It is that time of year again to begin fertilizing your lawn, trees, and other plantings.
If you follow an organic program and live in the south now is the time to put out your first treatment for the year.
What do I suggest?
I suggest dry molasses, corn gluten meal, and rock minerals applied at a rate of 10 lbs per thousand square feet. On turf, this means just putting the dry ingredients in a spreader and walking back and forth on your lawn. For flower beds and pots the application rate is the same and it can be spread on top of the mulch and worked in with a rake or by hand. For fruit and shade trees, I will typically spread the dry mix around the base of the tree in a circle out one to two feet past the drip line and then water it in.
This application can be expensive and I can understand someone balking at the cost. If you want to lower the cost there are two things I suggest. First, replace the rock minerals like Azomite with green sand. This will lower the cost some. The second option is to skip the rock minerals altogether. If you skip the rock minerals in the spring be sure to apply them in the summer feeding.
Happy gardening everyone and keep your thumb green!
What does that mean? Well for those of us that follow an organic program for our property it means it is time to do the first fertilization of the year!
Yes here in the south we are ready to start putting down dry molasses and corn gluten meal. This application will fertilize and knock down the first broad leaf weeds that would normally appear in late winter and early spring.
Simple easy and safe for everyone in your home and good for the planet. Unlike chemical fertilizers that are basically a salt the organic program is beneficial. It builds soil microbe life that in turn breaks down organic matter and feeds plant life.
In short it makes your land more fertile the longer you use it.
Roses! Who doesn’t love the vivid colors and sweet smell of their blooms?
Now until February 14th is the time to get a first fertilization and trimming done. Roses need to be trimmed back 30 days before the last frost date to encourage bud set and flowering. For us here in North Texas that date is March 14th, so roses need to be trimmed by Valentines’ day.
With the continuing drought and hot weather that we are experiencing you landscape plantings are most likely having a tough time.
What you can expect to see in trees and shrubs is leaf drop. What does that mean? Well the leaves will begin to turn yellow and fall off. It will be widespread across the whole tree. Is it a problem? Short answer? No. Longer answer is that you should pay attention to how it is happening. It should be spread out across the whole tree and not localized to any one part of the tree. Also when the leaves turn yellow they should fall off, not be stuck to the tree.
If you have fruit trees that have fruit set already and you want to get a harvest you should consider watering if you are having leaf drop. The tree may decide to drop the fruit in order to save its life if you don’t give it some water. Watering a tree should be done by saturating the root zone of the tree and then letting it go as long as possible before you see signs of stress, then watering again. You can test the moisture in the soil by using a probe to check the soil. A probe can be any long thin rod that you can push into the ground. If it comes out with moisture on it wait a little longer and test again. Continue this until it comes out dry or mostly dry then water again.
Flowers and flowering plants will be showing signs of stress by looking wilted and not flowering. Be sure to water them heavily and wait till they show signs of stress before watering again. You should have a thick (2 to 4 inches) layer of mulch on your beds to help retain moisture.
New plantings of flowers and small shrubs will need to be watered every day until they are established and maybe beyond that if the drought is still with us. Most will be established in about 2 to 4 weeks, and hopefully we will have some good rains by then.
Remember to give your plants the best chance of survival by using organic amendments like compost, Garrett Juice, liquid seaweed, rock dust, Azomite, or green sand.
When planting new trees for clients I explain the importance of proper watering. I just came across this explanation on the website of one of my local nurseries and it does a great job of explaining proper watering.
Importance of Watering
The most important aspect of caring for your new tree is a good understanding and proper
timing on watering. Trees have transpiration rates similar to our sweating. The hotter and
windier it is, the higher the transpiration rate. During our hot summer months, when the
transpiration rate is extremely high, 3-4 waterings per week may be necessary. During the
dormant season the transpiration rate is very low and may only require a few waterings per
month. Sometimes it seems easier to water when in doubt. This can cause a problem, however,
if too much water over an extended period of time is applied to your tree. Too much water
can result in displacement of air space in the soil with water, and over time the trees can suffer
or die from lack of oxygen in the soil. This all makes it sound difficult to know when to water,
but it really is not. Just remember to drench when watering, saturating the entire root zone
and then let oxygen return to the soil (let the roots dry) before watering again. Remember, it is
better to water when needed rather than water by a calendar.
Here is a general watering schedule:
• In Spring when daytime highs are comfortable and hopefully rains are frequent:
• 1-2 waterings per week.
• In Summer when temps are over 90 degrees: 3-4 waterings per week may be necessary
• In Fall/ Winter during the dormant season: 2-3 waterings per month may be sufficient. Keep
in mind though that if rains are few and temps are higher than normal, 1-2 extra waterings
may be necessary
If you have a newly planted tree:
• It is best to water every day for the first week and every other day for the next 1-2
weeks then follow the general watering schedule.
