Soil samples - how can they improve your lawn and landscape?

The soil is a major factor in the health or disease of your turf grass and landscaping. Soil samples are an analysis of the pH, nutrient level, and organic matter content. Once the results are in you can see what nutrients the soil is deficient in and take the necessary steps to create a healthy foundation for the lawn.

                What actually happens is we take a series of physical samples of the soil around the roots of the grass (or plants, trees) and send it to a lab that specializes in analyzing the sample. They send it back to us with the results and from there we can help determine what needs to be done to the lawn (if anything). The results will include the pH, nutrient content and OM (organic matter) content. We only apply nutrients based off of Marylands New Fertilizer Law. 

                pH is the measurement of the concentration of hydrogen ions. The ideal pH for grass to grow is slightly acidic (6.3-6.8). If your pH is too low lime can be applied. If the pH is to high sulfur can be applied. Proper pH is critical to the health and appearance of your lawn! If the pH is not ideal the grass can not utilize nutrients, meaning the fertilizer applied to the lawn will not be used by the grass, wasting your money and creating run-off pollution. This goes for Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorus as well as the micro nutrients like Iron, Maganeese, Zinc, Copper, and more.

                The nutrients are what you feed your lawn; part of what it needs to grow. Lawns can be deficient in Nitrogen for example, but they also may have an excess because no soil samples have been taken, and they are on a generic fertilizer program. Nutrients interact as well, so do not forget your micro nutrients when looking at the sample. If you have been applying the correct amount of fertilizer and the grass is not doing well, one problem could be lack of micronutrients.

                Organic matter is a wide variety of living and dead materials that come from animals or plants. OM supplies nutrients to the plants, creates a better soil structure, helping to remediate compaction and increase drainage. It also increases the number of micro-organisms. A way to increase organic matter is to top dress the lawn. This involves spreading a thin layer of compost or organic soil right on top of the lawn.

                As you can see, anyone who is serious about creating or maintaining a healthy lawn should understand the soil. To schedule a soil sample, or a lawn application please contact us

Landscaping Ideas- Rockville, MD. Eco-Friendly Tips

There are numerous ways we can help you become more eco-friendly in regards to your lawn and garden. Part of our vision is helping to bring peace of mind to our clients by not only maintaining their property, but also by doing it in a way that has a positive impact, or  the smallest negative impact on the environment. Through the studies of sustainable landscaping and agriculture, Master Gardener training, and permaculture, we can help you identify the choices for your property that will have the best environmental impact possible for your situation. These tips are not rigid laws that our company follows, but if you can do even a few of these recommendations you are improving your ‘carbon footprint’ and your community. Here are some of our eco-friendly tips:

Discharge or mulch lawn clippings into the lawn instead of bagging. Montgomery County refers to this as “Grasscycling”. Lawn clippings are a source of Nitrogen, and reduce or even eliminate the need to apply an external fertilizer source. The more self sufficient your property is the less pollution will be used in maintaining it.

Reduce storm water runoff by removing large, unused impermeable surfaces like concrete, asphalt, etc... The Montgomery County Rainscapes Program provides up to $2,500 for home owners, and $10,000 to businesses to remove concrete, implement conservation landscaping, raingardens, rain barrels, plant canopy trees, and more.

Use native and pollinator plants. Biodiversity is key to maintaining a health ecosystem. The ecosystem is an interdependent web of thousands of species that co-depend on each other for a wholesome life, whether they are plants, insects, animals, fungus, micro-organisms, etc… Native plants provide food and shelter for wildlife. They attract many species of pollinating organisms, like bees. These bees (and others) are necessary for our survival because they pollinate our food crops. Since the eco-system is an interconnected web the survival of one species may affect the survival of other species. Many native plants are well-adapted to our environment and can withstand drought, flooding, and other localized conditions, making them hardy, lower-maintenance, and more affordable in the long run.

Get a soil sample. A very important and necessary step for anyone with a plan to treat or maintain their lawn. Applying products to a lawn without understanding the soil mechanics is like giving medical treatment to a patient without ever knowing what their ailments are. For example if the pH is not ideal, the turf grass cannot use the nutrient that it is being fed. So you may be paying for lawn applications but not getting much out of it. Also, some lawns are being fed too much of a particular substance, whether it is Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Manganese,  Iron, or other nutrients. Anyone serious about improving or maintaining their lawn should understand the soil. 

Use Organic fertilizers and pesticides to help reduce toxicity in your community. Only apply pesticides/ herbicides if absolutely necessary. Hand pulling of weeds is a recommended service that saves your yard from chemicals.

Grow your own vegetables; save money and eat healthier. Even a small area can produce surprising amounts of produce.

