PRFCT Tips

Tagged with "Fertilizer"

Bare feet walking on lawn

What is a 3-, 4-, or 5-step lawn program? A series of products labeled 1-3 (or 4 or 5) that are sold to be applied month-by-month throughout the growing season. They are all-in-one mixes designed to treat a range of typical lawn problems. They usually contain synthetic fertilizer combined with synthetic pesticides—various weedkillers, fungicides and insecticides, depending on the month. Some mixes also contain grass seed.

What’s the problem with multi-step programs? Not only are they packed full of the worst kinds of chemicals, but they are treating your lawn for problems you may not even have. Like going to the doctor and getting medication for every known health condition, just in case.

Multi-step programs offer short-term solutions with long-term consequences. The lawn may green up temporarily, but the fertilizer and chemicals will eventually pickle the soil. Excess nitrogen from the fertilizer can leach into nearby water bodies, contributing to algal blooms. And who wants to walk across a lawn covered with chemicals?

Photo credit: Wulf Voss / EyeEm / Getty Images

Soil Test in Spring

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
Ithaca, NY

Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory, University of Connecticut
Storrs, CT

Commercial Labs

Soil Foodweb New York
Port Jefferson Station, NY

Harrington’s Organic Land Care
Bloomfield, CT

Photo credit: Barry Bradshaw / EyeEm / Getty Images

Bare soil in winter

Bundling up Your Garden Beds

December 15, 2016

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.

You can also 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.

Don’t forget: Leaves are called “leaves” for a reason!

Worm compost

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.

Worm composting towers come in a range of sizes and materials. In our office, we use the Worm Factory 360 with red wigglers from Nature’s Good Guys. Yes, worms in the mail!

Worm compost tower

Compost

To Brew? Or Not to Brew?

July 08, 2016

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?

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.

COMPOST TEA:

+ 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)

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