• A general rule for the amount of water your tree needs is dependent on the size of the
container your tree was in. For example, if you bought a 20 gallon tree, your tree will need 20
gallons of water daily for the first week. If you fill up a 1 gallon container with water pressure
at a slow stream, multiply the amount of time it took by the container size of your tree (ex.
20 gal.) and that is about how long you should be watering each time for the first 3 weeks.
• Also note that a sprinkler system IS NOT adequate for your first year of watering for a newly
planted tree. A water hose or soaker hose is fine.
It may be the year of the dog on the Chinese calendar, but here where I live in North Texas it is the year of the Chigger!
Yes I have been doing garden clean outs, installs of flower beds and water features and have come across more than my fare share of chiggers (my feet are speckled with the red marks left from the chiggers).
What can be done? Prevention / deterrence and treatment of the bites.
The chiggers tend to make their appearance when the weather is dry and hot and in areas where the landscape or fauna is undisturbed.
Prevention — Soil that has high biological activity will have less pest issues. Fertilizing with organic options will help feed the life in the soil and increase biodiversity. Dried molasses, corn meal and compost at 10 to 20 lbs per 1,000 square feet will help plant and microbe vitality. Yes this is expensive but it only needs to be done 3 or 4 times per year, spring summer fall and winter.
Orange oil can be used mixed at the rate of 1 cup to 2 gallons of water and sprayed on areas that are infested. BUT this will kill all insects that it comes into contact with so use it with caution. Coincidentally this is the same mix to use when killing fire ant mounds.
Diatomaceous earth can also be used. It can be use as a wide area broadcast or as spot treatment. Be cautious as you do not want to breath the dust as it can be an irritant. Also it will kill most insects that it comes into contact with, both beneficial and harmful.
Sulfur powder can also be used but is smelly and not recommended for use in residential areas because of that reason.
Treating the bites — There are many old wives tales of ways to treat the bites once you have them. What I find works best for me is after showering I splash the affected area with hydrogen peroxide and let it air dry. Once it is dry I liberally apply Christopher’s Complete Tissue & Bone Ointment. I get this from Amazon and use it for most cuts scrapes and bites. One caution I will give is that you do not want to use this product on a deep wound. It works so well that there is the possibility that it will cause the wound to close up and seal in an infection.
In summery organic prevention is the key to avoiding these little monsters, and natural remedies work best for healing the bites.
Or maybe you love fish and could sit and watch them for hours on end.
Perhaps you love wildlife and want to provide an ecosystem that will provide for their needs and give you the joy of observing them.
Well then a water feature may be the answer for you. From a fountain, pondless waterfall, to a full ecoscape pond there is a solution that will work for your property.
A fountain will add the sounds of water and provide a calm and relaxing environment for you to enjoy whenever you want. They can be small or large depending on what you desire and can incorporate stone or ceramic pots that will add to the beauty of your landscape. Fountains also provide a source of water for the beneficial insects and animals in your area. Many people have reported that frogs and toads have appeared on their property after installing a fountain. Frog and toads are an indicator species and only live where the ecosystem is healthy.
The next step is a pondless waterfall. The sight and sound of water running down a waterfall and through a stream right in your yard! Water running over rocks and cascading down to disappear into a stone bed are some of the most magical sights and sounds that nature has to offer. You also get the benefit of small pools that offer even more habitat for wildlife to use. Even the family dog will love this and will often be found cooling off and getting a drink to refresh themselves.
A backyard pond! Have you dreamed of having a backyard Koi pond? Or maybe you love turtles and want to have a habitat for them? With an ecosystem pond you can have all of that with very little maintenance. Building the pond to mimic nature creates a system that is almost self sustaining. Adding features like a waterfall and a stream increase the health and life in your pond as well as adding beauty and value to your home. Imagine sitting in the evening and watching your Koi swimming around eating and playing. With the addition of lights you can extend the amount of time your enjoyment lasts into the evening hours. Having moving water and fish in the pond means that there will not be mosquitoes. Adding flowers and other colorful plants to the water and pond edge will make the ecosystem complete.
I want to take a moment to explain proper mulching techniques for trees.
I see it all the time in suburban front lawns, a tree poking out of the top of a mound of mulch. This is one of the worst things you you could do for the health of your trees. Mulch should never touch the trunk of a tree. If the tree is young mulch should be about 3 inches away from the trunk and as it matures it should be kept about 6 inches from the trunk.
You may have heard the term “mulch volcano” which basically refers to a mound of mulch with a tree coming out of the top like the eruption of a volcano. When you mulch around a tree it should be like a doughnut with the tree coming up in the middle of the hole. try to keep the doughnut somewhat flat and about 3 inches deep.