Another year has passed us by, the last one, 2001, made us all wonder about our future. We now know that terrorism can strike in our backyards, but we also know that we can strike back and defeat evil where and when necessary.
In my opinion people that carelessly use chemical pesticides and herbicides are also terrorists. Disregard for the safety and well being of others with the stupid or improper use of harmful chemicals should be punished. A person that applies a chemical herbicide or pesticide near a school yard, a creek or a lake can be responsible for long term disease or injury to mammals, be they human or animal. The applicator that decides to spray a pesticide on a tall tree during a windy day is not much different than the man that steals a crop duster to fly over a city to release an airborne disease.
I know that there are some instances where natural controls such as pyrethrum or neem oil, or, rarely, chemical controls are necessary to gain control of pest and disease problems. Careless chemical applications done without correcting the long-term problem are not only stupid, but expensive in many ways. If the problem that created the disease, such as poor drainage or improper placement of a plant, is not corrected, further applications of a chemical will not solve the problem.
I think that it is up to all of us to monitor the chemical applicators that surround us. When we see a green and white truck leave our neighborhood, take a walk and make sure that they have cleaned all debris from the sidewalks and curbs. If not, call up the company that did the application and tell them that you wish to not subject your family and neighbors to herbicides and pesticides. You should demand their return and prompt attention to the chemical carelessly left on the ground. I do.
Things to Do in January
Improve your soil. As part of our Chemical Free Lawn Care program a representative from Rohde’s will go out to customers’ lawns with a penetrometer. A penetrometer is a simple tool with which to gauge the structure of soil by measuring the degree of soil compaction at various depths. By using a penetrometer you can measure relative soil compaction providing an indication of how much oxygen is available for soil microbial life. Compacted soils leave very little room for water movement, and roots’ growing ability to penetrate these compacted zones in search of moisture and nutrients. At the same time compacted soils can slow down the superficial flow of ground water causing standing water and or runoff. When this occurs, disease and death can damage landscapes and grasses. It does not take a nuclear scientist to know that anything that can help loosen the soil will help increase the soil’s health and its ability to maintain healthy plants.
Ways to decrease soil compaction include applications of organic matter, not over-watering, and applications of microbes and microbial stimulators.
In the south where our soil temperatures do not drop below freezing, microbes can be applied during the winter months, as long as we are not expecting freezing temperatures immediately after applying these beneficial organisms.
I guess at this time I must clarify that I am not talking about Beneficial Nematodes (Steinernema feltiae) used as insect control of some 230 soil dwelling and wood boring pests. I am talking about microbes such as Bacillus lentimorbus, 1x105; Bacillus licheniformis, 1x105; Bacillus subtilis, 2x105.
So what does this mean?
Organic matter acts as a food source for the micro and macro-organisms that work together to make nutrients available to plants, provide aeration, and help in many other ways to develop and maintain soil health.
Excessive use of lawn and garden chemicals, and the reduction of organic matter in the soil, can reduce soil micro- and macro-organism populations, eventually leading to soil sterility. In time, with the addition of organic matter as a food source, these organisms will recover. Green Sense Lawn & Garden Microbial Treatment provides a proven blend of these organisms to give the soil a jump-start on its return to health.
Not just a mix of enzymes and microbial stimulators, 'Green Sense Lawn and Garden Microbial Treatment' is a soil innoculant consisting of a comprehensive blend of beneficial microorganisms: genera, species and strains that work together to improve soil health.
Ingredients: A blend of genera, species and strains of beneficial microorganisms, microbial stimulators and enzymes.
These are the different bacteria in the Microbial Treatment
Bacillus lentimorbus, 1x105
Bacillus licheniformis, 1x105
Bacillus subtilis, 2x105
Bacillus thuringiensis, 2x105
Brevundimonas vesicularis, 1.5x105
Corynebacterium ammoniagenes, 1x105
Pseudomonas fluorescens, 1.5x105
What exactly will microbes do to your lawn and garden’s soils?
