Sunday, February 28, 2010

Plans for Spring - Chores

The winter certainly has been a doozy! I’m anxious to get out into the garden, but I have to wait a few more days. So in the meantime, I’m getting ready to place my order for my organic lawn care products.

I have mentioned that organic solutions for our yards and gardens are going to be my focus.This gardening method is fun and healthy at the same time. Let me explain why I feel organic products are soooo much better than chemicals.

Chemical lawn and garden products come as fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides. The chemical products are generally water soluble. Organic fertilizers  are turned into nutrients for plant materials by the micro organisms. The chemicals wash away within days of application and leave no residual nutrients in the soil. In fact, they reduce the microbes and leave the soil ‘dead’. So we are tempted to reapply more products, again and again.

The focus for organic gardening is to feed the soil. This whole under-world needs us to feed it and support it with organic materials. Healthy soil has more living organisms in two handfuls of dirt than there are people on this planet. The soil grows our food, and supports trees that filter our air. Without plants, erosion and contaminated water become issues. The soil is the source of life on this earth and I feel we must be committed to keep it healthy.

If you have used chemicals on your lawn in the past, either through a lawn care company or do-it-yourself, the organic products  will be give you superb results and bring your soil back to a healthy ecosystem that will benefit the whole planet.

Plan to use organic products on your lawn and garden. Corn Gluten is an organic pre-emergent for various annual grasses and broadleaf weeds. Crabgrass and foxtail seeds will be germinating soon, so corn gluten should be put down before the forsythia blooms. Corn gluten is a grain and can be put down with a drop spreader or whirly type applicator.Other organic supplier have corn gluten in a liquid and comes in a hose-end sprayer bottle. The full benefit of corn gluten may take a few seasons. Expect 60% control the first year, and 80% the second year. Believe me, early treatment this spring will save you frustration later as you are trying to sit back and enjoy your lawn.

I know the chemical treatments have a better control rate, initially. However these chemicals have been linked to various diseases in children and pets. Heavy metals like arsenic, mercury, lead, and dioxin have been incorporated into some of these chemical products. Asthma, cancer, and autism have been linked to some of these chemicals.

Homeowners use 10X  more pesticides per acre than farmers. They spend $67 Million a year on lawns. 60-70 million birds are poisoned each year. We are subjected to all of this exposure to toxic chemicals just to deal with less than 1% of half a million plants and insects that are considered pests. Organic products are cost effective and don't cause costly clean-ups of soil and water.

Planning now to begin this growing season with organic products will go a long way to ensure the health of our children, our pets, and our neighborhoods.

To see more information on organic fertilizer, see my article here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Winter Lingers and Lingers and Lingers

Just trying to make the most of this snowy Feburary in Ohio.  As I said last time, the planning opportunity is just giving me more items on my To-Do List. The Winter Garden can be a magical place. If we take the time, next year we will look out to even more spectacular views.

As you can see in this photo, not only are the shrubs putting on a show, but also the bird feeder and thermometer.  Garden accessories have a year round attraction. Trellis and arbors really hold their own in a backdrop of snow. And evergreens, such as holly, boxwood, and arborvitea, are some of my favorites all year.

I missed a picture of a dozen robins scrounging beneath some crabapple trees.  The fruit was clinging to the trees and the bright red was vivid against the white backdrop.  The robins seemed to be enjoying the meal. When the ground is frozen, food for the birds becomes scarce. So planning to provided for our feathered friends can benefit all of us. Other food sources for birds include viburnum and  hawthorne.

Viburnum is a wonderful shrub that has varying leaf textures, beautiful blossoms in summer, and fruit varieties.  Some fruit is black,(tinus) some red.  The size of each variety varies too.  Viburnum opulus , the European cranberrybush viburnum, grows to 12' or higher. A dwarf variety, Viburnum opulus 'Compactum' is small, only growing to about 6'. This species grows more dense than the Viburnum opulus, but isn't really all that 'dwarf'. A truly small viburnum, maxes out at 2', is the Viburnum opulus 'Nanum'.

