Lawns & Landscapes

You want to make your lawns and landscapes — the places where your children play and your vegetables grow — as safe as possible. Our landscaping blog provides the ideas, information and practical experience, to help you do it.

Share tips and ask questions over at our Lawn Care Forum. Because, the grass doesn’t always have to grow greener next door!

Organic Lawn Care 101 – Lawn Maintenance

Lawn CareThe Grass is Greener … and Safer!

Lawns may have been invented in Europe, but they’ve reached their apotheosis in North America. For those in the U.S. of A, that green, green grass ranks right up there with apple pie, backyard barbecues and softball. For Canadians it’s proof of place, both a responsibility and a privilege, like wearing decent clothes when you leave the house. Keep your teeth clean and your grass green. In the lower 48 states and much of southern Canada, grass is practically an obsession.

The problem with the perfect lawn is that it wreaks havoc on both your wallet and the environment. Between 30 and 40 million acres of land in the U.S. are devoted to turfgrass (see Curbing the Lawn), and Americans collectively spend big bucks — about $40 billion annually — on seed, sod and chemicals. In Canada, which has around one tenth the population of the U.S., sales from all lawn care products have risen steadily over the past five years, to over $2 billion by 2007. (more…)

Tips To Save Water This Summer

WateringLawn and garden watering jumps in the summer. Here’s how to save water and money at the same time.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 30% to 70% of the water consumed by America’s residential homes is used outdoors. Summertime lawn and garden watering can multiply household water use two to four times over what is used the rest of the year.

The shocker: half the water used outdoors is wasted.

While the EPA’s website on outdoor water use is promoting their “Water Sense” certification of approved products — and using the highest quality, water-wise products can make a difference — much of water conservation comes from the design of your landscape, especially the plants you choose to grow, and the ways water is applied to that landscape. (more…)

Rain Garden Design

Rain Garden PlantsHow to design environmentally friendly, water-efficient gardens using natural rainfall.

Rain gardens catch and channel the environment’s natural precipitation, delivering it where it will most benefit our plants. At the same time they protect the environment by keeping polluted runoff out of municipal storm sewers. They allow water to percolate into the soil where its needed, avoiding erosion. A well-designed rain garden is sustainable, requiring little or no additional water to maintain life.

Unlike active rainwater harvesting, where runoff from roofs, pavement, and other impermeable surfaces is collected and stored in barrels and cisterns, passive rainwater collection takes moisture when it falls and puts it to best use. But its water may also be collected from those impermeable surfaces, like driveways, and channeled directly to growing things. (more…)

Rainwater Harvesting

Harvesting RainwaterHow to reduce water use, save money, and fight drought by harvesting and collecting rainwater.

Rainwater collection and storage systems capture a gift from the sky. They’ve been used for centuries where and when rains are absent. Today, in the face of persistent drought and depleted aquifers, rain water harvesting makes more sense than ever.

No matter how it’s collected or what it’s used for, utilizing rainwater lessens the pressure on our water supply. Rainwater harvest is appropriate in desert climates with monsoon seasons or infrequent thunderstorms as well as regions with adequate rainfall. Like solar-generated electricity stored in a battery, harvested rainwater is there when you need it. (more…)

Gardening Reality Check

Cabbage ProblemsNo one said gardening is a bed of roses.

Your enthusiastic Planet Natural blogger writes a lot about the joys of gardening, how it enriches our lives, provides us exercise, and gives us measures of success. Sometimes those measures don’t exactly come in heaping spoonfuls.

Frustration and disappointment are part of gardening, too. Setbacks, mistakes, and out-and-out failure are part of every growing season. Gardening doesn’t promise you a rose garden.

This early in the gardening season (June before the solstice), after everything’s been sown and transplanted, gardeners face a dose of reality. Not every plant we set out survives to give us beautiful blossoms or a bountiful harvest. (more…)

Take Action To Save Pollinators

Bee PollinationPlants that bring bees, butterflies, and other pollinators to your garden can help save them.

It’s the time of year when air-borne pollinators are buzzing and humming and hovering all over our gardens. Honey bees are working the purple orbs atop chive stalks, wild bees are crawling the first pale, stem-bound blossoms of a potted rosemary plant, hummingbirds are working trumpet-shaped azalea blossoms, and various-sized and colored wasps are busy visiting flowers of all sorts blooming in our yards and landscapes.

Earlier in the season, the bees were all over our apple blossoms. Not long from now, they’ll be in the pea blossoms while butterflies will be tracing twisted, sunlit paths above our heads. They’ll all be doing the work of pollination, the natural process so important to the plants that feed us and bring us beauty. (more…)

Gardening and the Five-Gallon Bucket

5 Gallon BucketChores, container gardens and other uses for 5 gallon buckets.

After our post on garden tools, a friend mentioned that we’d left out an important one: the five-gallon bucket. “Gardeners are doing things with buckets that we can’t imagine,” he enthused. “It’s truly the tool of a thousand uses. And there are uses still out there that no one has yet dreamed.”

He might be exaggerating. But buckets of all sorts are utility tools, good for carrying, mixing, and picking up. And if they’re used, food-grade 5 gallon buckets (no one needs to tell you to stay away from those that held paint or other toxic materials), then you’re making a contribution to sustainability by keeping those buckets out of the landfill. (more…)

Early Season Fruit Thinning

Pear TreeThinning emerging apples, peaches and other fruits early in the season improves size, quality and future blooming.

A friend who grew up on an acreage tells us how his favorite apple tree — he doesn’t remember what kind — produced clusters of small, under-sized apples. Some of the fruit developed brown spots, probably apple scab from the way he describes it. His story made us wonder: why was this his favorite apple tree? (Answer: it was the furthest away from the house and offered him a shady, quiet place to escape his younger siblings and read, either sitting on the ground against the trunk or up in its welcoming branches.) (more…)

Using Fish and Seaweed Fertilizers

Using Fish EmulsionNutrient-rich fish and seaweed fertilizers make the garden grow.

Many of us are reaching that point in the gardening season — two weeks after plants emerge from the soil — when we’re ready to apply the first round of fertilizer. To a lot of us, that means applying fish fertilizer.

Now a lot of our gardening friends don’t think we’re in our right mind when we let our enthusiasm for fish fertilizers show. They’ll ask, why would you want to mess with that smelly stuff when there’s a granular, organic, slow-release nutrient formula that will pretty much do the same thing and with half the effort?

The answer, of course, can be found in the results. (more…)

Timing Important for Pest and Disease Problems

Plant ProblemSpring is the time to deal with caterpillars, black spot on roses, and other plant problems.

The use of natural and organic methods for pest and disease controls on lawns and gardens is time sensitive, more so than using chemical sprays that will persist in the landscape. Whether you’re using beneficial insects to fight off a an aphid infestation, liquid copper to rid your roses of fungus or disease, or applying Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) to do in cabbage worms, timing is everything. And early in the season — springtime — is often the right time to prevent problems down the road. (more…)

Springtime Care of Roses

Springtime RosesPruning and fertilizing of rose bushes rewards with rich, sumptuous blooms.

April is the time in many places to get your rose bushes prepared for the growing season. The spring pruning and feeding of roses is rewarded with vigorous new growth and blossoms.

Even if you live in an area where roses are showing signs of green growth and budding — and that happened early in some parts of the country this year — it’s not too late to clean them up a bit. Giving a rose bush shape and removing second-year growth (and older if your plants have been neglected) not only help strengthen the plant but increase it’s flower power in years to come. (more…)

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