Things to Do in June
This month our feature presentation will be about the lawn and ways to correct the most common problem that we have seen or heard of this year, and almost every year. Now is a good time to address these problems since we have more daylight to work with. Warm nights are great grass growing season so if you need to rejuvenate your lawn, keep reading. Let me know how well your lawn progresses..
Lawn Care Now you can aerate your lawn. Every year we wait until June to aerate lawns. There are several reasons why we do this. First, the heavy spring rains will collapse the holes created by the aerator. Now, since heavy rains may be a thing of the past, an aerated lawn will have thousands of water collectors to hold water for longer periods. Second, a lot of weeds like dalis grass produce seeds in April and May and can drop their seeds in the newly exposed soils creating larger problems.
June is a good time to aerate the lawn and apply a thin layer of compost and a rock powder like Humate, Lava sand or Green Sense Texas Greensand. Minerals Plus is a combination of the three previously mentioned rock powders.
To help retain moisture apply Green Sense Solid Water after aerating the lawn.
We do not aerate all the lawns that we maintain on a yearly basis, in a matter of fact some of the lawns are so healthy now that they will not need it. Does yours?
You can use a Penetrometer to test the compaction of the soil. We offer a consultation service that does this test as well as look for problem areas in the lawn and landscape. Click here for more information.
June is a great time for a second application of fertilizer; we will also apply Green Sense Lawn & Garden Microbial Treatment, More about this later.
If your lawn is not as green as you would like it to be apply Green SenseTexas GreenSand. This product contains approximately 19% iron it also contains potassium and other trace minerals.
If you have a few weeds in the lawn apply Green Sense 20% Vinegar as a spot treatment, but remember, be careful vinegar is non selective and will burn any plant that may be over sprayed.
Nighttime temperatures are now warm enough to help germinate Bermuda seed quickly. Over-seed with Bermuda Seed at a rate of 1 pound to 500 square feet.
Roses & Crape Myrtles: Many customers are bringing in foliage from roses and Crape Myrtles that have mildew, aphid, black spot or other insect or disease problems. Use Foliar Juice or Garrett Juice and add Neem Oil to your spray, the foliar spray will help fertilize and the Neem oil will kill any insects as well as control fungal problems.
Potassium Bicarbonate works great for controlling fungal problems, spray on leaves of affected plants. For best results add 2 tablespoons of Ultra Fine Oil to your spray.
Corn Meal should be applied to the soil around the grass or plants that have brown patch or black spot at a rate of 10 lbs per 1000s/f.
Remember: You must apply on a regular basis. One application of any fungicide is not enough and applications should be made until new growth appears that does not have symptoms of the disease.
Color in the Garden & Perennials: If you are like me, and do not like spending money, perennials are the way to go. You can plant in rows or randomly.
It is all right to mix colors or have an all white or red color scheme. Make sure that you plant drought tolerant plants or moisture loving plants separately. Sun loving plants should not be planted with shade loving plants.
Remove spent flowers from annuals, and perennials, to encourage more bloom. Cut off faded iris blooms and stalks.
When cutting roses to take indoors, cut to an outside facing bud to encourage growth away from the center of the plant. This increases air circulation and discourages mildew.
Critters Every critter that you never saw and those that you have seen before are out in great numbers. First it was the caterpillars now moths and beetles. It seems that most caterpillars have disappeared but that only means that hey became something else. Should you spray every plant with a BT product?
I would have to say no. Wait and see what emerges and if they do any damage at all.
Grasshoppers are active again this year, but many customers have said that they seem to disappear. First they saw thousand and then …. Gone. Could it be that the Nolo Bait that that were using is working and is killing off he young.
Try some at your place. Beneficial Nematodes can still be put out now. Make sure that you keep the soil moist for the next two weeks. BN’s will help control Fleas in dog runs; so put them out before your pets get attacked by fleas.
Shampoos, that contain citrus oil and or citronella work as excellent flea repellants for your pet. Natural Animal has a DOG or CAT shampoo.
