Organic Lawns, Healthy Soil

Sprinkler FunBy Bill Kohlhaase, Planet Natural

Here’s something of a Zen puzzle for you. The key to a healthy lawn is healthy, organic soil. And the key to healthy soil is a healthy, organic lawn.

Confused? Don’t be. Organic lawn care starts and ends with healthy soil, soil that is full of nutrients for both grass and the microorganisms that call your dirt their home; soil that is not compromised with toxins and synthetic chemicals that destroy those microorganisms. And nothing contributes to the health of your soil more than a thick, rich organic lawn, one that returns organic nutrients to your soil. In this win-win situation, organic lawn care can actually give you a more vibrant lawn than you would have with regular applications of commercial fertilizer.

To put it another way, the organic lawn is a self-sustaining lawn. (more…)

Organic Lawn Maintenance

Lawn MaintenanceWeeding, Watering and Mowing

By Bill Kohlhaase, Planet Natural

Your new organic lawn is up and growing. Or you’ve cut out using herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers on your established lawn. Congratulations! Now what do you do to maintain your organic lawn in a way that’s best for it?

Not surprisingly, what you do to keep up your organic lawn is pretty much the same as you would with a traditional lawn. One difference? It may be less work to keep up your organic lawn. How is that possible? By using spring and fall applications of compost, by returning your grass clippings back to your lawn, by proper watering you will have a rich, thick cover of grass that will crowd out weeds and discourage pests. And you thought this would be difficult. (more…)

How I Learned to Love My Reel Mower

Reel Lawn MowingAll you need to know about buying & using a push reel mower.

I live in a subdivision in Bozeman, Montana where the grass is always greener in the neighbor’s yard, but somehow always longer in mine. Everybody’s expected to keep up with the Jones’ when it comes to keeping a clean and orderly yard — which means lots of weed control as well as trimming the blades of grass to near golf-course perfection.

But, as my neighborhood has filled in with houses, I’ve realized how much time and effort we’ve all been putting into our lawns. The guy down the street has one of those mini-tractor jobs. The family across from me uses the old self-propelled model that’s heavy and although it’s motorized, you still have to push pretty hard to get it to go anywhere. Our yards are alive with the high-pitched whine of motorized lawn mowers every summer. (more…)

Lawn Care Tips

Lawn CareWhether you’re looking for the perfect lawn or just trying to keep the neighbors from calling, our collection of 25 tips should help. Enjoy!

1. Before watering your lawn, check the soil moisture with a trowel. The top 2-3 inches should feel almost dry before adding any more water.

2. After watering, test the soil. If it isn’t wet 4-6 inches down, continue watering until it is. Grass roots will grow deeper and the lawn will be healthier.

3. Watering between 4 and 9 a.m. helps ensure that the sun won’t rob moisture from your lawn. (more…)

The Grass is Greener with Organic Lawn Care

Backyard FunWhat’s there not to like about an organic lawn? It’s relatively cheap. It’s better for the environment and it takes less work than your traditional well-manicured turf.

Americans take their lawns seriously. Lawns used to be for the wealthy who hired a staff to maintain the grounds of their estates. Now they are for everyone. The great equalizer was the invention of the push mower in the 1870’s by Elwood McGuire of Richmond, Indiana. (Before that, a common and labor-intensive way to trim lawns was to use scythes.) Today, U.S. homeowners spend more than $17 billion on outdoor home improvements, including lawn care.

While many of us spend a lot to get our grass mowed, fertilized and sprayed with chemicals to deter weeds and troublesome insects, it doesn’t have to be so.

The good news is that going organic makes good sense when it comes to lawn care. It takes less effort and makes for a lawn that’s safer for you, your family and your pets. (more…)

Dangerous Backyards

Spreading Lawn FertilizerLawn Chemicals Could Risk Your Family’s Health

By Bill Kohlhaase, Planet Natural

The most important reason to keep an organic lawn? The health of your family. The second? The health of your planet. If you think those two reasons are one and the same, you’re right. Traditional lawn care products that use synthetic fertilizers and chemical herbicides not only put your family and pets at risk but endanger the world at large. That’s something we all want to avoid.

