Those dandelions in your lawn are little yellow flags letting you know that your soil is low in calcium and/or compacted. Start with a soil test and then amend as needed. Aerating and overseeding your lawn this fall will relieve compaction and promote healthy, thick turf, the best form of weed control. Keep your grass high (3.5-4") to shade out dandelion—and other weed—seeds.
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.
Or...learn to love those little yellow flowers. They’re one of the few food sources available to pollinators in early spring. If bees and butterflies love them, why can’t we?
Made the transition to organic, but still have some old landscape chemicals sitting in your basement? Helped Aunt Bertha clean out her garden shed this spring and discovered a few dusty bottles of Roundup?
You should dispose of any unused chemicals in your home to avoid accidental poisoning (pets and kids), but don’t just toss them in the trash. If dumped with the rest of your waste, they can leach into and pollute ground water.
Most sanitation and recycling departments host events for safe disposal of dangerous household items including pesticides, cleaning supplies, paint, medication, and electronics. Contact your local sanitation department to ask about the next event in your community. Your local department may also have a facility where you can drop off specific items anytime.
• For our neighbors in East Hampton, the East Hampton Recycling Center hosts disposal days on the third Saturday of May and the third Saturday of October.
• Southampton Town residents can dispose of pollutants at different locations in May, June, August, and October.
• New York City residents can stay up-to-date on upcoming Safe Disposal Events on the NYC Department of Sanitation website.
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?
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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.
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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
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