Would it not be great to have a lawn you can roll around in that’s safe for you and the environment. Below are the simple steps to take to achieve these results.
#1- Philosophy- You must embrace the fact that you do not need a PGA level golf course lawn.
#2- Soil- the foundation of it all. If your organic matter in the soil is thin then your lawn will be stressed…make sure when you start a new lawn that you have 4-6” of organic/top soil layer. If you have an established lawn you can rake in compost (1/4”+ each year).
#3- To prevent weeds in the lawn naturally make sure that you overseed bare areas with grass seed to prevent weed seeds from germination. The best time to overseed is in the fall, but early spring is ok too. Seed once a week for 3 weeks to really boost the density of your lawn. Use perennial rye grass for rapid germination or if desired use fescue for a more drought tolerant lawn. You can apply Corn Gluten to help control weeds in your lawn. Be sure not to put it down when you are reseeding a lawn because it prevents germinating seeds from rooting in…apply when forsythias are blooming…water in and make sure there are 3-5 days of dry conditions thereafter. Corn gluten is also a good fertilizer so this will count as a feeding too.
#4- Establish the healthy soil organisms necessary for a great lawn…apply Mychorrizhea and bacteria to bring your soil to life. Compost tea is also excellent.
#5- Check your pH and make sure you are between 6-7. Get your soil tested if necessary. Add lime to increase soil pH.
#6- A lawn with a great soil will only need one fertilization a year. If you lawn is high traffic or your soil doesn’t hold as much nutrients, than 2 applications may be necessary. Fertilize your lawn in May/June and September at a 1lb/1,000 nitrogen rate. Use a natural lawn fertilizer that is high in water insoluble nitrogen and potassium but low in phosphorus.
#7- Make sure your lawn gets 1” of water a week. Use a rain gauge to measure. It is best to water your lawn longer, less frequently…this allows the roots of the lawn to extend down in search of water and nutrients….thus building a better root system. Water in the morning. If you lawn has lost its luster or holds onto your footprints than it needs to be watered.
#8- Mow you lawn to about 2.5”-3” tall. This helps to shade out weed seeds and also keeps the soil system cooler thus reducing the need for water. Leave the clippings on the lawn. If you have a healthy microbial system in your lawn than those organisms will breakdown the clippings and return the nutrients to the soil.
Well we wished for this all winter and it’s finally here, just a little more than we need at one time. I know you have worked hard to get your gardens and home lloking spectacular with plants…so how do you help them during these hot times?
When to water:
The best time is in the early moring from about 4am to 9am. During this time the plants are used to having dew form on their leaves so getting watered is no great shock. Applying water at this time helps recharge the water holding capacity of the soil and reduces the chance of leaf burn (from the magnifying effects of water droplets) and disease incidence. Morning watering also reduces needless evaporation of water…do not water in the heat of the day unless absolutely necessary. If plants look particulary wilted in the evening you can apply water but try not to get the foliage wet…water the root system. A plant wilting on a hot day is normal…so if you know that the soil is moist than don’t worry, once the heat is off the plant will pick back up
There are no hard and fast rules but it is far to say that you want to apply a deep watering. Remember many of those plants you planted had root systems that were 4”-12” deep, so watering them for just a few minutes only waters the top inch or so. This results in rapid wilting. It is best to saturate the soil and then let it soak in and return and water it again, repeating this cycle several times to insure that the water is penetrating down deeply. This goes for ground planted and well as potted plants. In potted plants we can see the water drain out…use that experience and timing to judge your duration when watering plants in the landscape. In general you should apply about 1.5”-2” of water per square foot per week…this is best determined by using a rain gauge. If you don’t have one stop in at Bayport Flower Houses and pick up your complimentary rain gauge. As it heats up you may need to increase you watering quantity and frequency.
How to reduce water stress:
For newly planted plants, use a shower head nozzle on the end of a hose and water the base of each plant until the ground is saturated. Make sure that the plants are mulched to reduce evaporation for the soil. After establishment water can be reduced. Application of water by means of a drip or soaker hose is best. Try to avoid misting heads as watering tools…during hot times to much water is lost to the atmosphere. If your plants are in pots move to a shadier spot during times of high heat and humidity. Also, be mindful of A/C units, dryer vents, reflective surfaces and locate plants away from these areas.
Sometimes, no mater how hard you try, plants get burned. If the burn is on established trees and shrubs than more often than not they will recover. It might take a year or so for the new growth to fill in. Think about drought stress as the plant pruning off some of its limbs in order to conserve what little water is available. Once the heat abates and the water returns the plant will grow back. This is true for you lawn (brown is ok this time of year…) With regards to annuals, perennials, hanging baskets and other plants, if burned back just cut off the dead and providing there are still buds alive the plant will branch back out when conditions are right. Remember that once the plant has “pruned” itself or you have cut it back than you will need to adjust the watering so as not to over water the plants. In addition, all this watering has probably leached out much of the fertilizer you applied so be sure to add a little as the season moves on to encourage new growth.
Bayport Flower Houses, Inc
It always feels good to know that what you are doing is contributing to the greater good of the plant Earth. With that in mind I encourage you take set some time aside to join me at one of our Earth Friendly Gardening Classes.
As the name implies, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is charged with protecting our environment. Our environment is quite large and it would be wrong to think that a single agency could take care of it alone. As stewards of the earth we must work together to protect and nurture such a blessing. At Bayport Flower Houses we have always held the belief that we inherit this Earth from the next generation and as such must leave it in better condition than we found it. Of course the subjective nature of “better condition” is always a debate there are some simple steps you can take to make a difference. The EPA published a brochure which I feel is one of the most common sense and attainable paths towards gardening, they refer to it as GreenScaping, the easy way to a Greener, Healthier Yard. The brochure can be found at www.epa.gov/GreenScapes.
There are five easy steps:
#1 Build and maintain healthy soil
#2 Plant right for your site
#3 Practice smart watering
#4 Adopt a holistic approach to pest management
#5 Practice natural lawn care
By following these steps you will save time, save money and protect the environment. These benefits may not happen instantaneously but over time the rewards are wonderful. I believe that the best reward is knowing that you are part of the solution. If rolling around a natural lawn, watching butterflies flutter and trees cool the earth is for you than I encourage you to stop in at Bayport Flower House and let us discuss with you how you can be “green”. We’re here to help get you started and pointed in the right direction. Make someday…Today!
“Never does nature say one thing and wisdom another”