Raise your hand if you recycle! A mainstream practice in most of our lives, recycling has gained widespread popularity through the use of formal recycling programs, updated laws and regulations, and the popular use of reusable bags! Recycling in everyday life is simple, but it’s even simpler in the garden through the practice of composting. Composting allows you to recycle waste and scraps to create a very robust fertilizer for your plants.
Compost is a mixture of decomposed organic matter that provides nutrients and fertilizers to your garden. An equal combination of green materials and brown materials ensure compost success. Green materials are rich in nitrogen and protein and cause heat in a compost pile. Brown materials are carbon- and carbohydrate-rich and they feed the organisms and microbes that cause decomposition. Compost eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers, reduces the need for extra watering, and promotes higher crop yield.
It is easy to get started with your homegrown compost pile! More than 25% of an average household’s waste consists of yard trimmings and food scraps that can be composted. Use a contained bin or a vacant space in your garden and collect leaves, twigs, straw, grass clippings, ground coffee, vegetable and fruit scraps, and more. Following the provided directions, add a compost starter like Ringer® Compost Plus Organic Compost Starter to activate and expedite the decomposition process and mix the waste materials thoroughly.
Continually add kitchen and yard scraps to your compost pile to continue the process. The most crucial aspect of composting is an on-going presence of greens and browns in the compost pile. Mix and stir your compost pile every week or so to add the new compost materials and introduce them to the decomposition process.
Add compost to your beds when transplanting seedlings, sowing seeds, or moving plants around in your garden. Throughout the growing season, use compost to provide ongoing nutrients to your plants.
Water conservation is key to preserving our natural resources while also providing your lawn and garden with the moisture it needs. Lawns and plants typically need about 1 inch of water a week. Manual watering is necessary for areas that do not have sufficient rainfall or areas that experience dryer conditions during the height of summer.
Water your flower and garden beds deeply. Get into the root systems so that your plants and lawn are not being superficially watered. A little extra water during a watering, rather than multiple lower volume watering, will be more beneficial.
Water evaporation is the largest source of waste. Water in early morning hours or later in the evening to ensure that evaporation doesn’t steal from the process. Watering in the early morning allows you to avoid possible fungus or mold issues as a result of standing and pooling water on leaves and petals. Plants and grass can dry off during the day, which mitigates risk of disease growth.
Reduce evaporation by creating a shorter path of water travel with drip irrigators and soaker hoses. Deliver water directly to plant roots and soak water into the ground rather than losing some of it on plant leaves.
Mulch and ground covers are an alternative that helps conserve water, too. Mulch creates a layer of protection to your garden beds that not only helps prevent weeds, but also retains water. Ground covers keep your yard cool and less likely to dry out. There are various types of mulch and ground covers that will work for any garden style and gardener’s preference.
Using plants that are native to a region will help conserve water. Plants that are adapted to local water allowances and heat will better survive in your garden than plants that demand resources that do not naturally occur in your garden. Check with your local garden center to understand which plants are indigenous to your region and which plants you should use to save water.
Organic gardening has grown from a “fad” to a commonplace way of gardening life. With its popularity growing, so have the products that help support keeping your garden organic. Unfortunately impostors, cheaters, and fakes began to share shelf space with true organic gardening solutions. How do you keep the bad out and understand what is really organic?
For a product to achieve organic certification, it must successfully pass a litany of tests and reviews from third party agencies, which are recognized by the USDA. The leading non-profit agency supporting these efforts is the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), which validates and promotes the use of certified organic products.
The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) is an independent international nonprofit organization that determines which products are allowed for use in organic production and processing. OMRI Listed® products are allowed for use in certified organic operations under the USDA National Organic Program.
OMRI conducts a range of tests and reviews and assesses if a product is viable to be listed. When a product is “OMRI Listed” it carries the OMRI Listed Seal, which assures the suitability of a product for organic production, handling, and processing.
OMRI Listed products range from fertilizers for your yard to insect killing solutions to fungicides and more.
Everyone wants to have the perfect lawn. We all know the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, but why can’t it be greener on our side of the fence? One way to encourage the best looking lawn possible is to provide it with aeration. The process of aeration bores small holes into your lawn, which allows for water and air to circulate.
But you’ve probably never aerated your lawn before – you need to know how to do it and whether or not you even should do it. That’s where Love Your Yard comes to the rescue!
Signs Your Lawn Should be Aerated
If you notice your lawn is not accepting water as well as it used to, then it may be time to aerate it. Certain signs and common usages can indicate a lawn needs aeration:
- Your home was recently built. The soil around many new homes gets compacted, making it difficult for water and nutrients to penetrate it.
- You put down sod. The very process of putting down sod means you’ve built your lawn in layers. The layers of soil may not be mixing well.
- Your lawn gets a lot of foot and vehicle. The more it’s used, the more compacted the soil can be.
- You have a thatch problem. Thatch is when a lot of undecomposed plant matter remains in your top soil — which limits growth possibilities for new plants. Thatch-heavy soil often feels spongy.
