests.
- Shade: Slugs and snails love shaded areas to hide during the heat of the day. Eliminating shady spots makes your landscape less welcoming.
- Traps: Trapping with natural methods such as melon rind, sugar water, or beer can be effective in small areas. However, please note these methods require constant upkeep and removal of dead pests.
- Baiting: Slug baits containing carbaryl or metaldehyde are highly toxic to children and pets! CHECK THE LABEL! Baits containing iron phosphate are safe to use around pets and children, pick them instead. Try baiting right after watering your garden, when snails and slugs are most active.
Achieving your PRFCT lawn can be as simple as changing the way you mow your grass.
By setting your mower to the high setting (between 3.5" and 4") you¹ll encourage grass to grow in thick and strong. That promotes a healthy root system that resists pests, weeds and drought conditions.
Also, leave grass clippings on lawn! Clippings are a natural source of nitrogen, which will promote healthy growth without the use of fast-acting fertilizer.
Most lawns are overwatered. One big mistake is to turn on irrigation systems in the spring and keep pouring it on at the same rate all summer, regardless of the weather, soil or location.
The PRFCT lawn is not watered until it is dry, and then, it is given a big long drink. This promotes deep roots and prevents fungus diseases. Until the hot weather comes, water on demand: only when needed, and then, for at least an hour.
The next step is easy: don’t do anything. Just hold off on watering until the soil is dry again.
Honey bees are critical to pollinating crops but their population has been declining in recent years, due in part to lethal pesticide exposure.
To help combat the problem the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to ban spraying pesticides while honey bees are pollinating crops.
The ban, however, would only restrict spraying on specific properties where growers arranged to bring in honey bees to pollinate their crops. While the proposal fails to address other sources of toxic pesticide exposure to bees, you don’t have to.
By simply not applying pesticides to your lawn and asking your friends and neighbors to do the same you can help save the honey bee population.
Tick sprays create a false sense of security as they cannot possibly kill all the ticks in a yard, and the ticks come right back anyway.
What they really are is toxic to your family, pets and the environment. Even the organic ones are harmful to beneficial insects.
Instead of spraying your yard we recommend applying personal repellents, just like sunscreen.
Do not rely on your irrigation company to set the timer on your sprinkler system. Irrigation companies are water delivery experts; they are NOT lawn care experts.
You or your landscaper should decide the schedule that best fits your lawn's needs.
Remember there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Over watering promotes shallow rooting, fungus diseases, mosquitos and nutrient run off.
There are those who use a lot of energy and toxins to keep clover out of their lawns. What’s wrong with clover anyway?
Clover fixes nitrogen, providing important nutrients to keep your lawn healthy and reduce the need for fertilizer.
Clover adds green to those hot dry difficult spots that grass doesn’t like, helping your lawn to look lively and lush. Stop wasting time and money trying to kill clover….think different, embrace it for all the good it can do!
And look for the one with four leaves…..
You have to hand it to crabgrass. The pesky weed certainly knows how to take advantage of an opportunity. Healthy grass guards itself against weeds. But, when grass becomes distressed, take for instance by the summer heat, crabgrass wastes no time moving right in to bare spots.
The PRFCT way to curb its spread is to take away its opportunity.
Start in the summer by getting rid of crabgrass before it goes to seed. Remove small patches with boiling water or by pulling it out at the root. Alternatively, there are toxin-free, vinegar-based products available in stores.
These strategies will hold you over until the fall when it is time to take steps to prevent crabgrass from returning. In an upcoming PEP Tip we’ll tell you when to overseed your lawn to keep it healthy through the year.
First things first. Before jumping into your fall lawn renovation, start by identifying your trouble spots. Now is the PRFCT time to look since the heat of the summer makes problem areas more visible.
We suggest devoting an afternoon to exploring your property. Or, have your landscape professional make a list and discuss it with you.
Do you have moss, fungus or mushrooms: probably overwatering. Bare patches? Water, soil, or turf grass types could be the culprits. Start with gathering some invisible information: your soil health. You can check the pH yourself with a simple litmus test, or better yet, get a complete soil test Cornell Corporative Extension of Suffolk County or Soil FoodWeb New York.
Now that you have the PRFCT grass seed, it’s time to lay it down and have a PRFCT LAWN
1. Mow Short: Mow lawn with mower at lowest setting. Open bare patches to receive the seed.
2. Remove Clippings: Make sure the seed will meet the soil.
3. Aerate: Just in compacted areas like paths, and when doing total lawn renovations.
4. Apply Compost or Compost Tea: Allow to dry, then rake or drag the clumps smooth.
5. Freeze Your Seeds (optional): Put seed in freezer for 48 hours to crack seed coat and halve germination time.
6. Spread the Seed: How much? It varies a lot by seed type. Follow the instructions on your seed mix or see our website for typical amounts. Do not over do it! Crowded seeds compete and struggle.
7. Water: Seeds needs to be moist until established: Light watering (i.e. several times a day for 5 minutes each) until grass is at least 1.5 inches.
How much to water in the fall? Not at all!