- Improve soil conditions.
- Aid in building deeper root systems.
- Increase organic matter in the soil for better water and nutrient availability.
- Stress periods - helps lawn and gardens through hot and dry periods with less water because of better soil percolation, better root systems and improved organic matter .
- Aerate the soil naturally for better moisture penetration, root growth and compaction reduction.
- Improve the effectiveness of fertilizers and other chemicals.
- Improve lawn coverage.
- Reduce accumulation of thatch as microbes decompose lawn cuttings.
- Blooming—earlier, more profuse blooms; longer period of productive flowering and fruiting.
- Increase earthworm activity.
Microbial Treatment supplements your regular lawn and garden fertilizer program by adding a diverse population of beneficial microorganisms to stimulate microbial activity. Lawn and gardens improve with microbial diversity in the soil.
Why am I telling you to do this now?
Over the last two years we have used our Penetrometer in several lawns and have been able to find compaction that measured in excess of 700 psi (pounds per square inch). These readings were done at several times of the year and therefore the applications of 'Green Sense Lawn and Garden Microbial Treatment' were also done at different times of the year.
Optimum soil density for root growth is below 300 psi. By applying the microbes during cooler moist seasons we have seen a quicker decrease in soil compaction, as opposed to mid summer during the heat and drought.
Many commercial lawn-care companies recommend aeration by a core extracting machine. This is definitely an effective means of getting air to the soil, but what if the soil is so compacted that the aerator will not break the soil’s surface. You are out the money that they charged for their services. By applying microbes a few weeks prior to aeration you can assure deeper penetration, plus the plugs that are pulled out will crumble a lot faster.
Because we know that the benefits are so many we encourage you to make several applications between now and June and to help you do so we are including Green Sense Lawn & Garden Microbial Treatment in our monthly specials. One quart of this product will cover 6000 square feet. This product does not have to be used all at once, so if you measure your lawn you may see that you can make several applications for less than 14 dollars.
Weed Control: Most of your weeds will be in flower beds that are exposed to sunlight. An easy remedy for this is mulching. At this time of the year I highly recommend using your leaves as mulch for all flower beds and even your vegetable garden. If possible run your lawn mower over the leaves before putting them over the beds. This will help them breakdown faster and replace organic matter into the soil before spring arrives.
To go one step further would be to apply Green Sense Lawn & Garden Microbial Treatment and a mild organic fertilizer to help increase the carbon/nitrogen ratio and aid in the breakdown of organic matter.
PLANT—As I have always said winter is a perfect time to plant trees.
When planted properly a tree will have time to put out adequate root growth to help make it through our harsh summers. That does not mean that it will not need extra help and care from you, it will just be on its way to becoming a healthier tree.
Fruit Trees: Most of you now know that we bring our bare root fruit trees in at this time. For economic reasons we bring in fruit trees that are bare root (a plant that has all the soil around its roots removed). This will help the customer who wants to buy several trees to get started on her/his orchard. Most of the trees that we bring in are good for our North Texas soils and temperatures.
We still think that you should research the trees you think you want. Make sure that if you are looking for a self-pollinator that you select the right variety. Know that just because a tree is self-pollinating does not mean that it will always bear fruit. Environment and other variables may work against fruit production. Also, in normal, healthy trees, fruit production fluctuates from year to year.
On Monday the 10th of December, we had a couple come in with a 4-year-old Pomegranate of the ‘Wonderful’ variety. The husband dug out the tree from his front yard and wanted us to replace it with another tree because even though it had bloomed it never produced fruit. I assured him that the lack of fruit production was more than likely his fault rather then our fault for selling him the tree. Of course he got mad when I asked him what fertilizing program he had going. He told me that I was just trying to renege on a warranty. I tried to tell him that it would not do much good to replace the tree with another if he was going to continue to do whatever he had been doing with the tree that he had brought in.