Root Depth in Your Lawn
A deep root system is a must to get the most out of your lawn. In general, your grass roots should be about 2 to 6 inches deep. A deep-rooted lawn allows more access to nutrients and its able to find deeper water. Deep roots also make your lawn more drought resistant.
If you’re not sure whether your lawn needs aeration you can cut a section of grass out to determine its needs. Cut the patch about 5-6 inches deep. If the grass roots do not exceed growth of two inches then your lawn should be aerated.
Preparing Your Lawn for Aeration
In the few days leading up to lawn aeration you should heavily water your lawn – about 1 inch of water should be applied. Although many lawns that need aerated have difficulty accepting water, get it as wet as you can. This allows you to really open up the most densely packed part of your lawn in the later steps of aeration.
Three Aeration Methods
There are a few ways that you can aerate – one is manually and one is mechanically.
- Do-it-Yourself. Manual aerators are available in various forms – lawn aerator shoes or even a pitchfork work well. These methods take a bit of time, but they can really pay off. Focus on a particular zone of your lawn at a time, otherwise you may forget what you’ve done. We would suggest you use your house as the center point of an “aeration grid” — complete each section before moving on the next.
- Lawn mower add-ons. If you have a lawn tractor, there are tow-behind attachments that you can buy for under $300. You simple hitch it on and then pull it through your lawn in your regular mowing pattern. As you move along, the pitchfork-like spikes are driven into your lawn and aerate it. Another option are a set of tire spikes that you wrap around your tractor’s tires.
- Aeration Machines. There are expensive machines that are able to aerate your lawn by physically removing plugs of turf from your lawn. Each plug is about two inches deep and a quarter inch wide. Though the machines are expensive, don’t worry, you can rent them from a local hardware store on an hourly basis. You should go over the same area multiple times from different angles to achieve maximum penetration.
Once you’ve completed aerating your lawn — or even a portion of it — you may want to step up your regular lawn maintenance efforts. Water it thoroughly and frequently to encourage that deep-root growth. Now that your soil isn’t so impenetrable, you should add the appropriate fertilizer too.
Have you got any further lawn aeration questions? Leave a comment or question below and the Love Your Yard team will try to address it in another post!
Fertilizer applied to your lawn allows the soil to feed the grass and create a healthy, lush green covering. There are two schools of thought for fertilizing – synthetic and organic. Synthetic fertilizer feeds the grass while stripping the soil of its nutrients. Organic fertilizer feeds the soil but takes longer to work because it employs from the bottom up, unlike synthetic, which works from the top down.
Most lawns need to be fed at least 4 times per year – April, late May, August, and October. Use an organic fertilizer, like Ringer® Lawn Restore® Fertilizer to work with your soil and grass to create a thick, lush lawn that is drought and disease resistant. A fertilizer like this will feed your lawn only when needed and treats it without using synthetic chemical that disrupts the natural growth process of your lawn.
To learn more about fertilizing your lawn check out this Love Your Yard blog post!
Throughout the season you may notice that areas of your lawn are not as vibrant as others. You may be experiencing an issue where insects or disease are affecting your grass and its ecosystem. The following are pests and diseases you should watch for:
Grubs – grubs are the larval stage of beetles and feed on grass roots. One of the first signs of a grub problem is an influx of birds and sometimes lawn or garden damage from rooting or tunneling of skunks, raccoons, opossums, moles and other animals. Safer® Brand Grub Killer can be applied to your lawn and will quickly resolve your grub issue.
Rust – there are over 5,000 known species of rust that can affect plants and lawn and is typically brownish-yellow to bright orange in color. Rust is comprised of spores that spread easily from one area of your lawn to another. Safer® Brand Garden Fungicide alleviates a rust issue.
Powdery Mildew –a white or grey substance that, if left untreated, can take over a large area of your lawn. Safer® Brand Garden Fungicide can be applied to problem areas for treatment.
Anthracnose – a fungal blight that causes reddish-brown areas on your lawn ranging from 2 inches to 10 feet in width. Using a product such as Safer® Brand Garden Fungicide will prevent further spread and eliminate the leaf spot all together.
Monitoring how much water your lawn is receiving will help you with issues related to mold – anthracnose, powdery mildew, rust, and more. Although we cannot determine how much rain the lawn will get we do need to be cognizant of watering habits. Make sure your lawn does not take more than 1 inch of manually applied water weekly to help avoid a breeding ground for bacteria.
Think grass is just grass? Think again! We’ve gathered up a few of our favorite grass varieties that we think you should try!
Generally speaking, there are two categories of grass – cool-season grass and warm-season grass. Cool-season grass is adapted to northern climates where peak growing occurs in the spring and fall but turn brown in hot summers. Most often cool-season grass seed is sold as a mixture of varieties in the event that one type doesn’t root well another will.
Warm-season grasses grow best in Southern hot summers while the spring and fall create a dormant environment for them. This grass type is more dense than its cool-season counterparts and is mostly laid as a sod rather than grown from seeds.