Vegetables: Beneficial Nematodes work well in the garden and will help lower your insect population. Some insect that they control are:
- Algae gnats
- Apple leaf roller
- Army worms
- Banded cucumber beetle
- Bark beetle
- Bean leaf roller
- Bess beetle
- Black fly
- Boll weevil
- Cabbage looper
- Cabbage worm
- Cane weevil
- Carpenter moth
- Click beetle
- Codling moth
- Colorado potato beetle
- Corn earworms
- Corn root weevil
- European corn borer
- Fall army worm
- Field cricket
- Flea beetle
- Fruit fly
- Gypsy moth
- Horn worm
- House fly maggots
- Imported fire ant
- Iris borer
- Japanese beetle
- June beetle
- Leaf beetle
- Leaf miner
- Leather jackets
- Leather skeletonizer
- Meal worm
- Meal moth
- Measuring worm
- Melon worm
- Mexican bean beetle
- Mormon cricket
- Onion borer
- Oriental fruit moth
- Pear aphids
- Pear weevil
- Pine beetle
- Red bugs
- Rice weevil
- Round headed borers
- Scarab beetle
- Seed corn maggot
- Sod webworm
- Southern pine beetle
- Southern root worm
- Sow bugs
- Spruce budworm
- Squash bugs
- Sting bugs
- Strawberry root weevil
- Tobacco budworm
- Tobacco hornworm
- White fringed beetle
- White grubs
- Winter moth
- Wood borers
- Yellow fever mosquito
Snails, Slugs & Pillbugs: We have been using Sluggo as a way to control snails and slugs and have been very pleased with the results. Customers are telling us that after one application of this product they have seen less damage to their plants.
Last year we talked about applying a thin bead of coconut oil or coconut soap flakes around the entire bed of flowers as a control method.
You can also place shallow cups, like cottage cheese tubs or butter tubs that contain yeast water or cheap beer, around the outskirts of the flowerbed. The yeast attracts the three plant destroyers into the cups and they cannot get out and drown. The beer is so they won’t care whether they get out or not.
You can also use apple cores, banana peels, and citrus rinds as traps in the areas where you see an accumulation of these critters. After dark, place the fruit in the pest area and simply gather them up the next morning. There should be hundreds of these pesky guys on the fruit pieces that you can then easily throw away. To make sure that the insects are dead, take the gathered fruit to the kitchen and put down the waste disposal.
One of the easiest methods to control snails, slugs and pill bugs is to place a band of copper around the entire flowerbed. Go to your local hardware store or nursery and ask for a thin gauge strip like that used around door jams. The copper will build up a slight electrical charge that will shock tiny insects and repel them.
Sure Fire™ has a copper strip that has an adhesive on one side so that it can be attached to planters, furniture and other outside fixtures where the slimy little creatures may try to climb.
Repairing an Existing Lawn
Year after year customers call us concerned about the weeds in their lawns. Every spring customers say that the organic fertilizers have weed seeds in them and are the reason for such weedy conditions. To appease some of the customers I have sent someone from our staff to look at these lawns and in several occasions, when time permitted, I have gone myself.
Through these inspections I have become aware of many things. Most of the yards that I have gone to did not have a heavy, thick canopy of grass leaves that should shade the soil surface and discourage germination of the weed seed and not permit these weeds to establish a strong presence. When I questioned the customers most of them confessed that they did not know how many square feet of lawn they had and they put down as many bags of fertilizer as they thought were needed. The amount of fertilizer usually was not enough!
I measured six lawns last April. Of those six lawns not one customer was applying the recommended amount of fertilizer. Three of those customers had only used organic fertilizers once. One of those customer applied Corn Gluten Meal for the first time in late
March at half the recommended rate, and the other customer applied Green Sense Lava Sand as a fertilizer without applying a nitrogen source.
We talked about drainage and irrigation and proper watering techniques, and realized that most people do not check for drainage, but they do set the irrigation on automatic and run the system even on rainy days for thirty minutes each station.
Improper watering, waaaay too much rain and poor drainage can cause heavy weed infestations. First, the excess water kills off the desired landscape plant or grass, the soil becomes compacted, fungi begin to develop and spread up into grasses that are on higher well drained grounds. Weeds appear out of nowhere. Some of the most common weeds that grow in poorly drained areas are Nutsedge, dallisgrass, crabgrass, pennywort and Johnson grass.
