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ORGANIC LAWN CARE

BY BRUCE ZIMMERMAN

I have chosen the term organic for my title instead of natural lawn care because to me natural means letting nature have itís own way without the assistance of or the belief system of human civilization. A natural lawn would slowly evolve from the monoculture of a lawn to a natural ecosystem of trees, shrubs, wildflowers, weeds and all the wildlife that would live there.

If evolution is not what you desire in a lawn then you will have to control weeds, insects and encourage the growth of your own personal monoculture.

Letís start in the autumn with a stiff raking to remove dead grass. If this dead grass has built up a layer of thatch half an inch thick or thicker then rent a mechanical de-thatcher to remove the thatch. Rake up and remove the dead grass. Next rent a core aerator and use it to pull plugs of turf grass and soil. Leave the plugs on the lawn. Now feed the lawn with an organic fertilizer at recommended rates.  It is now necessary to fill the holes created by core aerating. You can spread organic materials over the lawn filling the holes and leave a thin layer of organic material on the top of the soil with the blades of the lawn showing through. Peat moss is the usual organic material that is used in this procedure. The easiest way to spread it is with a leaf rake.

To increase the thickness of a very thin lawn you can over seed at this stage with a high quality grass seed.

For a high quality high maintenance lawn you should over seed with a pure Bluegrass lawn seed.

For a medium quality medium maintenance lawn or if the lawn is in a shady area you should over seed with a Bluegrass - Fescue mixture.

Be aware that Perennial Ryegrass will produce a more vertical lighter green courser texture grass with slightly less winter hardiness and higher summer water demand.

Using natural endophyte or inoculated endophyte turf grass varieties may help you protect your lawn from some turf grass insects.

ORGANIC FERTILIZERS:

These fertilizers usually contain:

 ALFALFA:
High in protein, high in natural sugars, major and minor nutrient elements.
Also contains Triacontanol a natural root stimulant.

HUMATE:
Leonardite Humic Acid is used to speed up and increase the nutrient up take by plants. It also aids in building soil structure.

MOLASSES:
This is food, which feeds the natural bacteria and microbes whose role in the soil is to release the natural nutrients and minerals locked up in the organic material.

POULTRY:
Most of this form of protein is from cooked poultry.  It supplies Nitrogen to the plants.

SEAWEED EXTRACT:
This is a rich source of major and minor nutrients and minerals.

SULPHATE OF POTASH:
A natural sulfur and potassium source making plants more turgid and winter hardiness.

Many of the organic fertilizers do not contain sewage sludge. This is often made from human sewage waste.

CORN MEAL GLUTTEN:
This is a slow releasing high nitrogen source (9-0-0) rich in amino acids. This is a natural post emergent herbicide in the United States of America. In Canada we can not say that because it has not received official testing. So in the U.S.A. in turf areas the corn meal glutten prevents root grow as they germinate and try to develop roots. It does not prevent weeds which can reproduce asexually.

THE TYPICAL LAWN  FERTILIZER PROGRAM:
SPRING:    High Nitrogen (10-0-0)(9-0-0)

SUMMER:  Lower Nitrogen (3-1-2)(6-1-3)
AUTUMN:  High Nitrogen (10-0-0)(9-0-0)


ORGANIC WEED CONTROL:
Horticultural vinegar( 20% - 28% Acetic Acid) Spot Sprayer of Hort. Vinegar is combined with a yucca extract or sometimes with lemon to work as a complete plant killer. Horticultural vinegar kills everything with its pH of 3.2.  Regular household vinegar for your french fries is without these additives and is only 5% to 7% acetic acid. Do not breath in the Horticultural Vinegar or get it on cuts or scrapes. The pH being so low you may want to add a small amount of horticultural lime and irrigate the spots after you are certain that the weeds are dead. Apply horticultural vinegar to the crown of the weed with an all plastic squirt bottle set on a straight stream. There is a call by some U.S. States (Colorado) for Horticultural Vinegar to go through the testing required for the registration of a pesticide. It is now a Registered Pesticide in Canada.

NATURE'S WEED & FEED WITH  TMG (TRIMETHYLGLYCINE)

This is touted as the first all natural weed and feed. It is registered under the U.S. pesticide act (FIFRA) as an organic weed and feed that is generally recognized as safe.  It has been tested and proven to control both broadleaf weeds and crabgrass. It works both as a pre-emergent and a post - emergent weed control. 

Nature's Weed & Feed is an organic fertilizer containing Molasses, soybean oil, Trimethylglycine from sugar beets and other ingredients. The fertilizer content is 7-0-7 (7% nitrogen 0% phosphorous 7% potassium). Under the U.S. Food & Drug Administration it is registered as a food additive.

A quick check of the web has turned up the following about TMG. TMG in the body donates one of it's three methyl atoms to create a harmless homocysteine. Homocysteine  methylated reduces  Homocysteine in the blood. This can help prevent heart disease, stroke, and protect DNA.  After TMG has methylated into dimethylglycine (DMG) it is an athletic performance enhancer. DMG is used extensively in Russia.

Nature's Weed & Feed  as a soil amendment contains seven different strains of beneficial organisms. Under the new USDA organic food regulations (October 2002) this type of soil amendment may void an organic farmers registration. Check with the USDA for more information. This addition of beneficial organisms increase microbial activity. This leads to a breakdown of organic matter such as thatch and humus releasing natural fertilizers and nutrients. This breakdown contributes to the fast turf greening up in at times only two to four days. This helps to produce healthy turfgrass which help crowd out the weeds.

