Nice Green & Beautiful Landscaping Blog

Front Yard Landscaping

Posted in Uncategorized by nicegreenbeautiful on July 22, 2011
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Did you know that a well thought out front yard landscape is worth more in terms of value of your house than kitchen or bathroom remodeling?  Or that the an attractive front yard landscape design will net you up to four times your initial investment when you sell?  These alone are two compelling reasons to start today on a comprehensive plan to fix what’s wrong in your front yard landscape today!  Pursuant to that, I have scoured the net and my large cache of gardening books and compiled a list of the top 5 things we can all do that are inexpensive, relatively easy, and  will improve the looks and hopefully the functionality of our properties practically overnight! 

FIX-UP #1 – CLEAN IT UP!  And I mean, really clean it up.  Look at your house and yard.  Unless you have the mow and blow guys in there every week, and a maid that does windows, I bet there’s something you can do out there.  Rake and dethatch the lawn, sweep the walks and driveway, clean the siding, wash the windows, fix or replace torn screens, trim the hedges, sweep the roof, clean the gutters, mulch the flower beds, throw away junk…..all this requires labor, but very little cash, and who couldn’t do with more exercise?  If the house needs painting and you can’t afford it right now, paint the trim only – even that will make a big difference.

FIX-UP #2 – INVEST IN SOME DETAILING:  Here you will have to do some spending, but nothing extraordinary.  Get a hose reel if you don’t already have one so that the water hose is not always tangled up in a heap in the yard.  Replace that ragged water spigot with a nice, new shiny one.  Buy or make a unique address marker to hang on the house.  Put inexpensive hose guides in strategic places so you won’t squash your new landscape with the hose when watering.  Replace the mailbox if it is worn or crooked or outdated. Details, details, details – every little thing you do to make the outdoors convenient and attractive will enhance the value of your house, and people will notice!

FIX-UP #3 – THE FRONT DOOR:   The front door is the focal point for the entire front part of the house, and as such it gets it’s own space in the top 5.  Take a good look at your front door.  If it needs paint, absolutely paint it.  Install a peephole if you don’t already have one.  Thoroughly clean any glass on or around the door.  Clean the stoop or porch or whatever your entry way is completely and do any repairs, cleaning, painting or caulking needed.  Add a doorbell or attractive door knocker if you don’t already have that, or find yourself an attractive season-appropriate wreath to hang on the door. Polish or replace the door hardware if it looks worn or dirty.  Buy a new door mat in an attractive style.  The object is to make that door the most attractive and delightful door that it can be!  Don’t forget the immediate area just outside the door, either.  Put a couple of attractive inexpensive pots with bright flowers in them just outside the front door, and keep them watered and in good condition to make the entryway look attractive and well-kept. If the door configuration doesn’t allow that, maybe a hanging fern somewhere nearby. Tall wrought iron hanging plant holders are available at any home improvement center that can be very attractive when hung with beautiful plant specimens for those with limited space or small stoops

FIX-UP #4 – THE BONES OF THE GARDEN:  Once you are done with the first three steps, your front yard might look so much better that you don’t need much else, but if you do feel the urge to do more, the next step is to analyze the bones, or permanent structures in the yard.  These are the trees, larger shrubs, driveway, and walkways that would be left if everything else was stripped away.  Designing a cohesive structure in the yard is not horribly difficult if you follow a few simple rules. Well done stone or brick walls and well-placed trees can add 5% to the selling price of a home, and strategically-placed trees and large shrubs can cut utility costs, reduce noise, and prevent erosion.  Plantings should frame the home, not overwhelm it.  If the home is a formal, symmetrical design with the door in the middle, then plantings should be symmetric on either side of the door.  If the door is off center, then a large plant on one side with smaller plants of about the same visual weight on the other side works well.  Regardless of the style, tie it all in together with the same type of mulch, and border each side with the same type of plant, or repeat different plants on both sides.  All plantings should visually lead the visitor to the front door.  A rule of thumb as far as this is to draw an imaginary line from a few feet under the roof line diagonally down to the stoop in the middle of the front door, and don’t plant anything higher than that imaginary line in any given place.  This creates a visual that points the visitor right to the front door and also hopefully prevents the gardener from planting varieties that will grow too big and overwhelm the door.  Don’t forget lighting, which should also gently guide towards the front door.  Although lighting will be covered in depth in a separate page later, check your options and try to avoid the runway look when choosing lighting.  Landscape lighting should be subtle and inviting, not glaring and overpowering.  In any event, use your creativity and individual style, but keep your yard design as maintenance friendly as possible because you don’t want to end up with too much garden to maintain properly or you could actually run the risk of reducing the value of the house. 

FIX-UP #5 – THE PLANTS:  You now have a blank canvas with the skeleton in place.  Choosing and placing the plants is the fun part, but beware, there are pitfalls to consider.  Specific plants and their growing requirements are spread out all over this site, so for the purposes of this page we will just do general guidelines here. Keep in mind that the main function of your front yard landscape should be to frame the house and to guide people to the door in a pleasing way.  It’s that simple.  You can choose formal or informal as described above, or you can go with a natural or wildlife landscape, but be aware that these are not always the most well-kept looking gardens around unless done really well.  With a big yard, English style gardens are wonderful, and if you are a real yard lover with a house with a Japanese bent,  a Japanese Garden would be a nice choice for you.  Choose shrubs and flowers with varying textures and colors, but don’t go crazy with it.  Dark colors like blue and purple make a small space look larger, and bright colors like yellow and red make the space look closer.  Use uniform borders for beds bordering the house and for any island plantings in only a few choice colors, and repeat those colors wherever appropriate throughout the yard.  Don’t do your plant shopping at the nursery, but rather do your homework first and go to the nursery informed and looking for specific plants.  Don’t forget perennials and bulbs in your plan, as many are low-maintenance and provide excellent color and form year after year.  Similarly, climbers are almost a must for smaller spaces to provide vertical interest and screening for unsightly areas.  Also consider the winter scene when choosing plants for the landscape.  You may have a beautiful Hosta garden with Hydrangeas and Impatiens in the spring and summer, but when winter comes, there won’t be a single stick of winter interest in that bed.  Also consider one fabulous focal point such as a great birdbath or an ornamental tree with interesting bark or winter form to set your yard apart from the rest. 

So that’s it folks – Good Luck, and do visit the individual plant profiles already provided all over this site.  There’s more to come, so do bookmark and come back soon!

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How often should you mow a lawn?

Posted in Uncategorized by nicegreenbeautiful on July 15, 2011

How often should you mow a lawn? How often you mow your grass depends on the growing season and the climate, but most of the time, once every ten days or so will maintain a nice lawn. When asked how often…

When asked how often you should mow a lawn, Merrideth Jiles, who is the garden center manager at The Great Outdoors Nursery and Landscaping Center in Austin, Texas, replies, “The classic answer – it depends. How often you should mow a lawn really depends on what season it is and how fast your lawn is growing. In the middle of spring, when grass is really growing mowing the lawn more than once a week is definitely too much.”

Jiles goes on to say, “For most of the year, mowing the lawn every two weeks is okay. I find quite often, in mid-July through August, there is not much of a need for mowing, maybe once in that six-week period, unless you happen to get a lot of rain.” Keeping your grass higher during these mid to late summer months helps to discourage weed infestation as well as protect the soil against the typical drying heat. Jiles also states that you should “maybe mow once in the winter, depending on where you live”. In even warmer climates, there may not be a need to mow your lawn at all during the winter months and as long as the grass doesn’t get to long due to a lot of rain and/or it being unseasonably hot, mowing should be avoided. Similar to the other mentioned times of the year, this is because leaving it longer will help strengthen and protect it, enabling it to thrive during its true growing season. This may seem contradictory, but it if you really think about it, it makes sense.
In order to ensure a lush and healthy lawn for years to come, it needs to be able to thrive during its prime-growing season. You would not want to stunt its growth. It is a general agreement between most experts that the higher you keep your lawn during the spring, the stronger it becomes and the more likely it will survive an unforeseen drought during the summer months.

One standard to consider when deciding on how often you should mow a lawn is to make sure that only a quarter to a third of the total height of the grass is cut off at one time. If you wait for it to grow longer, not only do the clippings look bad, they can smother the grass that is growing underneath them. Mow sooner and you can lessen the lawn’s strength.