He later told me that he lived in the White Rock area of Dallas and that he had about 1 foot of soil before getting to limestone.
At this point I recommended a soil test before going to the trouble of planting any fruit tree in the same area, in case the soil was too alkaline. He again told me that I was being hardheaded and now demanded his money back. When I said no he stormed out of the store leaving his wife by herself to listen to our explanation of what could have gone wrong. Luckily for me, Karen, our store manager, was now in on the conversation and decided to look up information on this tree. She went to Howard Garrett’s book “Texas Organic Vegetable Gardening” page 161 where it states that:
Pomegranates should be planted in well-prepared beds.
Positive drainage is important.
Even though Howard says that a water and fertilization program is minimal for fruit production, applications of kelp and vinegar would help.
Anyway, back to fruit trees. Find out if you only need one tree or two trees that are the same variety, or if different trees can be used and still have proper pollination. We can help determine which trees are good for our immediate area (Dallas). Soils change from one area to another, know your soil. Drainage is very important specially when trying to establish a new tree, pick an area that drains well, go the extra mile and do a soil percolation test. Dig a hole in the ground and fill it up with water, if the water drains as you watch it good, if it takes a day to drain, find another spot. Organic matter in the soil will help feed the tree as well as the microbes.
I would recommend applying Beneficial Nematodes around the base of the trees to help control Apple leaf roller, Armyworms, Borers, Field cricket, Oriental fruit moth, Pear aphids, Pear weevil and others.
The use of Green Sense Mycor Tree Root Saver or beneficial fungi live in and around the roots of 95% of the earth's plant species, serving as a secondary root system, extending themselves far out into the soil. Mycorrhizae extract mineral elements and water from soil for their host plant, and live off the plant's sugars. Trees and plants with thriving "mycorrhizal roots" systems are better able to survive and thrive in stressful man made environments.
When using beneficial fungi you should discontinue use of chemical fungicides since this will kill all fungi including Mycorrhizae. For fungal problems use Green Sense Potassium Bicarbonate or Green Sense Corn Meal.
Plant high, keeping the crown area above the original soil line. This is the transitional section where the trunk develops into roots. This area should be kept as dry as possible, especially in the spring when the tree is leafing out. If you take the time to look you will see that there is a different color between the lower section of the tree (root) and the trunk.
All fruits, nuts and berries will benefit from mound or raised bed planting. When you plant in a mound you prevent puddling near the trunk and crown of the tree.
Make sure the roots of the tree are going in the proper direction. Big roots should go downwards for anchoring. Small hairy roots should be planted spread out and not in a clump, so make sure that the hole is deep enough for the tap root and wide enough to permit all the hair roots adequate separation, keeping the roots from becoming twisted in the hole, and growing in circles.
Add rock phosphate to the soil, so that it is in direct contact with the roots. If you use the rock phosphate do not use a root stimulator.
Back fill the soil adding some organic matter to the same soil that you dug out.
Prune any broken branches near a bud. Do not over prune.
Never forget to mulch over the root zone, and as the leaves come out spray with a mild solution of fish and kelp.
While We Are Still on the Subject of Bare Root, Let's Talk About Blackberries
Blackberries are one of the easiest fruits to grow in the south.
Prepare the soil with lots of compost, landscape mix, lava sand, greensand
And rock phosphate and make sure that the products are thoroughly mixed in. With all the extra material the final result should be a raised bed that should drain properly.
Make sure that the bed is in full sun and will have plenty of room for the berries to grow.
Plant 3 inches a part in rows 12 inches apart.
To extend harvest time plant two varieties.
If you already have Blackberries and you are wondering how to get them ready for this years production start by removing canes that produced fruit last year, by pruning them back all the way to the ground. When the new shoots reach 4-5’ they can be topped to encourage branching. Make sure that they are heavily mulched to prevent competing plants/weeds and keep soil moisture stable.