Turn off your irrigation! Your lawn and landscape does not need supplemental water in typically cool, moist, fall weather. This is the time to encourage roots to grow deep and strong: resilient and ready for hot and dry weather next summer.
However, as a final treat to your plants, and their roots, before heading into the long cold winter, you might need to give them a long deep drink, making sure there is plenty of moisture way down in the soil before your irrigation system is shut down for the winter. How to do that?
First, test to see how deep your moisture lies (need a moisture meter? Click here). It needs to be at least 6” deep. If it is wet, all is well. If it is dry down there, water away. It could mean for hours: think the equivalent of a day or two of rain. Consider dividing watering into two consecutive days to allow water to penetrate, especially in heavier soils.
The ground has thawed and the grass in your yard is finally turning green. Are you tempted to turn on your sprinklers? Not so fast!
April is a good time to open your irrigation system and make sure it is working properly. But most lawns do not require any water beyond what Mother Nature provides until the warmer summer months. We suggest waiting until the ground dries to about 4” in mid-June, or even early July. A soil moisture meter will help you know when your lawn truly needs a drink.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, letting your lawn dry out is actually good for it. Periods of dryness allow the grass to develop deeper, stronger roots that are better able to resist pests, weeds, and drought conditions over time. Too much water promotes fungal growth and nutrient run off, and creates ideal conditions for mosquitos and other water-loving pests to flourish. Plus, why waste water that your grass doesn’t need anyway?
Overmulching may not kill a tree as quickly as Vesuvius, but it can do serious harm to the tree over time. Just as we discussed in last week’s PEP Tip, placing material against the tree’s trunk can cause the bark to rot and leave the tree susceptible to infection. Adding too much mulch on top of the roots can encourage roots to grow upwards or around the trunk in search of oxygen, eventually strangling the tree.
Create mulch rings around your trees, not volcanoes.
In general, mulch can be good for your trees—it can help insulate the soil, prevent weeds from sprouting, and keep lawnmowers and weed wackers from damaging your tree. But a ring that is 1 inch deep is all you need. And remember: Keep it away from the trunk.
Grass clippings provide a natural—and free!—source of nitrogen that fertilizes your lawn every time you mow. Instead of dumping your clippings in the landfill and then dumping fertilizer on your lawn, use the clippings to gently feed your lawn all season long.
So, you are leaving your clippings for 80% of your lawn’s nutrient needs. What is free and easy to add to that? If you’re lucky, the PRFCT ingredient is already growing right beneath your toes.
Clover is a nitrogen fixer—it pulls nitrogen from the air and releases it back into the soil when mowed. Those nitrogen-fixing roots run deep, keeping clover green even in hot, dry months. Your grass will love the nitrogen boost every time you mow, and the environment will love you for not adding more fertilizer.
Worried about bees? It's true that bees (and butterflies!) love clover flowers, but they are not aggressive away from their hives. Bees feasting on clover flowers should not sting unless stepped on directly. You can prevent stings by avoiding large clover patches, wearing shoes when on a flowering clover lawn, and mowing as soon as the flowers open. The cut flowers are also nitrogen-packed, so be sure to leave them along with the rest of your clippings.
You can buy a compost tea brewing system or make your own at home. Whichever system you use, you will need a heavy-duty pump to aerate the water sufficiently. Proper aeration encourages beneficial microbes to multiply and discourages harmful microbes from growing in your tea. A fish aquarium bubbler will not be strong enough.
1. Start with great compost. Blending two or three composts together will give you a great variety of beneficial microbes. Put your compost in a mesh strainer bag (you can find them at the local hardware store in the paint section).
2. Fill your brewer with water and run the pump for 20 minutes to de-gas any chlorine.
3. Put your compost bag in the water while the brewer is running. Hang the bag from the edge of the bucket to expose as much of the compost as possible to the bubbling water.
4. Check the color of the water to make sure it is getting significantly darker, which indicates that microbes are being extracted from the compost.
5. Add food to feed the microbes. Suggested foods include molasses, kelp, humic acid, and fish emulsion.
6. Brew for 24 hours.
7. Decant your tea and use within six hours. Mix two parts water with one part compost tea and apply using a watering can or sprayer.
8. Clean your brewer immediately.
9. Brew more tea!
The main difference between conventional synthetic fertilizers and organic slow-release fertilizers is solubility, or how quickly they dissolve in water.
Synthetic fertilizers dissolve rapidly, releasing nitrogen quickly into the soil. They promote quick "green up" and shallow root systems. They quickly leach into ground or surface waters when it rains, preventing most of the nitrogen from actually being absorbed by your plants. This causes pollution that can lead to algal blooms. Over time, synthetic fertilizers can build up in your soil and kill the microbes that keep your soil and plants healthy.
Slow-release organic fertilizers, along with compost and compost tea, work by providing beneficial microbes and food for microbes already living in your soil. These microbes, in turn, produce nutrients for your plants. These fertilizers are less soluble than synthetics, leading to less leaching of nutrients, and lessening the need for frequent fertilizer applications.
Many landscapers now provide compost tea applications, or you can check out our how-to for brewing your own.