All the time I am asked. “Is it too late for me to do something to improve my lawn?” The answer to that question, particularly if you use organic fertilizers and soil amendments, is a resounding “No.” Because we believe in building the health of your soil and adding microorganisms and bacteria that build the health of your soil, it doesn't matter if you start your organic lawn program in the spring, summer, or fall. The idea is to get on a good organic program and stay with the organic program schedule.
There are some things you need to do now and there are some things you need to schedule throughout the year. If you haven't put your “lawn and garden plan” together for this year, hopefully we can give you some ideas towards that direction.
Step 1 - Organic Fertilization
Proper fertilization can keep your grass thick and healthy. This helps the lawn resist insects and diseases and makes it harder for weeds to grow. There are several advantages to using organic fertilizers. One advantage of organic fertilizers is that they release minerals and nutrients in a “slow release” form. They use nature's way of supplying nutrients to your turf and plants. Nutrients are released slowly through normal biological activity in the soil. Improvement in plant color, growth and health are long lasting by working within the natural laws of nature. On the other hand, synthetic fertilizers can leach and pollute our drinking water and natural environment because they dissolve easily and release nutrients faster than plants use them. Organic fertilizers improve the health of the soil, will not burn your turf or plants, pose no environmental hazards, are non toxic, and are safe for you family and pets.
If North Texas goes on water restrictions, there is always the concern that the synthetic fertilizers will burn your turf if you can not immediately water your lawn. Over the years, we have seen several examples of turf burn due to the use of water soluble synthetic fertilizers. Organic granular fertilizers compost into your soil, like mulch does in your flowerbed, and is not a water soluble product. Another plus about organic fertilizers is that because you're putting those nutrients back into the soil that were there before erosion took place or man made products started changing the nutritional content of the soil, when we fertilize, we are able to fertilize your lawn, shrubs, perennials, and trees. On the other hand, synthetic chemical fertilizers that you use on your lawn could harm or kill your landscape plants and trees. Many times the synthetic chemical fertilizers used on Bermuda lawns will kill St Augustine lawns.
For the four years of your organic program we recommend that you spread 15 - 20 lbs of organic fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of lawn and garden three to four times a year; (Winter - February, Spring - April or May, Summer - July and Fall - September or October.)
Step 2 - Organic Weed Control
We use corn gluten meal (CGM) is an organic substitute for synthetic pre-emergence herbicides. Pre-emergence herbicides attack seeds while they're still in the ground, before the seedlings emerge from the soil. CGM is a by-product of commercial corn milling that contains the protein fraction of the corn. Its use poses no health risk to people or animals. In fact, because it is 60% protein, corn gluten meal is used as feed for cattle, poultry, fish, and dogs. In addition to the 60% protein, corn gluten meal is 10% nitrogen and will give your lawn (and existing weeds) an organic green up.
The use of corn gluten meal as an herbicide was discovered during turfgrass disease research conducted at Iowa State University by Dr Nick Chirtstians. CGM was observed to prevent grass seeds from sprouting. Further research has shown that it also effectively prevents other seeds from sprouting, including seeds from many weeds such as crabgrass, chickweed, and dandelions and many other broadleaf weeds.
Corn gluten meal is effective only against seeds, not existing plants. Annual weeds that are already up and growing will not be killed by products made of corn gluten meal. Many will die on their own, though, by the end of fall. But most of the seeds they produce later in the season shouldn't sprout - provided you've applied the CGM properly and at the correct time.
Existing perennial weeds such as crabgrass and dallisgrass won't be damaged by CGM, either. And, they'll still come back from one year to the next because their roots survive most winters. What corn gluten meal will do is stop the seeds they shed each summer, so the population of these particular weeds won't increase. In fact, because some will die of "natural" causes, and if you stay on a good organic program, you will thicken up your lawn turf to the pont where their numbers will be chocked out by healthy grass after three or four years of consistent CGM use.
Corn Gluten Meal is most effective as an organic weed pre-emergent when applied at 20 - 22 lbs per 1,000 sq ft of turf. Because we do not have a long sustained time of freeze in North Texas, but have weeds germinating 12 months out of the year, we recommend 3 to 4 treatments of CGM per year; (Winter - February, Spring - March or April, Early Fall - September, Late Fall - October or early November.) Most Bermuda lawns need the recommended four treatments. Healthy St Augustine lawns, because they are a thicker turf that naturally crowds out weed germination, usually only need 3 CGM treatments a year.
Post-emergent weed control is treating those weeds that already exist. You can easily detect weeds during the winter months of year because Bermuda and St Augustine grasses are dormant and brown in color while the weeds are green and easy to spot. Organic post-emergent weed control is a non selective herbicide, usually a mixture of orange oil, 10% vinegar and yucca, and only weeds are treated and not the entire lawn. Because your lawn is a dormant brown and your weeds are green and growing, now is the best time for us to apply a safe, non toxic post emergent treatment on your lawn. The post emergent will kill the existing weeds without damaging your lawn.
Step 3- Lawn Aeration
Your grass needs water, nutrients, and....oxygen. Oxygen is held in the spaces between the particles of the soil. In sandy soils, there are lots of spaces, and therefore, lots of oxygen in the soil for your lawn's roots. Oxygen is plentiful in soils that are rich in organic matter, too. In North Texas, we have compacted soil with lots of clay and rock content. The solution is lawn aeration.Core lawn aeration can benefit your lawn by:
- Increases water, nutrient and oxygen movement into the soil.
- Improves the turf's root system.
- Enhances infiltration of rainfall or irrigation.
- Prevents fertilizer and pesticide run-off from overly compacted areas.
- Helps decrease thatch buildup.
Step 4 - Compost Tea & Foliar Fertilization Spray
The most important part of organic gardening is to nourish the soil. Your plants will take their nourishment from the soil, and will only be as healthy as the soil is. The healthier your plants, the fewer of them will fall victim to garden pests. The soil, therefore, is the most important part of organic lawn care and gardening. Feed the soil, and the soil will feed the plants. Feed the soil compost tea, and you will have healthy, productive plants.
Our aerated compost tea is a quick uptake of nutrients that has a biomass inoculation. We make sure that you have plenty of micro organisms, beneficial fungi, and beneficial bacteria that aid in the population of your macro organisms; i.e. earthworms, and other beneficial insets, etc. A quick search on the internet will reveal to you all the benefits of a regular monthly appilcation of aerated compost tea on your lawn and flowerbeds.Some of the benefits from using activated compost tea are:
- More life and better bio diversity in soil, adds nutrients (biology) to the soil
- Deeper root growing system with your turf and perennials and more stress tolerance against dry periods and drought
- Higher water holding capacity of the soil because of life building soil structure , which means more efficient watering and less watering of your lawn and shrubs
- A better teamwork and uptake of nutrients between plant and soil life
- Decomposition of dead plant material is increased , your lawn clippings break down into plant usable food and reduces thatch build up in your lawn, also helps mulch in your flowerbed to be breakdown so the mulch will feed your shrubs, trees, and perennials
- Enhances organic taste of fruits and vegetables
- Soil structure is improved
- The natural nutrient cycle is established
All four steps are the foundation of Spriggs Brothers Annual Organic Program. Call us today, 972 /3290-9362, to get started on greening up your lawn the Natural Way!