Fertilize with a slightly acidic product that contains cottonseed meal and sul-po-mag such as Green Sense Vegetable & Flower Food.
And of Course Bareroot Grapes
Most grapes are easy to grow but do require plenty of room , full sun and well prepared composted soils with plenty of lava sand.
Spacing should be 8-10 feet apart and since they are climbers support should be given to them.
Now lets talk about shade trees. When looking for a shade tree, learn the growing habits of the tree that you think you want. If it is a really fast grower then there is a very good chance we will not carry it. The only reason that we carry White Mulberries is for the fruit that it offers for birds. Mulberries, like Willows, Cottonwoods, and Green and Arizona Ash are fast trees that die at a relatively young age. Just like James Dean…Live fast, die young.
Even though Bradford Pears are very pretty trees with thousands of blooms in the spring and beautiful fall color, we decided not to carry them since they tend to get torn up during storms, and can develop fungal and other disease problems.
Shade Trees should grow large enough to cool off the house or an area of the lawn that you use to sit down and relax. Find a tree that will best fit your needs. Do you want it to shade a window in the winter? Then you will need an evergreen tree. Does it have to be a large tree or will a holly do? How much room will the tree have for growth? Plan ahead. When you select your plant make sure you know enough about the plant to keep you out of trouble. Do not plant a large tree so near a building that branche will damage any structure.
Live Oaks and Red oaks are not my favorite trees and are considered only if I am doing a landscape were I do need the privacy of the evergreen Live Oak or the eventual maturity of the Red Oak. Because these trees are related, if you plant more than one of these trees try to separate them by as much distance as you can so that the roots may never grow together. This will be a little preventative planning against Oak Wilt.
The freezing temperatures that we experienced in November have made this a perfect time to trim Live Oaks and Red Oaks. I must remind you that tree trimming benefits you and your property but does not benefit the tree.
Trees use their many branches to store energy. Every branch that you remove takes away that much food from the plant. If you have a branch that is growing toward the house, driveway, sidewalk or any area where the branch may damage property or injure someone, remove it now.
Make sure that you find the collar at the base of the branch and the tree trunk where you are going to make the cut. Cut on the outside of the collar. If you are removing a very long and heavy branch make sure that you cut the branch into sections so that the weight of the branch does not tear at the bark that you want left behind.
Start thinking about renovating your landscape to accommodate tree growth. Create larger beds around your now mature trees to include plants that will do in shade. If you use your own compost to start your bed preparation do not forget to add a nitrogen source to these new beds.
Consider walkways as part of your landscape plans that lead up to a sitting area, making any shady area more inviting.
When planting a new tree we now recommend using Green Sense Mycor Tree Root Saver to be applied at tie of planting. We have gone back to trees that we planted with and without this product and have seen more root growth as well as more foliage on the trees as well as a darker healthier looking leaves on the trees where we used Mycor.
Consult a designer or a Landscape Architect. Get on their list now so that you will have your plan ready for work to begin early in the year.
We recommend Carol Feldman.
Winter Plant Protection—Protect Your Plants from Cold Winds
Do not wait until the last minute to apply Green Sense Kelp to all growing plants as part of your winter protection. Spray with Kelp products that contain Ascopyllum nodosum. These Kelp products are processed to retain micronutrients that protect against cold stress. Apply Kelp weekly on annual flowers such as pansies, evergreens like camellias and any vegetables that may be in the garden.
Use row cover or a sheet to protect your tender plant material and do not forget to water a plant before freezing temperatures arrive. Watering is very important for a cold plant. The plant needs water to help circulation and keep it alive in cold periods.
SPRAY DORMANT OIL on fruit trees and other plants that might have over wintering pests. Do not blanket spray, which means only spray the affected plants and not the entire landscape. If you have released beneficial insects do not use dormant oil. Always read the instructions of any product that you are going to use.