Another shrub that holds it berries well through the winter is Aronia, chokeberry. Aronia arbutifolia has red berries, and Aronia melanocarpa has lovely black berries.

Winter may be long, but we don't have to settle for dreary.  A few other plants I'd like to bring to you attention are Sedum, 'Autumn Joy', and all of the various ornamental grasses.  The faded bloom of the sedum shows well with a cap of snow. The burgendy color is anything but dreary.  The ornamental grasses turn golden in late fall and the plumes wave throughout the cold season usaually.  I preface this comment because the very heavy, wet snow - 8" or more - we had last week have buried the grasses into big mounds.  They were pretty while they lasted.  Oh well, there is always next year. 

This brings me back to the 'planning' part of this season.  Look around your yard or garden.  If you don't have lovely scuptures in the snow, plan to pick up a chokeberry or viburnum during the spring planting time.  Add the perennial,s 'Autumn Joy' or one of the many ornamental grasses to your landscape.  The seasons - all of them - are what we gardeners live for.

What is your favorite winter garden element?  Share your ideas of seasonal interest.  Grow and Share!

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Gardening is in my blood, and  on the soles of my muddy boots.


I like to take any opportunity to get out and make note of what needs to be done in the gardens and landscape. This quiet time, in the throws of winter before everything pops up, is ideal for planning.

I took time to check out the garden today. Temperatures were mild, near 40 degrees. It felt good to breathe fresh air instead of dry heated air. Some hyacinth shoots were peeking up through the muddy mulch, and the buds on the Endless Summer Hydrangea are swollen.

This pre-spring review is also reminding me that I didn’t clean up the fall debris as much as I could have.

I‘ve left seed heads of Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) and Coneflower (Echinacea) for the birds to eat . Watching the yellow finches trying to land on the tips is quite funny. They are tenacious and now the stems look pretty ratty. I’ll need to recruit the grandkids for a clean-up party soon.

It seems that  the garden is sleeping. In reality, tree and shrub roots are already starting to take up water. The sap is beginning to flow up into the future canopy. This is the time I normally apply organic granular fertilizers to the ground at the base of trees and shrubs. The freezing and thawing of the ground will help this organic material work its way into the soil. Then when the warmth and moisture of the spring come along, the organic material has worked into the soil and the micro organisms in the soil will be ready to make nutrients available to the roots of the plants as they come out of dormancy.

I 'm getting my order for organic fertilizers ready to submit. I really became concerned about the chemicals we were putting on the lawn. a while ago. I mean, when the lawn care companies have to post warnings after an application,- - what were they telling me? So, we switched to organic fertilizers. I know I'm applying safe and effective products without the  contamination of water, soil, or my family.

With organic lawn products I never have to put a sign in the yard ‘Danger, keep kids and pets off’! These organic products are grains and compost that contains no manures or chemicals. My dog, Shelby can lick the products and no harmful chemicals are present to make her sick. Our 5-3-4 General fertilizer is a good option for established perennials and shrubs in the landscape and our 3-5-4 Starter fertilizer is good for establishing bedding plants and seedlings. 

I use Corn Gluten as a pre-emergent for annual weeds and grassy weeds like crab grass and foxtail. Corn Gluten can go down in March. This is best applied when the daffodils start blooming and when the forsythia bloom. When the ground temperatures are right for the daffs and forsythia, it is also right for weed seeds to germinate. Corn Gluten sets up a barrier through which weeds cannot penetrate. I spread Corn Gluten on the lawn and flower beds for weed control. Corn Gluten is also a good nitrogen source for your lawn with a N-P-K of 9-0-0. Two for one! How awesome is that?

So my plan is: order fertilizers, put down the corn gluten, and call grandkids.....!!!

What are you planning in your yard and garden this season? Have you considered organic fertilizers for your yard? Wonder how organics work? Are they effective? Are they too pricey. Let me know your concerns. Let’s talk gardening, naturally. I've written several articles on organic gardening. Visit my page on Organic Gardening for more information.