Depending on where you live there are certain grasses that will fare better than others. Here are a few of our favorite varieties:
Bluegrass – a cooler northern area favorite, bluegrass thrives on sunlight, good soil and a regular water supply.
St. Augustine – warm climates featuring sandy soil grow this blue-green variety well.
Bermuda – highly weed resistant and draught tolerant, the Bermuda variety can serve well in the winter when overseeded with rye.
Buffalo – a native to North America, this grass is draught-resistant.
Your lawn’s soil health is key. If your lawn is suffering from brown patches, sparse or irregular growth, or pale grass there are a few things you can do to help encourage a healthier developing process. The soil beneath your grass creates an ecosystem for your lawn to grow and when you do too little, or too much, to that ecosystem you can cause an imbalance.
An unhealthy lawn can often be contributed to thatch, or the layer of dead grass and grass roots that has accumulated on top of the soil surface, generally a result of over-fertilizing. A thick layer of thatch blocks airflow, nutrient movement, and moisture retention, but it isn’t necessary to remove all thatch. A thin layer provides protection to the healthy grass’s roots while a thick layer cuts off the roots’ lifeline.
If your lawn has a thin layer of thatch there is an easy do-it-yourself remedy. Using a steel-tine rake you can rake your lawn vigorously to reduce the thatch accumulation. A lawn with a dense layer of thatch will benefit best from using a dethatching machine. Your local lawn service or hardware store can help you determine which is best for your situation. After dethatching you will want to decrease the number of fertilizing treatments you apply to your lawn.
Get creative this gardening season by mixing up your choice of ground covers. Ivy may be a classic, as are pachysandra and clover, but mixing it up by adding an unexpected touch of mint, strawberries, or winter wheat could give your garden a whole new feel!
Mint – Plant mint in the spring or fall when the fear of frost is over. There are two planting options generally used for mint – one to contain the plant while the other allows it to expand. When planting you will want to select an area with partial shade or full sun, and plant with a fertile, composted soil.
Strawberries – Strawberry plants are low maintenance, but do like lots of sunshine. Plant your strawberry plants about two feet apart. When plants reproduce they do so with “runners,” or a vine growing from the plant that takes hold in the soil. Because strawberries bear a huge harvest you will want to continuously pick the fruits and be able to do so easily, so consider ease of access to these plants.
Winter Wheat – Winter wheat is a crop planted in the fall that sprouts before freezing occurs and then remains dormant until soil warms in early spring. This time frame allows for good root development: plant too early and your plants could be susceptible to late summer insects, plant too late and the plants may not overwinter well.
Winter wheat can be planted in rows like crops and should be rototilled into the soil about 2.5 inches deep. The heads of the wheat stalks will become heavy with grains and will lean toward the ground when they are full.
To see if they are ready to harvest you can test a few grains yourself. Chew a few grains from your plant to see what their consistency is. Soft and doughy grains are premature and need more time to mature. Continually check the grains until they are firm and crunchy at which time you can harvest your crops. To harvest your winter wheat simply cut off the heads of the stems.
When we think of the word mulch we tend to envision brown, bark-like material applied to a flowerbed, but did you know mulch exists in many forms? Let’s explore why mulch benefits your gardens and what options are available for your home and budget.
Applying mulch to your garden reduces weed growth, which will have a beneficial impact on your plants. Weeds deplete soil of nutrients and moisture when they grow and therefore limit the supply to the plants you want in your garden. They also have the ability to choke the root systems of your plants and cause them to die.
Water evaporation is slowed significantly from soil when mulch is applied. Watering a flowerbed that is mulched will result in up to 50% less evaporation than one that is uncovered. Mulch that is applied shortly after new plantings can increase the ground’s moisture and promote healthier root growth.
Various types of mulch are available for your garden. You may be familiar with:
- Shredded bark mulch – an inexpensive and easy-to-find option
- Pine bark nuggets – does not break down as easily as other mulches, but also don’t stay in place as well
- Wood chips – often a free option from local tree trimmers. Be sure to find out if the source tree had poison ivy to prevent infecting your garden.
- Cocoa hull mulch – A fine texture and rich color make this non-fading mulch a favorite for gardeners, although it is one of the most expensive
- Did you also know you can use alternative natural materials as mulch? Consider using:
- Grass clippings – a cheap and readily available material
- Decaying leaves – helps to retain more moisture than average mulch
- Compost – a material that will supply your garden with an abundance of healthy nutrients as it breaks down
- Hay – although cheap and easy to apply, it is less ornamental than other mulch options
- Rubber (shredded reusable materials) – extremely long lasting but does not provide any nutrients to the soil
- Decorative Stone – a very long-lasting option that also holds heat or stays cold much longer than alternative mulch materials
Whether you use a traditional or nonconventional material for mulching your garden, your plants will appreciate you taking steps to keep them well-watered. With benefits like less weeds and a more uniformed looking garden, what are you waiting for? Get started this weekend!