The exact height of which you should keep your lawn at depends upon the type of grass you have and the season, as well as your individual preference. Most “standards” call for a length of anywhere between 1 and 1/2 to 3 inches depending upon the type and the time of year that it is. Following along with these “guidelines”, the actual height of your lawn is then dependent on what you personally feel looks the best. Jiles says, “I think for most homeowners, about every 10 days to every few weeks through the growing season is adequate for keeping your lawn maintained.”

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Poison In The Grass: The Hazards And Consequences Of Lawn Pesticides

Posted in Uncategorized by nicegreenbeautiful on July 8, 2011
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Nathan Diegelman
The S.T.A.T.E. Foundation

As the use of lawn chemicals and pesticides has grown, questions have arisen regarding safety hazards and environmental consequences. This report gives factual findings to help answer many of these concerns. Some of them may seem shocking, since the chemical pesticide industry has made every effort to keep this information from the public. Everything that follows in this report is documented and supported by the U.S. Federal Government, private agencies, and other experts.

Contrary to what lawn “care” companies would like people to believe, herbicides (weed killers) and other pesticides are not “magic bullets”. They are broad spectrum biocides, and by their very nature can harm organisms other than targeted species. This includes homeowners and their families, neighbors, pets, and all other forms of life. The pesticide industry downplays this by claiming their chemicals are heavily diluted, but doesn’t mention the toxins are still extremely dangerous in small amounts. They also are unwilling to mention all of what is in their mixtures. Many components are classified as “inert”, which allows them to be kept hidden from the public and not listed on product labels. These are more than just fillers or solvents. “Inert” does not mean “inactive” – some, such as benzene and xylene, are more toxic than listed chemicals.(1,2)

Listed chemicals can be just as dangerous. They include components of war-time defoliants like Agent Orange, nerve-gas type insecticides, and artificial hormones. Some the Federal Government has even prohibited from use on it’s own property. Many pesticides are not safe when dry. Water evaporates, but most pesticides remain and continue to release often odorless and invisible toxic vapors. In areas where lawn spraying is common, they accumulate in a toxic smog throughout the entire season. Some pesticides remain active for years after application. DDT is still showing up in higher rates in women’s breast milk than the government permits in cow’s milk.(4) Fat soluble pesticides accumulate over time in our bodies, then are released at potentially toxic levels when illness or stress results in our fat reserves being metabolised. A large portion of a woman’s lifetime exposure to such pesticides is released in the breast milk for her firstborn child.(37)

It is a violation of U.S. Federal law to claim pesticides are “safe when used as directed” since nothing can assure safety.(2,3,5) (However, Agriculture Canada, the federal agency responsible until recently for licensing pesticides in Canada, routinely used this statement, adding for good measure that “most pesticides are safer than table salt”. Fortunately, pesticides in Canada are now licensed by Health Canada.) Some pesticides labeled “bio-degradable” degrade into compounds more dangerous than the original. Examples include Mancozeb, which degrades into a substance that is an EPA-classified probable carcinogen.(6) The pesticide industry also implies that “organic” means safe and natural (for example, “Nature’s Lawn”), knowing that the term legally may be applied to any compound containing carbon and hydrogen. ChemLawn and other lawn “care” companies and manufacturers have often been sued for fictitious claims.(5-14)

Many applicators are just as conniving and deceitful, using statements like “absolutely cannot harm children or pets” and “perfectly safe for the environment” to mislead the public. The New York State Attorney General’s Office sued Dow Elanco chemical company when they claimed that Dursban shows “no evidence of significant risk to the environment” when right on the label is stated “this pesticide is toxic to birds and extremely toxic to fish and aquatic organisms”.(15) A few years later on May 2, 1995, the EPA fined Dow Elanco for “failing to report to the Agency information on adverse health effects (to humans) over the past decade involving a number of pesticides, including chlorpyrifos (brand name Dursban)”. Most of the information came from personal injury claims against Dow Elanco which the company had hidden from the EPA. Now it is even being found that chlorpyrifos causes multiple sclerosis.(38)

Some companies have even made claims that their products better the environment. “Funk” lawn care of New York has coined the phrase “Growing A Better Environment” in order to fool consumers into believing lawn chemicals pose no ecological harm. Another states “a 50-by-50 foot lawn produces enough oxygen to sustain a family of four.” But this is only true with a plot of land that has tall grass and no lawn care. Pesticides, lawnmower fumes and common lawn care practices actually create a net destruction of oxygen.(16)

The United States General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, has also tried to alert the public to lawn chemical dangers. GAO’s undercover team noted many fictitious claims by many in the lawn “care” industry.(35) Many included illegal claims of product safety. Others were just deceiving, such as the ChemLawn claim that a child would have to ingest ten cups of treated grass clippings to equal the toxicity of one baby aspirin. In fact, the real danger is not that people will be grazing the lawn but that most poisonings come from inhaling pesticide residues or absorbing them through the skin.(6,7,10)

Most do-it-yourselfers are just as ignorant when it comes to proper protection and safety precautions. Studies show most don’t even look at the warnings on their toxins. They don’t wear gloves, goggles, or protective clothing to decrease exposure. Worse, many don’t keep people off the contaminated area after chemicals are applied. Homeowners commonly use up to ten times as much pesticides per acre as farmers.(7,17) A Virginia Tech study for the state legislature found that most homeowners have no idea how much nitrogen they use when fertilizing and that they apply chemicals in ways that damage water supplies.(18)

Pesticides drift and settle during application. In the Antarctic ice pack alone there are 2.4 million pounds of DDT and its metabolites from years past.(26) Pesticides engulf the home and are easily tracked inside, readily inhaled and absorbed through the skin. They do harm by attacking the central nervous system and other essential organs. Symptoms of pesticide poisoning are often deceptively simple, commonly mis-diagnosed as flu or allergies. They include, but are not limited to, headaches, nausea, fever, breathing difficulties, seizures, eye pains, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, sore nose, tongue, or throat; burning skin, rashes, coughing, muscle pain, tissue swelling, blurred vision, numbness and tingling in hands or feet, incontinence, anxiety, irritability, sleep disorders, hyperactivity, fatigue, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, spontaneous bleeding, and temporary paralysis. Long-term consequences include lowered fertility, birth defects, miscarriages, blindness, liver and kidney dysfunction, neurological damage, heart trouble, stroke, immune system disorders, menstrual problems, memory loss, suicidal depression, cancer, and death. The National Academy of Sciences reports that at least one out of seven people are significantly harmed by pesticide exposure each year.(3) Increasingly, reports from many people around the country are “beginning to link feeling terrible with the fact the neighbors had the lawn sprayed the day before”, notes Catherine Karr, a toxicologist for the National Coalition Against The Misuse Of Pesticides.(7) Unfortunately, except for industrial accidents, tests for pesticide poisoning are rarely performed, partially because they are expensive. Doctors also attribute them to stress, allergies, influenza, or an overactive imagination.(3)

Many Americans are developing Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), a bizarre and extremely disabling condition. In 1979, the Surgeon General issued a report stating “There is virtually no major chronic disease to which environmental factors do not contribute, directly or indirectly.” Indeed, people today are exposed to synthetic chemicals at levels unmatched at any time throughout human history. Washington Post staff writer Michael Weiskopf noted in a February 10, 1990 article that “hypersensitivity to low levels of toxic chemicals (MCS) is a serious and growing medical problem, threatening to cause significant economic consequences by disabling large numbers of otherwise healthy people.” MCS is a result of the destruction of the body’s ability to tolerate and synthesize chemicals after exposure to toxic substances. Victims develop extreme reactions now not only to lawn pesticides but also hair sprays, perfumes, soaps, formaldehyde, and many other common household products.(5,36) Many victims include former lawn pesticide applicators and users, their families, and children.