Nature's Weed & Feed is slower than chemical pesticides and like chemical pesticides works best on young weeds actively growing, and requires multiple applications. To control weeds with Nature's Weed & Feed you will apply three treatments at two week intervals. The application rate is 1.25 - 1.50 gallons per 1,000 sq. ft. applied after the soil temperatures have reached 60 degrees F. for a period of seven days. If Creeping Charlie is the weed you need to eliminate then you must increase the application to 1.5 - 2.0 per 1,000 sq. ft. Do not spray within 30 days of renovating your turf grass and if you are seeding after spraying then do a soil pH test and adjust the pH with Horticultural Lime to a pH of 6.5 - 6.9 for most turfgrass species. You should see some discolouring, yellowing, blacking then browning and death.

CONTROLLING TURFGRASS INSECTS

Natural and organic control of turfgrass insects by birds, raccoons, skunks, opossums and other natural predators but they do make a mess of your turfgrass. You may try using spike sandals to aerate the turfgrass and at the same time stick the grubs with spikes killing them. Annual mechanical aerating will also have this effect.  Nematodes are a nonselective attacking a wide range of soil insects. They enter through their body openings releasing a bacterium that destroys the host. Nematodes will not be effective in the dry high heat of summer. They in the early eveningIPM Sprayer Quiet And Light Weight should be applied when the soil is consistently moist and the soil temperature is 15 degrees C.  In the Autumn they can be applied in the early evening until the soil temperatures are 6 degrees C.  Applying Nematodes should be done under very low pressure and through a very course open nozzle. Nematodes are refrigerated and when opening the package there should be no smell. The application rate for the Nematodes is one million per 2,000 sq. ft. Remember maintain the height of the turfgrass longer and leave the clippings on the turfgrass to protect the Nematodes. 

In the U.S. you can apply a naturally occurring bacteria called Milky Spore to control grubs in your turfgrass. The Milky Spore will attack some forty plus varieties of grubs without harming other insects earthworms birds warm - blooded animals or plants. The Milky Spores are taken in, through feeding on particles of soil where they multiply stalling the grubs development and dying in several months. Apply the Milky Spore at recommended rates on the turfgrass in rows three feet apart at anytime the ground is not frozen and water in lightly. One application may last for a great many years.

One must always be on guard when someone says that a product is natural or organic. One question I get from my listeners is, are these next two mixtures natural / organic and / or safe.

MIXTURE ONE:

1 CAN OF BEER
1 CUP OF AMMONIA
1/2 CUP OF LIQUID LAWN FOOD
1/2 CUP OF MOLASSES OR CORN SYRUP
MIX IN A 20 GALLONS OF WATER 
FEED YOUR YARD EVERY THREE WEEKS
Yes, I am sure this works because you are adding yeast, pure nitrogen, manufactured chemical fertilizer and natural sugars to feed the bacteria which breaks down the organic portion of the soil profile releasing it's natural stored food. Is Beer a natural food eh?

MIXTURE TWO:

1 CUP OF SHAMPOO
1 CUP OF CHEWING TOBACCO JUICE
1 CUP OF ANTISEPTIC MOUTHWASH
IN 20 GALLONS OF WARM WATER
PLACE THREE FINGERS OF CHEWING TOBACCO IN NYLON STOCKING AND SOAK IN ONE GALLON OF HOT WATER UNTIL  WATER IS DARK BROWN. USED TO CONTROL INSECTS AND DISEASES YOU SHOULD SPRAY THE WHOLE YARD EVERY TWO WEEKS.
Yes, I am sure that this mixture works too. The shampoo acts as a sticker and spreader of the mixture. The mouthwash is an anti-bactericide. The tobacco is a very deadly pesticide so toxic that they are not registered for consumer use for decades. Indiscriminate spraying of this mixture is dangerous to all life including the beneficial insects in your yard.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society (1-888-939-3333) tobacco contains:

Hydrogen Cyanide Click here  for documentation
Acetone - Glue sniffing Click Here  for documentation
Mercury  - Heavy Metals Click Here  for documentation
Lead -  Heavy Metals Click Here  for documentation
Toluene - Industrial Solvent Click Here  for documentation
Dimethynitrosamine Click Here  for documentation
Phenol Click Here  for documentation
Nicotine - Pesticide Click Here  for documentation
Formaldehyde Click Here  for documentation
DDT - Pesticide Click here  for documentation
Carbon Monoxide Click Here  for documentation
4- aminobiphenyl Click Here  for documentation
Urethane Click Here  for documentation
Arsenic  -  Pesticide Click Here  for documentation
Benzene Click Here  for documentation
Dibenzacridine Click Here  for documentation
Cadmium Click Here  for documentation
Benzopyrene Click Here   for documentation
Vinyl Chloride Click Here   for documentation
Plus some 4,000 other chemicals  
Those chemicals in RED are cancer causing and some of the other chemicals listed here are suspect. 
It is little wonder that a mixture with Tobacco in it kills.

The other area that you should be reviewing your chemical exposure is in your home. We are often sealed up in our energy efficient air tight homes throughout the winter or exposed to chemicals while cleaning. Please read their labels.

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