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.
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 grass 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.
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. If dandelions keep sprouting, the safest way to remove them is by hand. Water the area to loosen the soil and use a dandelion digger or flathead screwdriver to remove the plant’s long taproot. Pulling dandelions before they go to seed will help prevent them from spreading in your landscape
• Dandelion puffs are a blast! Have you ever met a child who didn't agree? They’re also one of the few food sources available to pollinators in early spring. If bees and butterflies love them, why can’t we?
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.
Placing material against the tree’s trunk can also cause the bark to rot and leave the tree susceptible to infection.
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.
Create mulch rings around your trees, not volcanoes.
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?). 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.