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: http://mda.maryland.gov/Pages/fertilizer.aspx

-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 http://www.collective-evolution.com/2013/07/01/over-30-million-bees-found-dead-in-elmwood-canada/ 

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

http://thebeephotographer.photoshelter.com/gallery/Hand-Pollination-in-China/G0000M46TBQX4Odc/

 

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.