More Information on Corn Gluten Meal (CGM)
If one could predict weed germination then they would be able to control those weeds with timely applications of Corn Gluten Meal but predicting weed emergence is so difficult since it depends on several factors. Weeds start from seeds and seeds can be found at different depths in the soil. Soil temperature and moisture in the soils very by region and type of soils. And then you have the weather as another factor; weather can be to dry, to wet, to cold or to hot and can delay the weed seed germination.
Without knowing all these factors it is very hard to apply CGM as a pre-emergent herbicide at the exact time that it needs to go out.
College studies say that since the forsythia plant grow almost everywhere in the United States that one should coincide application of CGM with the blooms on the forsythia.
Even though, I have tried this method without great success the forsythia blooms every year and therefore a natural timetable to use.
Now what happens in the fall when it is time to treat for fall and winter weeds? What natural conditions do we look for as a guide?
We know that it is not the fall color of trees; in the south most trees do not change colors until the first frost. We know that around Labor Day we apply seed for winter grasses like rye, fescue and vetch. Should we automatically apply CGM?
Lets get back to the present and spring weeds. Towards the end of January we normally start thinking about controlling spring weeds. As most gardeners know this is easer said then done.
When trying to control weeds timing is everything! The whole idea behind pre-emergent weed control is to know when the seed is going to germinate.
As we know we can have 2, 3 or 10 varieties of weeds in our lawn and, we also know that they are not going to emerge form the ground at the same time.
It seems that no matter how hard one tries to control weeds; despite best individual efforts there will always be weeds. Some years you may have fewer weeds then others. Some years you may have different weeds then the previous year, but in a non-perfect world, garden, you will always have weeds. And you will always come to Rohde’s and complain, even blaming organics as the cause for all those darn weeds
So why am I being so negative about pre-emergent weed controls?
It is not that I am being negative it is just that as an individual it is very difficult to research the different reasons for weeds in my yard much less having to worry about customers who get frustrated with the fact that they spent money, sometimes more then there allocated budget and still ended up with a nice crop of weeds.
I am really interested in finding out, if as a group of organic gardeners we can find determining factors that will help all of us control weeds.
Knowing more about weeds will help us control them better. We know that as long as the seed sits idle waiting for the proper time to germinate CGM is not effective. We know that after the weed has emerged from the ground. CGM is not effective. CGM is effective in controlling weeds only at the time when the seed germinates and no longer uses the stored food from the seed and starts to find its own food, a time period of just a few days.
Knowing how to time the emergence of weeds will help know when to apply CGM?
We know that CGM works on the seedling so how do we know when the seed is about to germinate?
Is there a way to back up? We know that once the weed has emerged then CGM is no longer effective in controlling that weed, but what about all of his siblings, the seeds that have not yet germinated can they be controlled effectively by CGM? Can we use the emergence of the first weed a an indicator?
Can we backtrack from the time the emergence of that first weed to reach ground level to determine how many days before that did the seed germinate? Is some one interested in collecting weed seeds and timing growth from germination to ground level?
Now take into consideration the many species of weeds that may be in your lawn, how do you determine when each species will germinate?
I hope that I have made you think in the same way that I am now thinking, once we understand what, when and why the seeds germinate when they do then we should be able to control all varieties of annual weeds.
So, who is going to help? We have over 30,000 readers reading our newsletter on a monthly basis. I would imagine that most are repeat visitors that have some interest in organic gardening. What can you do to help determine proper weed control
Let us start with a journal, a soil thermometer and your lawn.
Towards the end of January start testing the soils temperature, if there is away to inexpensively check the moisture level of the soil then do that too.
I can almost bet that when the soil temperature gets above 65 degrees you will start to see some weeds emerging, but I would not bet to much money.
For the two most accurate journals Rohde’s will give 100 dollars worth of Green Sense Fertilizers. For the best kept journal Rohde’s will give $50.00 worth of Green Sense products.