Other weeds such as henbit, rye grass and dandelion do not bother me that much except for the fact that I know that they are annual weeds that spread quickly by seed that are produced very rapidly. Henbit and dandelion can be pulled easily. Rye grass can be disguised by more rye grass applying this in early fall. If fair weather gardeners would also garden in late winter and early spring, they would be able to control most of the weed population by controlling the seed production of these weeds.
Simple task like hoeing, mowing with a grass catcher attachment or using the weed eater to keep the weeds cut down to stubs will eventually kill those weeds. I see many people using weeding tools that easily remove weeds with out having to bend over. I have also seen these same people leave the weeds on the ground where they were shaken off the weeding device. This of course will permit the seed to fall of the weed as it dries. Having a bucket to drop these weeds in will help quite a bit. When the bucket is full take these weeds to the compost pile or put them in a bag and close it tightly. The heat from the composting will destroy the weed seed.
When I moved into my new house in August 1998 I noticed that the soil was very compacted and that even though the grass was green and looked healthy there was only a thin layer of grass that was trying to grow in a thick layer of thatch. If the grass was not mowed for 8 or 9 days you could start to see weeds poking their heads out of the grass. I planned an accelerated fertilizing program for my lawn. I applied Green Sense All Purpose Fertilizer at a rate of 20 lbs per thousand square feet. Immediately after the fertilizer application, I put down Humate also at a rate of 20 lbs per thousand square feet. I then applied Green Sense Lawn & Garden Microbial Treatment over the entire lawn and then watered it all in. I instructed my mowing crew to use the grass catcher for the remaining three months of the 1998 mowing season.
Green Sense Lawn And Garden Microbial Treatment is a complete ecosystem of indigenous microbes enhanced with humate materials, which will enhance the growth and vigor of turf, vegetable gardens, flower gardens and houseplants. Green Sense Lawn And Garden Microbial Treatment enhances turf growth, improves coverage of bare spots, improves seed germination, loosens soil and improves soil percolation. Improving the absorption of moisture and strengthening root systems. Flowers and plants in most cases will have larger blooms and leaves and will have longer blooming periods. Plants will also have greater vigor during stressful periods of weather.
One significant reason for the improvement is because high amounts of fertilizers/chemicals used without a healthy microbial population, cause nutrients to be tied up in the soil profile. This, along with the high salt contents of chemical fertilizers, sets up toxic conditions and soil compaction that cause stress to the plant. Adding Microbial Treatment unlocks these nutrients and disassociates salt compounds, thereby freeing up nutrients and making them more available to the plant, resulting in more efficient use of your fertilizers and water.
In September, I aerated the lawn and fertilized again at a rate of 10 lbs per thousand square feet. I also applied a thick layer of lava sand and another application of Microbes. For the next three months I applied fertilizer at the lower rate and the microbial treatment at the normal rate. In late January of 2000, I fertilized at a rate of 20 pounds per thousand square feet and planed to continue that same rate for the rest of the year on a quarterly basis.
I will confess that in the spring of 2000 I had so many weeds that even in a small area I could not count them all. But in June, as things started to warm up, I noticed that my grass was coming in thicker, and that the annual weeds were starting to die off. Annual weeds will live for about six months. Now I was hoping that my turf would get thick enough to eliminate areas for these weeds to return to and hopefully begin to crowd out any existing perennial weeds.
Perennial weeds can live for a very long time once they are established. Perennial weeds will grow faster then week turf grasses, but as the soil becomes healthy the turf will take over the weeds.
I noticed that where my Bermuda was not growing thick enough in the shady areas, weeds were becoming stronger. In these areas I planted St. Augustine. In many cases customers tell me that they do not want different grasses growing together. Monocultures they say look so much better. I try telling my customers that a diversity of plants will always be healthier and each variety has its own merits. When we do an installation of a landscape we try to plan ahead and order turf for shade or for sun. When we know that the turf just won’t do we recommend groundcovers or landscape with shade loving plants. Not only does the turf benefit from a diverse planting in respect to weed control, but also in insect and disease control. If you notice grub damage is harder on St. Augustine, because it has shallower roots. Chinch bugs seem to prefer Bermuda grass.