Sharon Malhorta, a registered nurse from Pittsburgh, would get so sick from lawn and tree spraying that she had to leave her home every spring. Otherwise she would suffer headaches, paralysis in her hands and feet, and muscle seizures. Repeated exposure caused blurred vision, speech difficulties, and severe stomach cramps. Her husband, a doctor, suspected early on her symptoms were the result of nerve damage from organophosphates, which are widely used nerve-gas type insecticides, like Diazinon. After questioning lawn companies about their products he was told they were “practically nontoxic”, registered by the EPA, and not harmful to people or pets. He later discovered that the chemicals his wife was exposed to were in fact neurotoxins, and was shocked to discover there were surprisingly few EPA studies on their health effects.(19)

Karen James, a Michigan postal worker, successfully sued ChemLawn in 1988. While walking past one of their trucks, a hose ruptured and she was drenched with chemicals. The employee told her not to worry, that only fertilizers were in the spray. But soon after she became seriously ill, and her eyes and skin burned. When her symptoms of fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, and reduced vision didn’t clear up, her doctor called ChemLawn to find out what chemicals she had been exposed to. He was told no pesticides had been involved, but after tests on Karen s body tissue detected high levels of Dursban, ChemLawn admitted the truck contained pesticides. Many other suits against lawn companies are settled out of court. Frequently the settlement restrains the victim from talking about the incident, so the public is not informed.(19)

For the price of green lawns, children are also being poisoned. In 1985 a married couple in Sarasota, Florida, felt pressured by their neighbors to get their lawn treated. They hired a company, never thinking their 2-year-old daughter would be jeopardized. The company declared the yard would be safe about an hour after the chemicals were applied. However, soon after playing barefoot on the grass, the couple’s daughter developed a rash all over her body, her urine turned dark brown, and she ran a high fever. Her doctor prescribed antibiotics, but her condition grew steadily worse. Her hands and feet swelled to twice normal size, blistered, and peeled. Her lips turned black and bled. Years later she is still permanently prone to headaches and has 40% hearing loss in her right ear.(19)

Barry and Jackie Veysey believe lawn chemicals were responsible for the death of their baby son. Barry was a professional turf master, and the chemicals he worked with may have mutated his sperm or poisoned the infant in utero. Every time Jackie washed her husband’s uniforms, the chemicals may have been absorbed through her skin and permeated the placenta. The child was born with a severe and fatal type of dwarfism. Jackie held her son only once before he died due to massive failure of his underdeveloped organs.(19)

Kevin Ryan from Arlington Heights, Illinois, feels like a prisoner in his home. “I can’t even play in my own yard because the neighbors spray their lawns and trees”, he says. Kevin suffered routine chemical exposure as a toddler from lawn spraying, and now suffers nausea, irritability, fatigue, and loss of memory whenever pesticides are nearby. His family moves to Colorado every spring and fall, the peak spraying times of the year, to keep him safe.(19,20)

In 1986, Robin Dudek of Hamburg, New York pulled the garden hose off her lawn and used it to fill a wading pool for her daughters Amanda, 3, and Kristen, 2. Earlier her lawn had been sprayed with chemicals. When Amanda started drinking from the hose, she began to scream that the water was burning her. Then Kristen began crying and screaming as well. Robin took the children inside and noticed burn marks on both of them, as well as the smell of chemicals on Amanda’s breath. The girls later suffered from fevers, swollen eyes, and blisters the size of grape clusters around their necks.(19)

Christina Locek was a professional ice skater and pianist before her health was destroyed in 1985, when a her neighbor s lawn was sprayed with pesticides. Her cat and dog died that same day, and she suffers headaches, partial paralysis, vision loss, and blood disorders.(21) Former Navy Lieutenant George Prior developed a fever, headache, and nausea after playing on a golf course treated with Daconil. It was later discovered he was suffering from toxicepidermal necrolysis, which causes skin to fall off in sheets and massive organ failure. Prior died soon after.(6,8)

According to the EPA, 95% of the pesticides used on residential lawns are possible or probable carcinogens.(3,22) In 1989 the National Cancer Institute reported children develop leukemia six times more often when pesticides are used around their homes.(3,22) The American Journal of Epidemiology found that more children with brain tumors and other cancers had been exposed to insecticides than children without.(3) Studies by the National Cancer Society and other medical researchers have discovered a definite link between fatal non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (NHL) and exposure to triazine herbicides (like Atrazine), phenoxyacetic herbicides (2,4-D), organophosphate insecticides (Diazinon), fungicides, and fumigants; all of which have uses as lawn chemicals. This may be an important contributing factor to the 50% rise in NHL over the past ten years in the American population. Studies of farmers who once used these pesticides found alarmingly high numbers of NHL, especially in those who didn’t wear protective clothing. This latest finding also proves the theory that most danger from pesticides comes through dermal absorption, not ingestion.(23) A University of Iowa study of golf course superintendents found abnormally high rates of death due to cancer of the brain, large intestine, and prostate.(4) Other experts are beginning to link golfers, and non-golfers who live near fairways, with these same problems.(8,24)

Documented cases of pesticides in groundwater wells are suspect for cancer clusters showing in many towns. In 1989, drinking water in at least 38 states was known to be contaminated.(3) After the herbicide Dacthal was applied to Long Island golf courses, it was detected in drinking water wells at levels twenty times the State’s safety limits. The water also contained a dioxin that is a highly toxic by-product of Dacthal(8,19). The New York State Attorney General sued the manufacturer in 1989 to investigate the contamination and develop a treatment program, since ground water is the main source of drinking water for Long Island. Twenty-two other pesticides have been found in the water so far. However, there is still no requirement or systematic program designed to test for drinking water contamination.(3,25) As Michael Surgan, Ph.D., Chief Environmental Scientist for the New York State Attorney General, and an advocate for responsible pesticide use, puts it, “If you buy the notion that we have to accept a certain amount of risk from pesticides to safeguard the food supply, that’s one thing, he notes. But with lawns, people are applying carcinogens simply for the sake of aesthetics. That’s got to change”.(4)

Pesticides and chemical fertilisers are becoming some of the worst water pollutants in America. Discharges into San Francisco Bay from the central valley of California are estimated at almost two tons per year.(26) Phosphorous levels in some Maryland streams have doubled since 1986. And an EPA study found potentially harmful levels of nitrate from chemical fertilizers in drinking water wells nationwide. This can cause blue-baby syndrome , an oxygen-depriving condition in infants that can be fatal.(18) Environmental impacts are also devastating. Ward Stone, a DEC wildlife pathologist, has long studied bird kills from pesticides that were used according to regulation. Documented cases of owls, mourning doves, sparrows, blue birds, and many other songbirds killed by lawn chemicals are on the rise. Waterfowl like Canadian geese, mallards, wood ducks, and others have suffered even worse. In 1984 there were 700 brant found dead on a Long Island country club after it was sprayed with Diazinon.(8,27) Pesticide exposure causes shivering, excessive salivating, grand mal seizures, wild flapping, and sometimes screaming according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service volunteer Diana Conger. Ward Stone likens these birds to miners’ canaries, foreshadowing serious harm to humans from chemical build-up in the environment.(28)

Most people seriously overestimate the amount of protection given them by governments regarding pesticide safety. Congress found that 90% of the pesticides on the market lack even minimal required safety screening.(3) Of the 34 most used lawn pesticides, 33 have not been fully tested for human health hazards.(4) If any tests are done, they are performed by the chemical manufacturers, not the EPA. “If a chemical company wanted to, they could start with a desired conclusion, and skew the data, and the EPA would never know”, notes David Welch, an entomologist with the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs. Welch did a random sampling of 15 pesticide files and found 13 without proper reviews.(19) One third of the most commonly used lawn pesticides were illegally registered for use. Despite the fact executives of Industrial Bio- Test labs were given jail terms for faking pesticides tests, the chemicals are still on the market.(3) Shortages in funding, personnel, and interference from business has slowed re-evaluation of these chemicals.(25) Even when the EPA does refuse a pesticide registration, the manufacturer often files a lawsuit, which keeps the chemical on the market.(19) Jay Feldman, coordinator of the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, is well aware of this. “The EPA should be called the IPA- the Industry Protection Agency”, he charges. The chemical industry is extremely powerful, and wraps the EPA in red tape. It is also essential to understand that by law pesticide registration in the U.S.A. is not a consumer safety program.(9) According to Congress, the EPA does not have testing and assessment guidelines specifically for lawn use.(25) EPA has admitted in court that pesticide registration does not ensure product safety. Rather, it is a balancing act of costs and risks.(1-5,7-9,15,22) Most lawn pesticides were registered before 1972, when more stringent restrictions took effect under the revised Federal Rodenticide and Fungicide Act. They were never tested for many human health hazards like carcinogenicity, neurotoxicity, and environmental dangers. Most, as previously stated, have yet to be re-evaluated, yet remain on the market.