If we were to use a soil thermometer and a gauge to check the moisture and the moisture depth then maybe we could keep a log and use that temperature and moisture level to repeat the application at that same time year after year. If enough people kept up this test method for a number of years then maybe we can figure out the proper conditions for spring application of CGM for specific area of the US. Until that happens I think that CGM is an expensive fertilizer, but not a good pre-emergent.
Compost; Black Gold for Every Gardenby Don Trotter
Hello fellow Earthlings and welcome to the compost heap. In this discussion we will be touching on a few of the amazing things that compost can do for any gardener's success rate. So let's take a stroll out to that giant pile of leaves and envision a transformation into fertile, biologically active compost.
Composted organic matter is easy to make but it is also easy to find at the garden center if you are not inclined to make it or are pressed for space in the garden. Making compost can now be done in any number of tumblers, bins, and containers that are available at every home center and nursery.
These compost makers vary in size from giant molded plastic monstrosities big enough for a farm to units no larger than a five-gallon bucket. The advent of several new types of composting has actually brought the manufacturing of fertilizer making indoors. The worm bin, a method of converting kitchen waste into "vermicompost" is becoming a very popular way to recycle organic matter. Several municipalities across North America have begun giving away worm bins to homeowners along with instructions. Worm composting or "vermicomposting" is now a very popular way to turn vegetable scraps, shredded newspaper, and a number of other materials into worm castings. Worm poop "castings" is quite possibly the most fertile material known in nature. And we can make it without doing any work. The worms do everything just by doing their business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No odor, no mess, and for you braver souls, the bins fit under the kitchen sink.
Composting is also a great way for your children to gain greater understanding of how nature recycles everything in order to remain sustainable. In our society of disposable everything, teaching our kids that nature has a better way of using trash to maintain her system. Your kids will be amazed at how waste is converted into fertilizer. You might even get them more interested in the garden this way as well.
Some things to think about when adding compost to the garden are the way it improves soil structure, enhances the health of beneficial biological organisms that live in soil, and helps to save you money on your water bill by forming the spongy organic substance known as humus. Compost has the ability to transform any soil type into a planting medium that will support the healthy and vigorous growth of your precious plants. Compost helps your soil to provide an abundance of essential minerals and nutrients to your plants continuously. Chemical fertilizers can't do half of the things that compost does to improve the quality of your garden. Many chemical fertilizer products are actually antagonistic to the beneficial organisms in your soil. These are the very organisms that help to convert minerals into substances your plants can use as well as the suppression of pathogenic organisms that can cause diseases in your plants.
Compost also insulates your soil from the heat of the sun and from extreme cold. Composted organic matter is very effective at keeping soils cool during hot weather and keeping them warm when the weather cools down. This feature benefit of composting or mulching with compost is very effective at keeping the roots of your plants insulated against the elements. A layer of compost on top of your garden soil will work as a sponge for moisture and will soak up excess moisture and store it for future use by plants. The activity of the organisms in the compost as it decomposes releases minute amounts of caloric heat that will protect the roots of your plants from freezing in light frosts. Compost can serve many purposes while it works to improve the quality of your soil.
There are many commercial brands of compost available today. Most of them are very good products. If your community has a yard waste-recycling program you may be able to obtain this type of compost called "greenwaste" for a very good price. These greenwaste composts are sometimes the best materials available to the home gardener due to their low price and good quality. Pesticide residues are no more of a problem in these greenwaste products than other commercial brands and are universally accepted by organic certification organizations.
So go out and get some compost for your garden or try your hand at home composting. Your soil and your plants will love you for it. Not to mention how much money you'll save by using less water and no chemicals. Next time we will be discussing the use of natural materials for pest control. See you in the Garden!
Got Questions? Email the Doc. Don Trotter's natural gardening columns appear nationally in environmentally sensitive publications. Check out Don's books "The Complete Natural Gardener" and "Natural Gardening A-Z" at your local bookstore or any online bookseller for more helpful gardening tips. Both books are from Hay House Publishing.