I know that many of you have seen damage to Photenias caused by fungal problems. Also, you have heard of me and others talk about Oak Wilt. These disease, one insect borne and the other soil borne, are killing off large crops of plants. Unfortunately, these plants were once considered disease and insect free. People, me included, planted hedgerows of Photenias and several Oaks in clusters, just to see them die. If a pest or disease finds a lawn of St. Augustine or Bermuda that just so happens to be suitable for growth or happens to be it’s preferred food source a large build up of pests and diseases can occur.
Boy, this took me a while but after all that I now have suggestions that may help you have a beautiful lawn.
- Feed the soil. If the lawn is not doing well and you have been using synthetic fertilizers: STOP! Obviously it is not working and something new should be done.
- I would use microbes to help cleanse the soil. Green Sense Lawn & Garden Microbial Treatment should be your first step. You read about Microbes earlier but for more information click here.
- Fertilize with an all-organic fertilizer at a rate of 20 lbs per thousand square feet. We like using Green Sense All Purpose Fertilizer. For quicker results follow up in thirty days with another application of Green Sense Lawn & Garden Microbial Treatment and more Green Sense All Purpose Fertilizer at a rate of 10 lbs per thousand square feet.
- Correct drainage and fill in low spots with the soil that is most similar to the existing soil on your property.
- Now apply an appropriate grass seed or blocks of sod to fill in bare spots. St Augustine will grow in to sunny areas, but Bermuda will not grow in too shady areas. Fescue turf does well in shady areas, but does better when sowed by seed in the fall. To help combat fungal problems apply Corn Meal at a rate of 10 to 20 lbs per thousand square feet.
- To get grass seed to germinate or turf to establish, you will have to water daily or even twice a day. The excess moisture will have compacted the soil. After the roots are established aerate the soil using a core aerator. Leave the cores on the soil and let them break down with watering, mowing or just with time. If you have low spots then rake these cores up and put them there.
- While the soil is open apply rock powders such as lava sand, humate, green sand, rock phosphate or a combination of products such as Minerals Plus.
- Go one step further and apply a thin layer of good compost such as cotton bur compost or a manure-based compost. My preferred manure base compost is from Clear Fork Materials in Aledo. They will blend lava sand and manure if you ask them. Vital-Earth has a good compost mix and they also have a blend of topsoil and manure that has never produced a weed seed in the 3 years and hundreds of tons that we have used in landscapes throughout the Metroplex.
- Water wise. Keep the soil moist not wet. While the grass is rooting you may have to water more often. As soon as the grass is growing vigorously cut back to no more then three times a week for the first season. Try to get to the point where you water only once a week. I do, sometimes I will go 10 days between waterings if we get 1 inch of rain between waterings.
Soil Minerals Essential for Plant Health
Hello fellow Earthlings, and welcome to our discourse on plant nutrition. In the next few visits we'll be touching on the importance of truly balanced fertilizers for our gardens and how each nutrient works in plants. It is the goal here to provide fun and informative information to each of u so that your plants are healthier and better prepared to fight off disease and pests. Let's take a stroll in the soil chemistry lab. We are going to depart the silly N-P-K fertilizer world in favor of REAL plant care, so let's go...
This is the part of the discussion that gets a bit on the technical side. I will do my best to explain the function of soil minerals to you by using normal language instead of resorting to a bunch of confusing words. Where words are used that may be new to you, I will explain what the terms mean so that they become more clear. Who knows, we may actually increase vocabulary while learning some of the basic roles that minerals play in sustaining healthy plant growth.
Most soils consist of a complex mineral matrix where complicated electrochemical, biochemical, and biological activity determine every aspect of the soil's physical nature and it's ability to support plant life. These minerals in combination with water and air consist of what is commonly called the soil solution. Plants are presently recognized to utilize sixteen elements in order to sustain growth. Of these sixteen elements twelve are minerals found primarily in the soil. This is the part of this particular chapter where we could easily go into a litany of items on the periodic table of elements, but we'll stick to the basics.
Four elements that plants use are considered non-mineral and will be mentioned in detail later on. These elements are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. Carbon forms the skeleton of all organic molecules. Thus, it is a basic building block for all plant life. Plants take up carbon from the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2). Through the process of photosynthesis, carbon is combined with hydrogen and oxygen to form carbohydrates. Further chemical combinations, some with the other essential minerals mentioned in this section produce the numerous substances required for plant growth.
