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.
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.
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?
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.
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.