Read the labels on many lawn pesticide products, sprayed by lawn companies or sold in stores, and you will find one or more of the following: 2,4-D, Captan, Diazinon, Dursban, Dacthal, Dicamba, and Mecocrop. Each was registered without full safety screening. 2,4-D is an artificial hormone that has become a synonym for “dangerous pesticide”, but dermal absorption of mecoprop is far more dangerous, and dicamba is much more persistent in the environment – a mixture of these three is usually used, not 2,4-D alone. Diazinon has been banned for use on golf courses and sod farms due to massive waterfowl deaths but is still widely used on lawns and gardens. It is an organophosphate which disables the nervous system by blocking enzymes essential for nerve impulse transmission.

People can protect themselves and their families by knowing the facts. If having grass that looks more like Astroturf than living plants still seems essential, it doesn’t have to come with pesticides but is possible with products or programs that are organic and natural. This list of alternatives continues to grow, and they are safer, cheaper, and often work better than pesticides.(3,5) Ringer Corporation vice president Fred Hunt markets natural fertilizers and microbes that kill pests. “We just don’t think a lot of these chemicals are necessary for aesthetic use on homeowners’ lawns”, he reveals.(7) Chemicals add salt to the soil and kill beneficial nitrogen-fixing microorganisms that provide necessary nutrients for grass, turning a lawn into a junkie.(29) Each quick fix of green creates a dependence for the next. Synthetic fertilizers kill earthworms and other organisms that aerate soil, causing it to compact and kill grass plants. Inorganic nitrogen-based fertilizers also promote the sprouting of weeds.(30) Compounds in chemical fertilizers also acidify the soil and aid in breeding of some insects. Lawns need a soil pH between 5.6 and 7 or else they turn pale and thin out. Additional doses of chemicals will only make matters worse.(31,32) Recycling grass clippings saves money, reduces waste, and according to Lawn Institute Director Eliot C. Roberts is equivalent to three applications of fertilizer a year without unhealthy chemicals and their side-effects. Natural fertilizers are also better because they are time released, allowing grass to grow slower and tougher, requiring much less care.

Insects have been best controlled by other insects for millions of years, and the lawn is no exception. Insecticides often kill more beneficial insects than problem ones. Once the natural balance is destroyed, continued reliance on insecticides will occur. This is also true of weed killers. When a crabgrass stand is killed with an herbicide, there will still be thousands of seeds ready to start anew.(31) In the long run, pesticides can actually help the very pests they target by also killing their predators, and their use becomes self-perpetuating. Until a natural balance is restored, more and more will have to be spent each year on chemicals, and resistant pests may also invade. Using alternative strategies will bring better results and be kinder to the environment. Integrated Pest Management gives simple, long-lasting solutions which require no chemicals, much less money, and much less time and effort. Many alternatives not explored here can be found in the books and articles listed at the end of this report.

What makes a plant a “weed” is often only a matter of opinion. For instance, it was once a sign of prestige to have clover in a lawn. Their flowers and silky green leaves were once prized by homeowners, as was their natural production of nitrogen fertiliser, and clover seed was sold by the bushels, alone or mixed with grass seed. It wasn’t until a chemical company discovered a pesticide that killed clover but not always grass and launched an enormous advertising campaign that clover became no longer fashionable. As a result, people today ignore its fine qualities, even though throughout the 1950s it was “common as bluegrass”.(33)

A growing list of over 9,000 Americans are participating in the National Wildlife Federation Backyard Wildlife Habitat program. By growing tall grasses, they attract a dazzling array of wildflowers, butterflies, and birds, creating habitats that are the aesthetic match of any manicured lawn. Suggestions on what to plant to best attract wildlife can be obtained from the Fish & Game Department of any state in the country.(34)

The lawn pesticide industry is a very recent creation by chemical firms to expand the market for aging farm chemicals. These products are not necessary for use on lawns and pose serious ecological and human health risks that outweigh any benefits they offer. Integrated Pest Management strategies offer alternatives that work better and have less harmful effects. Proper legislation to protect the public regarding pesticide use is still seriously insufficient.(35) Therefore, the responsibility rests on the public to be the ultimate judge of what the acceptable levels of risk will be for their families and environment.(4)

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Seasonal Planting in Florida

Posted in Uncategorized by nicegreenbeautiful on July 1, 2011
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Written by Joe Zelenak

If there were three words that could describe the summers in Florida it would be rain, sun and humidity. These conditions can make summer planting a real challenge and can really put a damper on your gardening for the summer months. There are, however, plants that will do well during the hot summer months and with only minimal care. If you want your planting to be as carefree as possible, it is probably wise to avoid planting a lot of annuals during this time of year.

Many of your favorites such as petunia, impatiens, vinca and sometimes-even marigolds can be a real chore to maintain during our hottest months. You have more luck if you plant hardy varieties such as Firecracker plant, Panama rose, and Fire bush. Even Hibiscus will do well if you water it at least a couple times of week. Roses will also do well if you have them in well-drained soil and spray them regularly with Orthene or Orthenex for disease control and to control black spot.

If you want a great and fast growing climbing vine for say an arbor or maybe a large trellis, try Brown-Eyed Susan or even Mandeville. The Brown-Eyed Susan is a super fast grower and will overtake your arbor in about a season of growing. Mine even survived two hurricanes and came back with flying colors. If you want some lower growing color, try lantana. This is just the tip of the iceberg for ideas on plants that will do well during the summer. Next we will talk a little about some of these varieties in a little more detail.

One of my favorite plants to utilize during the hot summer months is the Firecracker bush.

  • This fern-like plant grows in a weeping pattern. The branches initially start to grow upward but the weight of the branch soon makes it cascade in a weeping pattern. This feature makes the plant very unique. The plant will produce radiant clusters of bright red flowers that resemble firecrackers. The flowers are about one inch long and can really add a splash of color to your yard. You can also put these plants in hanging baskets. The plants do well in full sun or will even tolerate some partial shade. The plant likes a well-drained soil but also likes to be watered on a regular basis. The plant will require more water if planted in a container then if it is planted in the ground. The Firecracker plant can grow as tall as 3 feet but I have seen some older plants that have even been a bit larger. Cuttings can be easily propagated into new plants.

Another interesting and colorful plant is a plant called Panama Rose.

  • This plant produces vibrant reddish-pink flowers that grow in clusters that resemble a rose, hence the name. The plant is actually a tender plant that does well during the warm months but cannot tolerate cold temperatures during the winter months. The plant will attract butterflies and also produces a fragrant scent after the sun sets in the evening. The plant enjoys well-drained soil but does not like to be completely dry for long periods of time. You should put this plant where it well get some protection from the hot afternoon sun.

Another tropical plant is a woody perennial called the Fire Bush.

  • It is a fast growing plant with elliptic shaped leaves and produces a red flower that looks similar to the Firecracker plant. The plant can get quite large and grow up to 12 feet high. The plant is a great attractant for butterflies and humming birds and also produces small fruit clusters. The plant contains anti-bacterial chemicals and can be used topically to treat insect bites and stings. The plant will do well in sun or partial shade and needs well drained but moist soil. The plant can be used successfully as a hedge or as a colorful accent plant. It can be a great addition to your flower collection!

Ways to keep a healthy lawn

Posted in Uncategorized by nicegreenbeautiful on June 24, 2011

This section has been prepared in cooperation with SOCRRA (Southeastern Oakland County Resource Recovery Authority). The practices recommended have been identified in cooperation with Oakland County MSU Extension, Wayne County MSU Extension, and the Metropolitan Detroit Landscape Association.

When soils and plants are healthy, plants naturally resist disease and pests — allowing gardeners and lawnowners to reduce (or avoid) the use of pesticides and quick-release fertilizers. Healthy lawn and garden practices often save homeowners time and effort in the long-run and promote a beautiful landscape.

Healthy lawn and garden principles were developed by professionals familiar with excellent horticulture practices. . . and with knowledge of Southeast Michigan soils and growing conditions. The principles apply to all types of plants. More specific practices have been identified for lawns, gardens, trees, and other landscape areas. Lawn care tips and gardening tips are presented in this section.

Healthy Lawn and Garden Principles

Principle #1 Build fertile soils with organic matter.