Native Sun Landscaping turns vehicle and lawn equipment off, instead of idling it for extended times. We source local materials to reduce emissions caused by the vehicle delivery. When possible we use equipment that have reduced emission engines. Emails are used for most billing, instead of using paper products. We print our marketing materials on recycled paper whenever available. 

There are obviously many more ways to help the environment, but these are just a few that we can help you with!

Medicinal weeds that may grow in your back yard!

  Medicinal 'weeds' that may grow in your back yard. Article taken from




For thousands of years, man has looked to nature to cure disease. In the last decade particularly, medicinal plants have been catapulted into mainstream culture, with the  popularity of plant medicines such as ayahuasca, ibogaine and cannabis making headlines for their powerful healing abilities against some of today’s most prominent illnesses.  However, these plant medicines come with illicit conditions in most countries.

The good news is, some of the most common weeds in our backyard yield amazing healing abilities, and they are all legal! Here are ten weeds which possess interesting medicinal properties. (Note: Consult with your doctor before self-medicating with these plants)


Chicory (Cichorium intybus), the light blue flower frequently seen along roads, provides the main commercial source of the compound inulin. Patients take inulin to fight high blood fats, including cholesterol and triglycerides, according to WebMD. Research published in Diabetes & Metabolism Journal suggests that inulin intake benefits women with type-2 diabetes by reducing the rate of blood sugar increase after eating. Inulin promotes the growth of certain bacteria in the intestines. While some believe this can help digestion, others suffer serious flatulence when the inulin-fed bacteria build up. Some people add the dried and roasted root to coffee. Chickory coffee is especially popular in New Orleans.


Red Clover (Trifolium pretense) contains chemicals known as isoflavones. These chemicals can act like the female hormone estrogen in the body. Doctors have examined the clover chemicals as a treatment for hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause. However, doctors warn that women with a history or risk of breast cancer should avoid isoflavones, since estrogen-like chemicals have been associated with the increased incidence of some cancers.


Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) has a 2,000 year history as a liver medicine. Modern research has looked at thistle extracts as a treatment for alcohol-induced liver damage. Substances in milk thistle, particularly the chemical silymarin, may protect the liver from damage after a person takes an overdose of other medications, including acetaminophen (Tylenol). Milk thistle may also be an antidote to poison from the deathcap mushroom (Amanita phalloides). Animal studies found that milk thistle completely counteracted the poison if given within 10 minutes of poisoning, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.


Milkweed - Native Americans used the milkweed (Asclepias sp.) as a contraceptive, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The milky white sap that gives the plant its name, served to remove warts. However, milkweeds also contain chemicals known as cardiac glycosides. These chemicals can cause severe illness in humans and livestock. Monarch butterfly caterpillars eat milkweed and build up high concentrations of glycosides, which makes the insects nasty tasting to predators.


Horsetail - Ancient Greeks and Romans used horsetail (Equisetum arvense) to stop bleeding, heal ulcers and wounds, and treat tuberculosis and kidney problems. It’s also been known to help in weight loss. The tea has a mildly bitter flavor, similar to chamomile. Research published in Ethnopharmacolgy found that horsetail tea increases urination, suggesting that the plant is a diuretic. However, doctors recommend taking a multivitamin when drinking significant amounts of horesetail tea, because it can flush nutrients, such as vitamin B1, thiamin and potassium, out of one’s system as well.


Dandelion - In the past, Europeans used remedies made from dandelion (Taraxacum sp.) roots, leaves and flowers to treat fever, boils, eye problems, diabetes and diarrhea, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine take dandelions for stomach ailments and breast problems, such as inflammation or lack of milk flow. Dandelions have a bitter taste and contain vitamins A, B, C and D, along with iron, potassium and zinc.


Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) can put the hurt on a hiker in shorts, but historically the plant has served to treat aching muscles and joints, eczema, arthritis and gout. People still use the plant to treat joint pain, and some studies have suggested that the plant can treat arthritis. Another study found that capsules of dried stinging nettle may reduce the symptoms of hay fever. Europeans frequently use stinging nettle root to treat bladder problems. Boiled nettle makes a side dish similar to collared greens. For those who brush alongside stinging nettle, a remedy to the sting is often found growing nearby. Applying crushed up dandelion, horsetail, Aloe vera, jewelweed or the leaf of a dock or lock plant can counter the acid in the sting.


Purslane - Like many of the medicinal weeds in this list, purslane (Portulaca oleracea) also makes a healthy snack. The plant contains a high content of omega-3 fatty acids. I ate some that grew in my yard and found it was somewhat sour. A little bit was good, but too much would be overpowering in a salad. In traditional Chinese medicine, purslane treats genito-urinary tract infections. Research published in Phytomedicine found that the plant reduced problems with cognition in older mice.