Stories about the dangerous consequences of lawn chemicals abound. Nearly 50 school children in Ohio developed symptoms of poisoning after herbicides were sprayed near their school. A professional skater makes a claim in Newsweek that her health was “destroyed” after exposure to pesticides sprayed on a neighbor’s lawn (her dog died the same day). Seven dogs die after eating paraquat herbicide in Portland, Oregon park. A noted soil scientist warns the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture that a popular dandelion spray may cause infertility and spontaneous abortion. (more…)

Growing a Natural Lawn

Playing in the GrassHomeowners choose to maintain an organic or natural lawn for different reasons. For some, it is a commitment to the environment — pesticides and herbicides used in traditional lawn care leach into the water table contaminating it for people, animals and plants.

Others are concerned with how pesticides and herbicides affect the pets and kids that play on their lawns. And some people just don’t want to handle chemicals designed to kill living things.

There’s also the cost — both in time and money. Lawn chemicals can get expensive, and who wants to spend every weekend mowing the lawn? Natural lawns tend to require less mowing, which means more leisure time for you!

Whatever your reason, natural lawn care is easiest if you take the time to create a healthy environment that grasses thrive in. (more…)

Grow Light Coverage

Light CoverageSupplying adequate light coverage for strong, healthy growth is critical to the indoor gardener. Using a light that is too small can result in uneven growth and weakened plants. Using too large a lamp can result in burn or other damage as well as wasted electricity. Deciding which High Intensity Discharge Light to use doesn’t have to be difficult. The size of your indoor garden will determine what wattage system you should purchase. The chart below gives general guidelines for the area coverage a particular lamp will provide. Plants such as tomatoes or basil that need strong, direct light will do best in the primary areas shown in blue. Most salad greens and other leafy plants including kale and spinach will find all the light they require in supplementary areas shown in white.

A number of variables including the type of reflector used, the reflective qualities of the grow room walls, and distance of plants from the light source will affect the amount of light that reaches your plants. The intensity of the light is greatest near the bulb and diminishes relatively quickly as the distance between source and plant increases. To avoid burning plants — HID lamps are also a source of heat as well as light — follow the chart to keep your lamp a safe distance from tender plant tops. You can generally determine if your plants are a safe distance from the lamp by putting the back of your hand level with the plants to test for a comfortable temperature. (more…)

Plant Propagation 101

Plant PropagationPropagating plants is an inexpensive and easy way to get new plants from plants you already have. This asexual means of reproduction produces a plant that is genetically identical to its parent.

There are a variety of plant propagation tools and methods; from taking cuttings to layering to dividing and more. The technique you select will depend on the type of plant you wish to propagate and the amount of time and effort you want to put into it.

Cuttings

One of the most amazing things about plants is that every cell has the ability to duplicate all parts and functions of the plant. By taking a cutting of a leaf or stem and creating the right conditions, you can create an entirely new plant (see Plant Anatomy Basics). (more…)

Let There Be Plant Light

Indoor Plant LightingIndoor plant lights let you shine a light where and when the sun don’t shine. They allow you to extend the growing season; have a year-round supply of fresh flowers, vegetables and herbs; as well as give your seedlings a head start before you can plant them outside.

There are almost as many kinds of grow lights for sale as there are different light spectrums. Everything from a simple $5 incandescent lamp to a sophisticated system using high intensity discharge (HID) lamps can help.

Here’s a rundown on what is available, how much it costs as well as the pro’s and con’s of different types of plant lighting:

Incandescent. Incandescent lamps lay at the low end of the pricing spectrum for plant lights. A good 150 watt bulb will only set you back about $5. You can get such bulbs from a local hardware store or a large nursery. An incandescent lamp can keep a small house plant growing, but isn’t necessarily your best bet for starting a large garden indoors. (more…)

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