Principle #2 Select plants suited for the site and climate conditions — expand your understanding of “Right Plant in the Right Place.”

Principle #3 Plant for diversity — to encourage beneficial insets and pest resistance.

Principle #4 Provide nutrients and water to sustain healthy plants.

Principle #5 Recycle yard clippings on site.

Principle #6 Minimize the use of insecticides, herbicides, and other pesticides. Practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

Healthy Lawn TipsFeed your lawn . . . with grass clippings! Plants need certain nutrients to grow and many times we think fertilizer is the only solution. Think again. Grass clippings contain valuable nutrients and can decompose quickly into the soil. With grass recycling, artificial fertilizers can be significantly reduced — by 30% to 40% or more. Mix extra grass clippings with leaves and soil to make a backyard compost pile (see section on composting) or use the clippings as a garden mulch.

Tips for grass recycling

Set mower blade at the highest setting, leaving grass blades 3 inches tall if possible. Tall grass encourages deep roots and also shades out crabgrass and low-growing weeds.

Cut no more than the top 1/3 of the grass blade.

Let the short grass blades fall back onto the lawn.

Sharpen mower blades several times during the growing season. A dull mower blade will tear grass and provide entry port for diseases.

Only mow when the grass is dry.

Lawn Fertilization

Our lawns can pollute the Rouge. Fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides may be the solutions for a beautiful lawn and garden, but they can cause environmental problems to the river. Fertilizers contain nitrogen and phosphorus, two elements which increase plant growth in water as well as on land. When fertilizer gets into the river, it can cause excess plant and algae growth which robs the oxygen from the water, causing fish and other aquatic life to suffocate and die!

Fertilizer Tips

Select slow–release fertilizers to gradually feed plants. These products should contain little or no phosphorus. The numbers on the labels of fertilizers will help you identify which are low in phosphorus. The numbers indicate the percentages of nitrogen-phosphorous-and potassium as potash. Low phosphorous brands have ratings on their labels such as 23-0-6, 30-4-4 or 26-4-4.Fertilizers containing abundant nitrogen (46-0-0, 33-0-0) are not recommended because they are highly soluble and can readily wash away or enter groundwater.

Lawn Watering

All lawns in Michigan require 0.5 to 1.5 inches of water per week. That means only a 10-15 minute watering during dry weather for many home sprinkling systems.

Watering Tips

Water lightly and frequently. Grass roots are short (often less than 4″ long) and can’t absorb the excess water. Light, frequent watering also reduces the stress to the grass plant, which reduces the potential for disease and insect damage.

Water sparingly after any fertilizer application to avoid causing contaminated runoff.

Fertilize in September or October to promote root growth rather than top growth. Deep roots withstand drought and resist disease. Strong roots store food produced in the grass blades for use in early spring. Use fertilizers sparingly. Over fertilizing actually encourages certain insects and diseases and increases maintenance needs.

Separate fertilizers from pesticides. “Weed and feed” combined products often add unnecessary herbicides to the landscape.

Use compost as an alternative to fertilizer. Compost contributes organic matter and gradually releases nutrients to the soil.

Do not apply fertilizer within 50 feet of a water body, including streams, ponds and impoundments.

Avoid applying fertilizer to paved surfaces. If any fertilizer is spread on sidewalks or driveways, sweep it off before watering

Tips for choosing a lawn care service

Ask neighbors and friends who have dealt with the company if they were satisfied with the service they received. Call the Michigan Department of Agriculture at (517) 373-1087 to see if the company has a history of violations.

Make sure the company is affiliated with a professional lawn care association. This helps members stay informed of new developments in the lawn care field.

Find out if the company uses integrated pest management, or “IPM”, an approach that reduces pesticide use by combining it with other, non-chemical methods of pest control. The company should readily supply you with information on the types of pesticides it applies to your lawn, and what health and environmental risks may be presented by their use.

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Organic Lawn Facts

Posted in Uncategorized by nicegreenbeautiful on June 14, 2011
Tags: , , , ,

How do I prepare the soil for an organic turf program?

The key to a successful organic lawn program is the soil. It must be alive with wide variety of beneficial microorganisms and bugs. Beneficial microbes both feed and protect the plants from disease-causing microbes. All the organic gardener does is feed the beneficial microbes and let them do their work.

Beneficial microorganisms include bacteria and fungi found in finished compost. There are two ways to get the microbial benefit from compost. The best way to get a complete dose of beneficial microbes is by including finished compost in the soil preparation before laying seed or sod. Preparing the ground right beforehand is preferred to applying after the grass is established. Plans for a new lawn should specify that compost be mixed with the top 4 inches of topsoil, half-and half, when the land is renovated for grass seed or sod planting. This ensures that the microbes will be in the root zone as the grass seed germinates. However, if your lawn is already established and you want to go organic, you can add compost to the lawn as a top dressing. This means physically dropping compost on top of the turf and then sweeping it off the grass plants and onto the soil where the microbes will be washed into the soil. A careful watering of the lawn after the application of compost will hasten this process. Care must be taken to avoid topping with too much compost. See the FAQ below about this technique and recommendations to avoid smothering the existing lawn. Many other issues are important to the success of an organic lawn. Watering, fertilizing, and weeding programs are all vital and the reader is encouraged to study this FAQ regarding each of these topics. Success is also closely related to the choice of grass selected for the lawn. Choice of grass is outside the scope of this FAQ. For more information about soil microbes go to and read everything you can find or search the Internet for “The Soil Biology Primer.”

How Do I Apply Compost To My Lawn?

Spread it around in piles on the lawn with a wheelbarrow. Sling it from the piles onto the grass with a shovel. Then use a push broom to sweep it off the grass blades and down into the turf. Water it in to activate the compost microbes and wash them onto your soil. Apply compost to grass at a rate of no more than 1 cubic yard per 1,000 square feet. This results in a thin layer about 1/3 inch deep when spread out uniformly.

How do I fertilize organically?

Commercial organic dry fertilizers, such as Ringers, Espoma, Greensense, and Texas Tee, are protein based and must be digested by soil microbes before the nitrogen becomes available to the roots. The ingredients of these commercial fertilizers include ground corn, alfalfa, cottonseed, corn gluten meal, soy, other grains, as well as blood meal and feather meal. Any ground seed or bean is good as an organic fertilizer including used coffee grounds. You can often find these same ingredients in bulk form at farm or feed stores. A good application rate for these grain based fertilizers is 10-20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Organic fertilizer may be applied any day, any time of day, and at any amount without fear of hurting the turf. Give it 3 weeks for the microbes to process the protein before the benefit is seen in the grass. After 200 years of an NPK mentality toward fertility, university researchers are just now returning to study soil microbes and protein based microbe food. Not much has been published. Try Brown University. Otherwise industry and consumers are leading the way on protein fertilizers. Check out and (search for alternative soil amendments).

Where do I get protein fertilizers? Commercial brands can be found at organic garden supply stores and at some farm and feed stores. The commercial brands might go as high as $30 for a 30-pound bag. A typical retail price for 50 pounds of bulk alfalfa pellets or corn meal is $3-$7 at a farm/feed store. Call around, as prices will vary depending on the availability in your area.

Won’t the use of all this protein feed encourage vermin and insect pests?

Logically you would think so, but it doesn’t seem to.

Will chemical fertilizers kill the soil microbes?

 It is possible but it shouldn’t unless it is overused. Although it is a salt, it has no sodium in it. Sodium is the culprit in almost all “salt” problems.

Then what is wrong with chemical fertilizers? 

Chemical fertilizers provide an “empty” type of food directly to the plants. This is like the empty calories we get from eating pure refined sugar. Microbes provide full service to the plants. They decompose dead plant and animal residues to humus; combine nitrogen and carbon to prevent nutrient loss; suppress disease; produce plant growth regulators; develop soil structure, tilth, and water penetration/retention; clean up chemical residues; shift soil pH toward neutral; retrieve nutrients from distant parts of the soil; decompose thatch; and control nitrogen supply to the plants according to need. Besides that, if a chemical fertilizer contains NPK of 10-10-10, nobody knows what the 70% of unlisted stuff is in the chemical bag that is not fertilizer.

How should I water?