Plantain - Since the age of the ancient Greek doctors have used plantains (Plantago sp., the weed in sidewalk cracks, not the fruit) to speed wound healing. In the training manual Survival, Evasion and Recovery, the U.S. Department of Defense recommends plantain as a poultice on wounds or as a nutrient-rich tea to treat diarrhea.


Burdock - Traditionally, healers use burdock (Arctium sp.) to clear toxins from the blood and increase urination, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. The plant also is used to treat skin ailments, such as eczema, acne and psoriasis. The leaves and roots of burdock are edible and contains inulin, like chicory, so they may aid digestion and/or cause a nasty case of flatulence. Burdock also contains high quantities of antioxidants that can prevent damage to cells.

So there you have it! Try looking in your own backyard to see if any of these wild medicinal weeds are at your disposal!


Consider the Environment this spring when choosing a lawn service

Spring is a busy time, grass and plants are starting to grow, you may be looking for a lawn or landscape service to help with your yard. Even if you are going to do it yourself, here are a few tips to keep a healthy lawn naturally.

-Don't bag grass clippings, instead let them discharge from the mower into your lawn. These clippings break down and provide a natural source of nitrogen equal to 1 lb of N per 1,000 sq ft (the average application rate.)

-Hand pull weeds. If you have to use a chemical spot treat as necessary. Do not simply put down a bag of herbicide each spring. 

- Don't cut more than 1/3 of the blade at a time. Grass is a living, growing thing and each cut harms the grass. Keep blades sharp. Dull blades prone your lawn to infection and invasion of the various species of weeds.

-When applying fertilizer, make sure you understand the new Maryland Lawn Fertilizer Law.

This law is made to prevent over-use of fertilizer and correct application techniques. Basically our environment is very polluted- our neighborhoods, the Chesapeake bay, and other local areas, and this an action taken to limit the amount of pollution entering our ecosystem. Some of the things the law does is monitor use of fertilizers by lawn services and also restrict applications dates and quantities for everyone- including homeowners. Full details are available at:

-Instead of fertilizer you can try an organic alternative like compost, or Leaf Gro- produced in Montgomery County. Just apply 1/8 to 1/4 inch to the top of your lawn in the spring or fall and this will supply the turf with proper nutrients to remain healthy and green. This is called 'top dressing".

-If grass isn't working for you, check the soil: is there at least 3 inches of topsoil? Or is it all clay? When houses are built the topsoil is stripped off the lot and the remaining clay is compacted, not allowing the roots to establish a healthy foundation for the turf.

If your soil is good and the grass still isn't growing, take a soil test. Soil pH affects the turf's ability to intake certain nutrients like magnesium, phosphorus, etc...

If the soil is perfect and the lawn is doing poorly, you probably don't have enough sunlight. In this case its a good idea to do some landscaping and mulching if you want to do something to the area.


We hope these tips help you prepare for the upcoming season. Remember to plant plenty of native plants to attract pollinator species, be host plants for wildlife, and provide beautiful scenery to your property!

Fall Landscaping

Some people may not realize it, but fall is one of the busiest times of the year for your lawn and garden. Its a great time to install grass seed or sod, as well as install plants and prepare for the winter. If you want to do aeration now is the best time! It is also the correct time to prune many plants. Most plants pruned in the fall produce a vigorous 'flush' of growth in the spring. If you want to stunt the growth of a strong plant, try pruning it between june and the end of august. Now is also the correct time to fertilize.

Leaves are another factor to consider; while the colors are appealing they can be terrible for the lawn. If you want your lawn looking nice, be sure that leaves don't sit on your lawn for more than a few days.  Often times its cheaper to do regular leaf clean ups throughout the fall than it is to do one large clean up, and have to deal with a half destroyed lawn.

Sorry it has been so long since posting any blog articles, we have been busy landscaping and mowing in Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Kensington, Rockville and the surrounding suburbs!

Millions of Bee Deaths Linked to Pesticide Usage

All around the world bees are dying and scientists are discovering that their deaths are a result of the use of pesticide and herbicide usage. Having a beautiful lawn and garden is easy to do without herbicides and pesticides. They are not required to grow delicious food.

Planting of marigolds, use of garlic / chili sprays can repel some pests. Biodiversity is the real key to keeping your garden in balance. The balance is the key to prevent one species (pest) from growing out of control. In a balanced ecosystem the pests have a predator. If you only have one species of plant, then at times only a few species will be attracted to it. Thus an imbalance occurs.  That is why it is good to have a variety of plants.