Oxygen is required for respiration in plant cells whereby energy is derived from the breakdown of carbohydrates. Many of the compounds required for plant growth contain oxygen. Hydrogen combined with oxygen form water (H2O), which constitutes a large portion of the total weight of plants. Water is required for the transport of minerals and nutrients. It also enters into many of the chemical reactions necessary for plant growth while hydrating plant tissues. Hydrogen is also a constituent of many other compounds required for plant growth. These three elements are supplied to plants primarily from air and water. Plants to synthesize amino acids, which in turn form proteins, use nitrogen. Proteins are present in every living cell on the planet. Plants for other vital compounds such as chlorophyll, nucleic acids and enzymes also require nitrogen.
The remaining elements known to be used by plants are found in mineral form and are primarily found in the soil. These minerals are phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, zinc, iron, manganese, copper, boron, molybdenum, and chlorine. These minerals are commonly separated into three categories; primary, secondary, and trace minerals. We will be focusing on these minerals in the order of the quantities that are used by plants in order to grow along with their activity and effect on soil structure and fertility.
As a footnote to this discussion on soil minerals, we should definitely touch on the importance of a balance for plant nutrients in soils. It is critical that a balance of plant nutrients be present in soils because an abundance of one can create a scenario of reduced uptake of another. Maintaining a balance of nutrients in your soil is an important objective of proper soil management. Judicious use of fertilizers and being mindful of soil pH is critical to ensuring the vigor and health of your garden.
When diagnosing the nutrient needs of your plants it should be noted that many symptoms of deficiency appear similar in different minerals. When you are unsure of what might be causing your plants to look sickly, consult a professional soil analyst or contact your local university and see if they can help you. If you feel comfortable in making a diagnosis, do it. Remember that one of the most important aspects in determining mineral deficiencies is to know the pH of your soil. This will allow you to make educated assumptions. If you decide that you have made a proper diagnosis of a mineral deficiency in your soil use small amounts or diluted amounts of that mineral in test areas to see if the health of your plants improves. If it does, it is pretty safe to assume you did it right. Few things are more rewarding than properly diagnosing a problem in your garden. This is one of the many ways natural gardeners get so connected with the "nuts and bolts" of how nature works.
More on Minerals that Make Your Plants Happy
Hello fellow Earthlings, and welcome back to our discussion on minerals that your precious plants require for sustained health and happiness. We'll be discussing the two mineral constituents in the infamous N-P-K and my all time favorite mineral for plants, calcium. Phosphorus Potassium and Calcium are the talk of the day, so let's have a chat about a topic that is very dear to the vigor of your garden.
Phosphorus is used by plants in different forms and availability of phosphorus to plants is dependent on the solubility of this mineral in soil. However the availability of phosphorus is often tied up in compounds of limited solubility. The minerals that phosphorus links to depend on soil pH. In neutral to alkaline soils phosphorus will link up to calcium forming a compound known as calcium phosphate rendering the phosphorus unavailable to plants and insoluble. In soils with an acid pH phosphorus will often link to iron or aluminum to form phosphate compounds that also bind phosphorus as insoluble and mostly unavailable to plants. These relatively insoluble forms of phosphorus are called "solid-phase" phosphates and can function as a phosphorus savings account in the soil. Isn't that clever? The amount of solid phase phosphorus (phosphate) in a particular soil may actually account for 99% of the total phosphorus that appears on an analysis of soil. This means that a little as one percent of the total phosphorus that shows up on a typical soil test may actually be readily available to plants. Solubility of phosphorus is controlled by several factors including the amount of solid-phase phosphorus present in the soil. The greater the total amounts present in the soil, the better the chance of having more phosphorus in solution. Another important factor is the extent of contact between solid-phase phosphate and the soil solution. Greater exposure of solid-phase phosphate to the soil solution and to plant roots increases the ability to maintain replacement supplies. During periods of rapid plant growth, phosphorus in the soil solution may be replaced ten times or more per day from solid-phase phosphorus. Soil temperature and pH also affect the solubility of phosphorus. Maximum availability of soil phosphorus occurs at pH levels of 6.5 to 7.5.
Phosphorus is present in all living cells. It is used by plants to form nucleic acids like DNA and RNA and is also utilized in the storage and transfer of energy through energy-rich linkages (ATP and ADP).