Watering should be done in the mornings. Deep but infrequent watering encourages roots to penetrate deeper into the soil. Watering in the evening encourages pathogenic fungus disease so try not to let the grass blades have water on them after dark. Water for one to two hours at a time when you do water.

When should I add manure?

Never use fresh manure directly on your turf. You may use composted manure, but compost that has many other ingredients makes better compost.

How often should I use compost on grass?

Many people use compost every year. A highly respected compost manufacturer has only applied it to his own grass twice in 30 years. The answer probably lies somewhere in between. If you have had a flood or a turf disease, you should reapply.

How do I get started in an organic program?

Getting started is as easy as stopping the use of chemicals. You can easily replenish the microbes with a thin layer of compost. The next thing to do is start using protein-based fertilizers like corn meal, alfalfa meal, coffee grounds, soy meal, cottonseed meal, sorghum meal, or what ever you can get inexpensively at your local feed supply store.

What is the annual plan?

Spring: Any time before your grass starts to turn lush in the spring, apply a protein-based fertilizer at 10-20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Water it in when you want to. Summer: Leave it alone. Water in the morning once per week with enough water to get one inch per week in most zones.Fall: About 3 weeks before your grass stops growing, apply a protein-based fertilizer at 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

+++ Possible Problem areas +++

How often do I aerate and soften compacted soil?

You shouldn’t have to do any mechanical aerating if you follow an organic program. Soil microbes will till and aerate your soil for you. As your soil develops natural tilth from the microbes digging for you, the soil will become softer and retain more water from each watering.

How do I get rid of thatch?

Thatch is not a problem in organic lawns. Beneficial soil microbes eat thatch. There is no need to collect grass clippings with the lawn mower and fall leaves can be mulched right back into the turf.

My lawn is dead. What can I do?

First make sure it is not just dormant. If it is not dormant and you have been watering regularly, you likely have a turf disease or an insect problem. Many lawn diseases are fungus related. If you suspect you have a fungus, the organic solution is to fight the pathogenic fungus with beneficial fungus. The Trichoderma (try-ko-DER-ma) fungus eats the pathogenic fungi. Trichoderma grows especially well on whole ground corn meal. Apply corn meal at 10-20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. A thin layer of compost will help replenish the beneficial microbes which may have been killed off by the disease microbes. The other possibility is you have insect damage. Grubs or grub worms are the larvae of various beetles including the June bug. When you see beetles flying around your lights at night, it’s time to spray beneficial nematodes on the turf. Beneficial nematodes are parasites for insect larvae. See more later in this FAQ. Two good references for further information can be found at the Texas A&M University at Stephenville (search for Peanut Disease and Nematode Control Recommendations) and look for the T-22 Seed Treatment at . University of Florida has info on beneficial nematodes.

Is this the same corn meal I can get at the grocery store?

Yes it is. You can get it much cheaper at a farm/feed store in 50-pound bags.

My grass is alive but turns yellow in the middle of summer. Do I need to add nitrogen or iron?

Some grasses need nitrogen more often than others. If you used protein in the spring, you might need a second or third dose of organic fertilizer. If that doesn’t help, you might need iron. Glauconite, packaged as greensand, will likely turn your lawn green again. When applied at 40 pounds per 1,000 square feet, it seems to keep grass green when other lawns turn yellow. The iron from greensand is not immediately available to plants, so once again you have to wait for the microbes to process it. This takes a week or two.

How do I get rid of grubs (ants, fire ants, chiggers, fleas, ticks)?

Beneficial nematodes are parasites for the all the pests listed. They come on a sponge which is wrung out into a bucket of water. The water is then sprayed on the lawn. For more info on beneficial nematodes, look at the University of Connecticut, University of Florida, Washington State University, Oklahoma State University, Cornell University, Texas A&M University, and many other university websites and search for beneficial nematodes.

Should I have my soil tested first?

You can certainly have your soil tested. Ask them to check for organic materials and microbe species counts. Most soil tests focus on pH and the amount of chemical fertilizer residue there is immediately available for the plants.

My soil is too alkaline (acid). What should I do?

If you are using an organic program, in many cases nothing needs to be done. No matter which side of neutral your soil is on, soil microbial action tends to move the pH to neutral near 7.0.

How do I control weeds?

Mow as high as your grass will allow you at maximum density to shade out weeds and weed seeds. Water deeply and infrequently to encourage deeper rooted grasses. Mow weeds off or hand pick. Never let weeds go to seed. For spot treatment or for small areas of pure weeds, many people have reported great success with 20% vinegar sprayed as a foliar spray, not a soil drench. Vinegar can be found at organic garden shops and feed stores. To a gallon of vinegar, mix a tablespoon of liquid dish soap and two tablespoons of molasses as wetting agents. Apply full strength from a hand sprayer. Be careful not to get any spray on you or in your eyes or inhale it. The smell will go away in 15 minutes. 20% vinegar will be the most hazardous thing you use in organic gardening. You can find more info about vinegar as an herbicide at and search for vinegar.

Is there an organic preemergent?

There is an organic fertilizer that acts like a preemergent seed controller. That product is corn gluten meal (CGM). This is not the same as corn meal – different products work different ways. Do not use CGM if you are reseeding or trying to grow grass from seed. The only problem with CGM is the cost in most parts of the country. Prices range from $3 – $40 for a 50-pound sack depending on where you live. Apply at 10-40 pounds per 1,000 square feet. For more info go to and search for corn gluten meal.

I won’t go organic because compost piles (or bags of compost) stink.

Compost piles never smell bad if they are properly managed. For more on compost, read the FAQ under the Soils and Compost Forum on GardenWeb.

Does organic fertilizer stink?

No it doesn’t. Fresh manure stinks, but manure is not supposed to be used directly on anything. Anything that stinks should be composted for several months or until it stops stinking.

Does compost carry disease?

No. Aerobic composting with a good heat cycle kills off the disease causing microbes in the compost. If compost smells sour, rotten, rancid, or bad in any way, it is not finished cooking. Fluff it up to let more air in and let it sit for another few weeks. Read more about disease suppression at .

I’ve used compost every year for years but my neighbor’s lawn is always greener. What’s wrong?

Compost is not a very good fertilizer. Compost is a soil amendment used primarily to bring beneficial soil microbes to your soil. If you want a thick, green turf grass, you need to add protein to feed the soil microbes. The microbes, in turn, will feed the grass.

How much does organic gardening cost?

I’ve heard it is very expensive. Following a full organic program should cost less than a chemical program. The first application of compost can be expensive, but it is important to look at the big picture. Protein fertilizer costs about the same per square foot as chemical fertilizer. The reason the organic program is less expensive is the fact that you won’t need expensive herbicides, pesticides, or fungicides.

Can I put too much compost on?

It is possible and happens to people who get bad advice about applying compost and manure. Unfortunately you can easily smother many grasses by putting too much compost on. That is why the recommended rate is 1 cubic yard of compost for every 1,000 square feet. This will result in application of 1/3 inch of compost if spread out uniformly – a very thin layer.

Can I put too much organic fertilizer on?

This cannot happen unless you use enough to smother the grass. The soil microbes must eat protein fertilizer before the grass gets any benefit. With an organic program, nothing goes to waste and nothing is washed away.

Is there an organic weed and feed?

Not really and we are thankful for that. Chemical weed and feed products are not very well designed. Refer back to the question about the preemergent for information about corn gluten meal.

(This FAQ was written by  GardenWeb members: David Hall from San Antonio, TX aka Dchall_San_Antonio)


Aquatic Weed Control

Posted in Uncategorized by nicegreenbeautiful on June 3, 2011

Carole Lembl, Aquatic Weed Specialist & Dan Childs, Extension Weed Science Specialist

from Plant & Pest Diagnostic Laboratory, April 25, 1997, Number 112

Probably the two biggest reasons why small lakes and ponds in Indiana can become thick with algae and other aquatic plants during the summer months are that these bodies of water are shallow and high in nutrients. In shallow lakes; light can reach the bottom and induce plant life. Along with runoff from feedlots, fields, residential lawns, etc., aquatic plant growth can become excessive in a very short period of time.

Control of aquatic weeds begins with prevention. For ponds, maintain good sod and grass cover around the perimeter. This will help prevent runoff and erosion. Keep livestock out of the pond. If the pond is used to water livestock, fence the pond and water the animals from a stock tank below and outside the fence. For larger sites, a good watershed program is essential to reduce nutrient input. Eliminating, when possible, upstream sites of fertilizer inputs, septic tank discharge, or lawn fertilizer applications that drain into feeder streams is essential to maintaining good water quality.

