Tagged with "Soil"
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.
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 credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture
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?