Some natural sources for phosphorus in the natural garden are soft-rock phosphate, hard-rock phosphate, and good old bone meal.
Phosphorus stimulates early growth and root formation in plants. It speeds up maturity and promotes flowering and seed production as well. Symptoms of phosphorus deficiency in plants include:
- Slow growth; stunted plants
- Purplish coloration on the foliage of some plants
- Dark green coloration with the tips of leaves dying
- Delayed maturity
- Poor fruit, flower, and seed production
Potassium is used by plants in the form of positively charged ions or "cations"(pronounced CAT-eye-uns). It is not synthesized into compounds like phosphorus is, but tends to remain ionic within plant cells and tissues. Potassium is essential for the transport of sugars and for starch formation as plants convert sunshine to food (photosynthesis). The pores in the leaves of plants (stomata) require the presence of potassium to open and close their guard cells in order to breathe. Potassium produces higher function of vascular plant tissue for better transport of nutrients. It increases plant resistance to disease. It also increases the size and quality of fruits and vegetables.
Soils may contain 40,000 to 60,000 pounds of potassium per acre. However only 1 or 2 percent of this amount may actually be available in the soil solution to plants. The rest is either tied up on particularly stingy clays known as expanding lattice clays or it occurs in primary mineral forms that are unavailable to plants.
Supplemental potassium is often applied to natural gardens from powerful mineral sources such as potassium sulfate, which also adds some sulfur to soil. Other materials that supply potassium are kelp products, wood ash, an amazing material called "Greensand", and a mineral called Sul-Po-Mag (sulfate of potash magnesia. Sul-Po-Mag is a rich source of potassium, sulfur, and magnesium. Who says natural products can only do one thing at a time?
Potassium is used heavily by plants that have very high carbohydrate production rates like fruit trees. Potatoes use gobs of potassium due their need to produce high levels of carbohydrates as starch in the potatoes themselves. Symptoms of potassium deficiency in plants include:
- Tip and marginal (leaf edges) burn starting on more mature foliage
- Weak stalks and stems
- Small fruit and shriveled seeds
- Slow growth
Calcium is considered a secondary plant nutrient but is grossly underrated. It is the feeling of this natural gardener that calcium is just as important as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in quantity for plant health and vigor. Calcium is absorbed by plants as a positively charged ion or cation. It is an essential part of the structure of the cell wall in plants and must also be present in order for new cells to form. This means if there is no available calcium, plants don't grow.
Calcium is used in acidic soils to raise pH values more toward neutral. The materials most often used to do this are calcium carbonate (Lime) or calcium magnesium materials called dolomite and dolomitic lime. These materials supplement calcium to the soil for increased plant vigor while they alter the pH in acidic soils. Calcium also affects clay soils by loosening the electrochemical bond between clay particles. This will allow for better water and air penetration into otherwise "tight" clay soils. In the western part of the country where soils are more alkaline and in areas where little summer rains fall, a calcium and sulfur material called "gypsum" is often used. Gypsum does not alter soil pH nearly as much as lime products and supplies an ample amount of calcium to increase plant health. Gypsum is also fairly effective at loosening clay and compacted silt soils that are often encountered on the newly constructed suburban lot.
In the last few years a new material that supplies superior amounts of calcium has come to the attention of natural gardeners and farmers. This material is found in a fossil kelp (marine macroalgae) deposit that is actually found where an ancient ocean once was and what is presently called the state of Nevada in North America. This fossilized kelp material provides concentrated calcium and every other known plant growth nutrient, along with plant growth hormones as well. This material is known as Kelzyme.
A good thing to remember about calcium is that it is present in all living cells and is not mobile in plant tissue. What this means to a natural gardener is that composted plant matter is also a supply of calcium. So it is good to remember that a well-composted garden plot is also getting some calcium from that organic matter. Calcium deficiency is identified by some of these symptoms:
- Death of growing points (terminal buds) on plants.
- Death of root tips
- Abnormal dark green appearance of foliage
- Premature shedding of blossoms and buds
- Weakened stems
- Blossom-end rot
Speaking of new growth publications. Look for Don's books Natural Gardening A-Z and The Complete Natural Gardener, both from Hay House Publishing at bookstores and on line everywhere.