Aquatic weeds can be pulled out by hand or with rakes. But most people will use one of two methods: the grass carp or chemicals. The grass carp, which eats weeds, is recommended for most sites at 15 fish per vegetated acre. A higher stocking rate can be used in ponds that are solely intended to serve aesthetic purposes, like a pond on a golf course. Under no circumstances should grass carp be introduced into natural lakes, rivers, wetlands, or other natural areas. The fish must be purchased from a licensed vendor, who will actually stock the site. The site must not have an outflow, or the outflow must be screened, so that fish cannot escape. It may take quite a while (more: than one year) to see the effects of the grass carp if the pond is heavily vegetated. In addition, grass carp have their taste preferences just like we do. They will eat some species (like the pondweeds) in preference to others (like Eurasian water-milfoil). Therefore, they may not start eating the species that is causing the problem until they have removed everything else. Fish may have to be restocked after five years or so because as they get older and larger, they tend to eat less. Finally, effects of the grass carp on water quality are uncertain. In some cases, the water in a pond will become quite murky; in others, it may stay clear.

The grass carp is an alternative for people who have been using chemicals over the years with little success, who are simply tired of spending the money that chemicals cost, or who do not wish to introduce chemicals into their pond at all. Chemicals are still being used because they usually control the vegetation quickly and because they can be used selectively. For example, they can be used to control invasive stands of Eurasian water-milfoil but leave desirable native species that serve as valuable fish habitat, Chemicals are sometimes the only alternative (other than nutrient reduction and mechanical harvesting) for aquatic weed problems in large lakes.

For those who choose to use chemicals, the best time to treat aquatic weeds is during late spring, when plants are young and actively growing and most susceptible to herbicides. Do not wait until July or August, Waiting until late summer to treat the pond could result in fish kills. Bv that time. the plant growth is thick.

Killing off all the vegetation will quickly deplete the water of oxygen, causing a fish kill. If you must treat during the summer, treat only a portion of the pond at a time. Just as with weeds growing in a corn or soybean field, aquatic weeds must first be correctly identified before selecting the proper herbicide for control. Consult your local county Extension office for help in identifying aquatic weeds or send a sample to the Plant and Pest Diagnostic Lab at Purdue University. Also you can refer to the publication, WS-21 Aquatic Plant Management, available at your local county Extension office.

Algae (a.k.a. moss, scum) is controlled with Copper sulfate. Copper sulfate can be applied by dragging the crytals in a burlap sack behind the boat. The best method of. Application for floating mats is to dissolve the crystals or powder in water and spray directly on the mats. Copper will corrode metal fittings and nozzles, so wash equipment thoroughly after use. Chelated copper products such as Cutrine are less corrosive but more expensive.

Submerged (underwater rooted) plants such as the · pondweeds, naiads, coontail, and Eurasian watermilfoil (depending on the species) can be controlled using Aquathai, Diquat (also sold as Reward), or Sonar. Sonar is more expensive than the other products; however, it can provide two or more seasons of control. The Reward restrictions on water use after treatment were recently relaxed. The maximum waiting restriction on drinking water is three days, on livestock consumption, one day, and on irrigation, five days.

Free-floating plants like duckweed and watermeal are extremely difficult to control with herbicides. The Sonar AS formulation is effective on duckweed. Sonar can also be used for watermeal, but only at the highest rates and would probably require multiple treatments. This product is not for everyone. A single treatment for a surface acre with a depth of five feet or more would require 1.5 quarts, and one quart costs about $400! The only other alternative chemical is Reward, and this must be applied continuously during the season. The best treatment for the duckweeds is to remove sources of nutrient input, such as fertilizer runoff or leaf litter.

Rooted-floating plants (waterlilies, spatterdock) and emergent plants that grow along the banks and in shallow water such as cattails, willows and other perennial grasses and broadleaves can be controlled using spot applications of Rodeo. To successfully use Rodeo (sold in 1 or 2-1/2 gallon containers), a wetting agent must be purchased and added to the solution.

Article from:

Watering lawns in Florida

Posted in Uncategorized by nicegreenbeautiful on May 27, 2011

Article by John L. Cisar, L. B. McCarty and Robert J. Black, University of Florida Professors.

Water is an essential element in all living plants: It combines with carbon dioxide and sunlight for photosynthesis. Food manufactured by photosynthesis and nutrients absorbed by the roots are transported by water to all parts of the plant. Plant temperatures are maintained by transpiration of water. Seeds need water to germinate. Turfgrasses that have been fully watered can withstand more stress and wear. Lawn irrigation is often necessary in Florida’s hot climate. Daily temperatures can be over 90°F (32.2°C) 6 months per year which causes large water losses from soils and plants. Rainfall averages 60 inches per year, but half the amount falls from June through September, often in sporadic large rainstorms. Less rainfall occurs during the winter and spring. Another reason for lawn irrigation is the fact that Florida’s sandy soils do not hold much water.

An efficient watering program must include three basic steps: 1. determining when water is needed, 2. determining how much should be applied, and 3. deciding how water is to be applied.


The most efficient way to water a lawn is to apply water when it begins to show signs of stress from lack of water. The following signs are indications of water need: bluish-gray areas in the lawn, footprints or tire tracks that remain in the grass long after being made (Plate 24), many leaf blades folded in half (Plate 25 and Figure 1), and soil sample from the rootzone feels dry. Prolonged dry periods of high temperatures, strong winds, and low relative humidity cause these symptoms. During such times, plants wilt even though water may be in the soil, because they are losing water faster than it is absorbed through root systems. However, watering may be needed. Watering immediately when the lawn first shows signs of stress is the most economical way to water; delay can cause permanent damage. Add-on devices are available for some sprinkler systems to automatically determine when to water. Electronic moisture sensing units or tensiometers allow automatic sprinkler systems to operate only when soil water is getting low. These devices eliminate overwatering and have potential for water savings.


The amount of water to apply at any one time varies with the amount of water present in the soil, the water-holding capacity of the soil, and drainage characteristics. An efficient watering wets only the turfgrass rootzone, does not saturate the soil, and doesnot allow water to run off. Florida soils are typically sandy and hold 1 inch of water in the top 12 inches of soil. If the roots arein the top 12 inches of soil and the soil is dry, then . to 1 inch of water is required to wet the area thoroughly. This is equivalent to 465 to 620 gallons of water for each 1000 square feet of lawn. Generally, turfgrasses require no more than 0.3 inches of water per day. Under extreme summer conditions, water use can be as high as 0.4 inches of water per day. During the winter when grasses are not actively growing, water use can be as little as 0.05 inches of water per day. A simple watering schedule would be to apply . inch of water when the turfgrasses show water deficiency symptoms as discussed earlier. Once this inch of water is applied, do not apply any more until water stress symptoms are again noticeable. Typically, two to three waterings per week in the summer and once every 10 to 14 days in the winter are required. If rainfall occurs, irrigation should be suspended according to the rainfall amount.


Water should never be applied at a rate faster than it can be absorbed by the soil. If the sprinkler applies too much water, it runs off, and is wasted. This seldom happens with small sprinklers unless the lawn is thick or the soil compacted. Avoid extremes in watering frequency and Cross sections of grass leaves showing varying degrees of wilting. Left: leaf fully expanded. Center: leaves wilting and folded. Right: leaf rolled up under drought conditions. Light, frequent watering is inefficient and encourages shallow root systems. Excessive irrigation, which keeps the root system saturated with water, is harmful to the lawn. Roots need a balance of water and air to function and grow properly. The time of watering is important. The best time for lawn irrigation is in the early morning hours. Watering during the day can waste water by excessive evaporation and during very hot periods can scald the lawn. Watering in late afternoon or late morning may be detrimental if it extends the time the lawn is naturally wet from dew. Lawn irrigation should be scheduled to avoid peak residential water demand if using municipal water.