Well, you might not care if bees are dying. What did bees ever do for you? Actually bees pollinate the food crops necessary for existence of most species on earth. Could you live without bees? 

Pesticides and herbicides are unnecessary.  People existed happily for thousands of years without them.

Article - 40 million bees dead in California 

Article - Chinese farmers hand pollinate crops since all bees are dead


Fertilizers, Pollution, The Bay

In this article, I want to discuss the impacts of fertilizers and some things that homeowners can do to prevent pollution.

First lets talk about the basics. The most used substance in fertilizer is Nitrogen (N), while Phosphorus (P), and Potassium(K) are less widely used. These can be naturally occuring (cow dung has lots of nitrogen) or unnaturally occuring. Fertilizers contain the food plants need to grow. If we create healthy soils, there is no need for chemcial fertilizers. We have a very healthy lawn that has not been fertilized for atleast 15 years.

Another substance is being sprayed on our lawns (and crops). It is herbicide, developed to kill all or specific plants, and is harmful to humans. When weeds come onto a lawn, this is the common solution applied by lawn care companies. But there are many side effects, and you can do your research: pollution, birth defects, mental health issues, allergies. The best way to fight invasion of unwanted species is 1) to have a healthy crop that can crowd out other species, and 2) have some biodiversity to have a complete ecosystem in which all the species and elements are in balance.

So we see that fertilizers can make the grass greener, but at what price? When the fertilizers run off into the waterways, they can cause alot of problems. In the bay, the algaes feed off the nitrogen and reproduce rapidly. Since they grow rapidly they also die off rapidly. This causes a lack of oxygen in the water and can large numbers of fish, crabs, clams, etc... Signs are crabs being $120/ bushel. Clams, menhaden, flounder, oyster, and rockfish to name a few are on a serious decline. For what? The grass to be greener? Is it really greener?

Lets look at some factors that cause grass not to do well, and require fertilizer to look nice. First the soil is very important. Organic compost, leaves, and other organic ammendments must be added to most soils in the area. The ideal pH should be 6.2-6.8. Organic matter % should be over 5%. However a soil regularly doused with chemcials can not be healthy! To measure these we can get a soil analysis done for you. Secondly, the grass strain must be the correct type for your climate. Do you have lots of shade? Fine fescue will do better for you. Do you have plenty of sun tall fescue is best for maryland. Do you want a nice soft lawn? Zoysia may be right for you. Thirdly, overwatering can cause the grass to develop shallow and weak roots. Grass should be establsihed with deep watering, so that the roots are trained to go deep for water. Lastly, cutting the grass too low can cause alot of problems. This is a common practice of most lawn care companies and lets examine the effects of this practice.

Most lawn care companies cut the grass from 2-3.5 inches. When grass is cut too low it puts all its energy into growing above ground, so the roots are not healthy. Also there are alot of microbes in health grass that break down thatch and organic matter. When the grass is cut too low their microclimate is destroyed. Then the unhealthy level of thatch builds up. The grass is not drough resistant and requires more water and more chemical fertilizers to look nice.

Actully 4.5-5 inches is ideal. Lets look at the benefits. Deep, healthy roots develop. The turf is more disease resistant and highly drough tolerant. Microbes have a good climate and flourish, breaking down thatch and enriching the soil. A healthy lawn can capture pollutants from running off, help prevent erosion, and cool the area up to 10 degrees compared to bare earth.

Another health practice is grass-cycling, or mulching. This means mowing the grass with a mower that cuts the blades up very finely and distributes them into the yard. This is a natural nitrogen and organic matter source.

So lets just look again at the things we can do to prevent pollution of our local ecosystem as well as the Chesapeake Bay.

1) Choose the right species of grass for your climate. This will allow the grass to out-compete weeds (no herbicide needed). This will allow the grass to be more self- sufficent meaning no fertilizer is needed.

2) If you have to water, do it only as needed and water 6 inches deep. This will encourage deep root growth with leads to drough resistance.

3) Mow 4.5-5" high and leave the clippings in the lawn. This will create healthy soil, reduce thatch, add organic nitrogen and organic matter to the soil, increase the microbe population and decrease your lawn care bill.

4) If you insist on adding fertilizers, follow the application instructions on the package. For nitrogen add 2-3LB for 1000 square feet MAXIMUM. Apply 15 feet away from water(streams, rivers, ponds, etc...), and do not spill on the road, sidewalk, driveway, etc...

All of these healthy practices combined will lead to a healthier ecosystem, a healthier population of seafood in the bay, and hopefully healthier people. Please contact us if you have any questions or comments. Thank you very much for making conscious decisions for you, your family and your property.