The Cosmetic Pesticide Ban Act (2009) and the changing weather patterns have made lawn care a bit more challenging, but not impossible. A few steps will help you to grow a healthy, hardy, lawn that can compete with weeds and better resist pest and disease. 

Don't put up with a bad lawn just because you can no longer apply pesticides. it is possible to have a great lawn, its just takes a little work.

Don’t put up with a bad lawn just because you can no longer apply pesticides. it is possible to have a great lawn, it just takes a little work.

To do this you need to:

  •   Feed the soil
  •   Choose the right grass type
  •   Practice preventative management
  •   Monitor for pest or disease

Soil is the foundation to healthy plants. It is important to top dress with well-screened, weed-seed free compost. Compost:

  • Provides a whole range of nutrients; it is like a healthy meal versus just vitamins  (fertlizer).
  • Feeds those soil micro-organisms that keep the soil functioning.
  • Increases the water holding capacity of the soil. 

Just like humans, sometimes we may need to supplement our meals with vitamins, research is showing that some fertilizer may be warranted – BUT, applied properly:

  • Only 2x a season is needed, spring and fall.
  • Use a slow release in the fall (no later than Sept 15).
  • Choose one that has a good balance of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K).
  • Do not apply it before an expected rain event.

 A mix of grass species is best, look for a grass seed blend that suits your sun exposure and the amount of wear and tear your lawn receives. Include turf-type ryes and fescues which have longer roots and offer increased pest resistance. Keep an eye out for some very promising new grass species like RTF and RPR which may be listed as “self-repairing”.

For annual lawn maintenance:

  • Aerate, especially for heavily compacted (clay) soil.
  • Top dress your lawn with 1/3 inch of good screened compost
  • Overseed with a mix of grass seeds.
  • Mow properly; with sharp blades, do not cut your grass any lower than 2.5 – 3 inches
  • Leave clippings on your lawn so the water and nitrogen they contain goes right back to the soil.
  • Monitor and properly identify pests so that you know what, how and when to use a control method.

 If you water your lawn, water properly with a maximum of one inch of water a week, including rain. Avoid ‘sprinkling’ watering which promotes a weak shallow root system. If you don’t water your lawn, don’t start once the lawn has gone dormant, it will stress the lawn.

 

To make sure your gardens their best this summer, here are some last minute tips. Consider keeping a garden notebook to make your yearly maintenance much easier by recording the following:

– Make a map of your plants
– Note any problems such as disease/pests
– Record any changes you should make (divide or transplant)
– Take pictures throughout the seasons

When tidying your garden beds, clear away any diseased or dead matter (including plants left for winter interest), and of course, newly growing weeds. There is no need to till your soil. That will ruin the soil ecosystem and may turn up weed seeds. Instead, just top dress with a good compost (plant or mixed). This will:

– Keep the soil micro-organisms and ecosystem happy and healthy
– Increase water holding capacity
– Add a range of nutrients and maintain good pH
– Improve drainage

This is a good time to divide plants that were too big last year, or that need revitalizing. Divide with a sharp knife or a double pitch fork. Add water to the hole and also wet the roots. Protect the soil with 2-3” of mulch and don’t pile against plant stems. Either wood chips (organic) or stone aggregate (inorganic) will work, but organic is better.

Organic mulch, such as woodchips, are a must-have for any garden. They prevent water loss, protect roots and keeps weeds at bay.

Organic mulch, such as woodchips, are a must-have for any garden. They prevent water loss, protect roots and keeps weeds at bay.

Keep your beds edged with a “Dutch Edge” to keep grass out.

Keeping your garden beds edged at a 30 -45 degree angel will help deter grass roots from wandering in.

Keeping your garden beds edged at a 30 -45 degree angle will help deter grass roots from wandering in.

When it comes to garden pests and diseases, practice prevention for long term success. Keep your garden soil healthy, make sure there is good air flow through the plants and attract the help of beneficial insects and birds. There are options natural remedies for control, but these are only band aid solutions for the short term, prevention is the best long term solution. It is important that you understand how these work so that you use them right and not kill those beneficial insects. Make sure to properly identify which bug is doing damage before setting out to destroy it.

Properly ID which bugs are doing damage. This is the Red Lily Beetle, which cause problems for the Asiatic Lily. Not a beneficial bug for your garden.

Properly ID which bugs are doing damage. This is the Red Lily Beetle, which cause problems for the Asiatic Lily. Not a beneficial bug for your garden.

Preparation and maintenance is the way to keep your gardens blooming beautifully. If you have a lawn, see our blog on how to maintain it so it too is ready for the season.

Happy Gardening!

With the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having lately, it’s hard to resist the urge to go play in the gardens. Some tasks can be detrimental if done too early. To appease your urges; here are some outdoor garden tasks to keep you busy…

This would be a large lawn to rake!

1. Resist the urge to rake your lawn. The ground is still wet and if you have clay soil, walking on it will compact the soil. Compacted soil is bad for turf, but good for weeds. Also raking your lawn too early can easily damage any new grass shoots.

2. Don’t roll your lawn, again, with clay soils, this will compact it.

3. Now is a great time to apply corn gluten to your lawn. This is a natural pre-emergent weed preventative that coats weed seeds and prevents germination of the root from the seed.  Wait 4 – 6 weeks before overseeding as corn gluten will also prevent grass seed from germinating. Corn Gluten will also serve as a fertilizer for your lawn.  Corn Gluten will not kill exisitng weeds. For more details on applicaiton of corn gluten, visit: http://lawncare.about.com/od/organiclawncare/a/corn_gluten.htm

4. Wait to clean up the dead plant materials from your gardens. Once the soil warms up the decomposers will become more active and will start decomposing old plant material. This will add natural organic matter into your soil, which will help to feed this year’s plants.

5. Rather than using a hose to clean off your driveway, use a broom. It is good exercise for you and you won’t be wasting high quality drinking water.

Thanks for the spring "presents"

6. Now that the snow has melted, for those of you with dogs, your lawn will be covered with months of dog droppings that need to be picked up. This is one of those spring clean-up tasks that I do not enjoy. Maybe this year I’ll hire a company to clean these up?

Enjoy your gardens folks, that’s why we have them!

Social Media is changing the way we communicate with the public.  With one tweet you can send your water conservation and efficiency message to your followers, with very little time and cost.

Using Twitter may seem time-consuming, but not if you start with a good plan. Define what messages you want to send and how often. Some examples include daily messages about ways to save water in the garden, or information about an upcoming rain barrel sale or a new rebate program you are offering.

Twitter provides an opportunity for open and engaging dialogue with your target audiences.  You can use your tweets to guide people to your website for more information about your programs without the costs and environmental impact of newspaper ads or flyers.

By following other municipalities and water conservation professionals on social media, you can be part of the global community and see what others are doing with water conservation and efficiency.

Some tips for using Twitter:

  1. Actively engage other followers in active dialogue about a variety of water conservation and efficiency topics. Do not use Twitter as a simply a news feed for the program.
  2. Do not expect an immediate influx of followers, you need to interact with the twitter community and give reason for people to follow you.
  3. Be human and have fun. Robotic or overly formal “government” type tweets will discourage the interaction with users, this engagement is what makes Twitter unique and effective.
  4. Set up your Twitter account and then use it! It is easy to get caught up with other business and to forget about your Twitter account (I know I do), but to be effective  you need to interact on a regular basis. Monitor the account daily, during business hours.

Twitter is a great opportunity to get your water efficiency and conservation messages out to the public. Once you get started, you will realize what a great communications and outreach and engagement tool it can be.  The most important thing to do is to get started.