To insure quality turf, bermudagrass (Cynodon spp.) and St. Augustinegrass (Stenotaphrum secundatum [Walt.] Kuntze) need supplemental irrigation. Lack of properly timed irrigation can weaken the turfs and predispose them to week invasion and other pest problems. Centipedegrass (Eremochloa ophiuroides [Munro.] Hack.) often needs no supplemental irrigation under shaded conditions where natural rainfall and runoff is often sufficient. However, in sunny open areas, centipedegrass may need supplemental irrigation. Bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum Flugge.) is the southern turfgrass that when properly established and maintained requires less irrigation than the others. Improper watering of bahiagrass lawns is detrimental to turf quality andleads to weed problems. Underwatering of turf is obvious by wilting of the leaves, but overwatering is not so obvious and may show up in numerous ways. Excessive thatch buildup and constantly wet turf are signs of overwatering. The presence of pennywort (Hydrocotyle umbellata) and sedges (Cyperus spp.) indicate too much water is being applied and turf disease and other pests may invade the lawn under this situation. An efficient watering program combined with a moderate level of fertilizing and proper mowing height will produce a superior lawn. Not only will your lawn look good, but it will also be able to withstand the stresses it encounters.


Check sprinkler heads for an even spray pattern and direction of spray. Check for damaged sprinkler heads, replace these if leaking. Check that valves open and close properly. Check for proper time on controller if your system has one.


Follow these tips to reduce leaching, thus saving fertilizer. Remember, your objective is to keep water and fertilizer in the root zone of the grass for as long as possible. Know how much water your system applies over a time period. Simply place coffee cans in a straight line from your sprinkler to the edge of the watering pattern (Plate 26). Turn the water on for 15 minutes and calculate the average depth of water. Multiply this number by four to determine the irrigation rate in inches per hour. Make sure your sprinkling system applies water uniformly. Don’t mix head types or let the reach of two sprinklers overlap excessively. Apply no more than . to 1 inch of water per irrigation. Wait until turf stress symptoms are noticeable before applying . inch of water. Watch the grass for a bluish-gray color, folded leaf blades, and/or inability to recover from foot or vehicular traffic. Don’t water when rain is forecasted for your area. Don’t be fooled by the word “organic.” Some organic fertilizers leach as quickly as inorganic. Look for the words “slow release” and “insoluble” on the fertilizer labels. Nitrogen in this type of fertilizer will not wash away as quickly. Include potassium (K) in your fertilizer as this element is necessary to increase the turf’s drought tolerance. Lime your lawn if your soil is highly acidic (a low pH) to reduce phosphorus solubility. Increase mowing height of lawns; this increased height allows the plant to develop a deep root


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What are Chinch bugs?

Posted in Uncategorized by nicegreenbeautiful on May 20, 2011
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Chinch bugs are a complex of three different species within the Lygaeidae family. They have piercing-sucking mouthparts and they feed on the sap of grass plants. They reside in the thatch area of the turfgrass stand and prefer to feed on the lower leaf sheath and crown area of the plant. The chinch bug can be a major insect pest on home lawns throughout the country. The hairy chinch bug (Blissus hirtus) is the most common species in the Northeast. The hairy chinch bug prefers bentgrasses, but will attack many other lawn grasses as well. The adult chinch bugs are about 3 to 5 mm (1/8 to 1/5 inch) in length and black with white markings on the wings. The wings rest flat over the back of the insect and there is a black spot between the wings. Adults may be long-winged or short-winged. There are five nymphal instars of chinch bus ranging in size from 1 to 3 mm (1/32 to 1/5 inch). The first two nymphal instars are red, with a white band across their abdomen, while the third and fourth instars are orange with wing pads just beginning to appear. The fifth instar is black with wing pads easily visible.


The chinch bug inserts its straw-like mouthparts into the plant tissue and sucks out the plant juices while injecting chemicals into the plant which clog the vascular system. The area around the feeding puncture usually turns yellow. Damaged areas first appear as small, irregular patches which enlarge as the insects spread. Chinch bugs are most damaging in open, sunny areas.

Life Cycle:

Chinch bugs spend the winter as adults in partially protected areas (under shrubs or around foundations of houses). As the weather warms in the spring, adults move into open areas, where females begin laying eggs. Fifteen to 20 eggs per day are deposited for two to three weeks. The eggs hatch in one to two weeks, and the nymphs begin to suck the juices from host plants. It takes 30-90 days to reach adulthood. There are two generations per year, with a partial third generation in unusually warm summers. There is considerable overlap of generations, and all stages can be found during the summer.


Examine the grass in the marginal areas of injured patches, not in the clearly dead grass. Spread the grass gently with your fingers and look in the thatch, near the soil surface. Chinch bugs are usually very active in the summer, so you will be able to see them scurrying around, especially on warm summer days. An alternative method of detecting chinch bugs is to remove both ends of a large tin can, such as a coffee can. Soften the soil a little with water, and insert one end of the can into the ground at least 5 to 8 cm (2-3 inches) deep, leaving at least 10 cm (4 inches) of the can above the ground. Fill the can with water and wait about five minutes. If chinch bugs are present, they will float to the surface of the water, where you can count them.


In many instances, chemical control of chinch bugs is not necessary. Studies in Michigan have demonstrated that lawns which receive adequate amounts of water throughout the summer (preferably weekly deep waterings) are able to tolerate relatively high populations of chinch bugs without sustaining damage. In addition, many lawns have natural populations of predators, such as ground beetles or “big-eyed bugs,” which can keep chinch bug populations from getting out of hand. Insecticide applications sometimes have very adverse effects on these predators, causing the chinch bug populations to develop more rapidly in subsequent years. Plant resistance has also been reported for a number of turfgrass species and cultivars. Research has demonstrated strong resistance of endophyte-enhanced turfgrasses to the hairy chinch bug.

Turfgrass managers usually control chinch bug populations after major damage has occurred. To avoid this problem in areas with habitual problems, an April to mid-May insecticide application will control the overwintering females and subsequent generations during the summer. Reinfestation may occur from adjacent areas, but this process is slow and may require an additional year or more. This adult treatment must be made before egg laying occurs. As with any pesticide application, be sure to read the label and apply the material at the specified rate. Avoid mowing the area for two or three days afterward.

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The benefits of mulch

Posted in Lawn Care by nicegreenbeautiful on May 2, 2011
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Mulch is important because it adds beauty to your landscaping while it reduces weed growth as well as disease & insect problems. Mulching also moderates the temperature and moisture of soil which helps to reduce your water bill. There are 4 types of mulch that we use: Cypress, Red, Rubber and Pine Nuggets.

Mulching can be one of the most beneficial things you can do for your soil and your plants. If you have not considered mulching your garden in the past, you may want to reconsider.

Mulches are a labor saving device for the gardener. A layer of mulch will help prevent the germination of many weed seeds, reducing the need for cultivation or the use of herbicides. Mulches also help moderate the soil temperature and retain moisture during dry weather, reducing the need for watering. Mulches protect the soil from the impact of raindrops that can cause crusting. Crusting can prevent the germination of seedlings.

While there are many types of mulch, organic mulches such as wood chips, grass clippings, or other locally available materials help improve the soil by adding organic matter as they decompose. They also may encourage the growth of worms and other beneficial soil organisms that can help improve soil structure and the availability of nutrients for plants.

Mulches also can be used to enhance the look of your garden. Many bark mulches provide uniformly rich brown color that contrasts with the plants. The mulch helps keep plants clean by reducing the splash of soil onto leaves during rainstorms, and helps infiltration of the rainfall into the garden.

Here are some considerations when choosing a mulch material.

  • What is your primary objective in using mulch? If you are most interested in weed control in a vegetable garden, a layer of newspaper covered with grass clippings or just grass clippings will work well. However, if you are finishing off a beautiful perennial garden in the front of your house, you probably will want to use something more attractive such as bark mulch.
  • How long do you want the mulch to stay in place? If you are mulching around shrubs that will remain in place for years, you may want to use inorganic mulches such as brick chips, marble chips, or stone. While these will not provide organic matter to the soil, they will be permanent. Note that they are difficult to remove if you change your mind or want to add bulbs or perennials.
  • How much money do you want to spend? Mulching does not need to be expensive. Some communities offer chipped wood or compost to residents. Leaves, newspaper, and grass clippings are inexpensive mulches.
  • How much will you need? To be effective, most organic mulches need to be between 2 and 4 inches thick. Therefore, a 10 feet by 10 feet garden mulched 3 inches deep will require 25 cubic feet of mulch.
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