Everyday Gardeners

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Ready, set, grow!

When these blooms fall to the ground, put down your weed preventer.

This is the lone forsythia bush in my yard. Of course, the bright yellow blooms are an awesome, welcome sight in spring for gardeners hungry to get their hands dirty. But I have it there for another reason: it’s a “phenological indicator”. That’s what the geeks say, instead of just calling it a biological clock. It’s long been understood that plants and animals react in predictable ways to warmth, and you can use that fact to help time various gardening activities. In this case, you can use forsythia to time your weed preventer applications for lawns. Crabgrass seeds germinate just about the time forsythia blooms drop from the plant. And you need the weed preventer on the ground before the seeds begin to grow. Many other garden pests can be timed this way too. Check with your local cooperative extension office or master gardener program. They often can tell you when pests typically are active. Just take a look around your garden at those times, and make note of what’s in bloom. Chances are, that will serve as a good guide to when you should apply a controls.
The real reason this is so helpful is that you rarely see pests until it’s too late to control them (or control them easily). Once a borer is inside your cucumber vine, it’s too late. Once weed seeds have germinated, weed preventers are ineffective. So timing is everything.

There’s a New Fertilizer in Town

Today my fellow BHG garden editors and I had a special guest: The folks from Sustane popped down (from my home state of Minnesota) to talk about their line of natural, organic fertilizers. Sustane has been around for a while, but mainly in the professional arena: Golf courses, commercial agriculture, etc.

For spring of 2013, the company is releasing a couple of mixes designed specifically for home gardeners like you and me. The product is made from turkey litter, the company representatives told us, and fully composted at about 150 degrees for about half a year. That makes the nutrients available almost right away when you go to use it.

They talked a lot about organic fertilizers, of course, and their benefits: They help build the soil profile, they’re much less likely to run off into our water supply, and it’s tough to burn your plants by using too much. Organic matter, especially compost like this, also encourages beneficial microorganisms in the soil — and they can help your plants resist disease better.

I like that the company is using a waste product — turkey litter and droppings — and turning it into something useful. And I like the idea of using a natural product that’s not overly produced.

Happily, they provided samples so this spring I’ll get to try it out!

What do you think? Do you fertilize your garden? If so, does organic or synthetic matter to you? Comment below !

Categories: Sneak Peak | Tags: ,

crabgrass season is here

A clump of crabgrass in a browned-out lawn

Late August is prime time for crabgrass. The yellow green foliage and forked seed heads are especially evident in lawns browned out from hot, dry summer weather conditions.

However, late summer is not the time to control crabgrass. It’s an annual, and will die with the first frosts of fall. But prior to that, it will spread thousands of seeds ready to germinate next spring.

Last year the crabgrass got out of control in my yard, so I vowed to do something about it this year, despite the fact that my lawn is the poor stepchild of my garden. I admit that the perennial beds and shrub borders receive a lot more attention than my lawn. It’s hard not to play favorites! The lawn usually survives with periodic mowing, no fertilization, no watering, and spotty weed control. (I use a dandelion puller, and often hand weed the black medic and oxalis that pop up in the grass.)

GreenView crabgrass control and fertilizer

This spring I agreed to try GreenView’s Crabgrass Control Plus Lawn Food. This slow-release fertilizer and crabgrass control combination is supposed to prevent crabgrass and many other annual weeds all season long, and has the benefit of slow-release fertilizer to promote sustained growth of grass. The time to apply the crabgrass preventer is in early spring before the soil warms to 50 degrees F, which is usually about the time that forsythias bloom.

I was pleased with the results. The grass in the lawn was thicker and greener than in the past, with no sudden flush of growth. And crabgrass has remained mostly under control. (In some of the worst sections, I saw some seedlings sprouting in mid-July, so I applied some corn gluten meal to those areas to prevent further sprouting of the crabgrass.) Since then, I’ve been easily able to keep up with hand weeding the occasional crabgrass seedling that pops up in the lawn.

This fall, I’ll apply the GreenView Fall Lawn Food to give the lawn a boost going into winter. And next year, I’m looking forward to a much-reduced crabgrass crop because I’ve been able to stop it dead in its tracks this year.

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