- Healthy Lawn Care
- Native Plants
- Green Gardening Links
- Aerate in late April
- Overseed after aerating
- Cut high – 3”
- Fertilize — with organic fertilizers — in early June
- Water 1” a week at most
- Fertilize in late August
- Overseed in September
- Fertilize in mid October
HEALTHY LAWN CARE – WHAT IS IT?
Synthetic fertilizers and pesticides mask what is truly going on in your lawn. Using proper cultural practices you can achieve the results you want without worrying about the negative effects of pesticide use on you, your family and your pets.
HOW GRASS GROWS
- It is a common myth that grass gets its food from fertilizer. Plants, including grass, get their food from sunlight.
- The grass leaves use sunlight and carbon dioxide to make sugars that the grass plant uses for food. The roots supply water and nutrients. Fertilizer provides these nutrients but is not in itself food.
- For good growth we need lots of green blades of grass to produce the food and lots of roots to supply water.
- The length of the blades and roots are proportional; that means the roots are generally as long as the blades.
- If you cut your grass too short, you are destroying the food producing area and causing shallow roots.
- When faced with a dry period, the combination of short blades (less food, no shade for the roots) and shallow roots (close to the surface) will cause your lawn to burn or go dormant and then the weeds move in.
CUT THE GRASS — 3” Please
It is very important not to cut your grass too low. In spring, 2.5” is a good height but 3” is better for the hot summer sun. In the fall go back to 2.5”, if you want, and give it a short cut just before you put your mower away for the season (2”). Do cut the grass over your septic system.
WATER — 1/week 6” deep
The surest way to ruin a lawn is to water it lightly several times a week. The water will evaporate quickly and cause the roots to reach for the surface to get to it. These shallow roots will burn in the hot sun of a dry spell.
Grass needs one inch of water per week and it needs that water at least six inches deep in the soil. Watering deeply encourages deep roots that won’t be as susceptible to heat and drought.
Don’t water the grass over the septic leaching bed – it doesn’t need it.
GRASS CLIPPINGS – Leave‘em where they lie
Generally, leave grass clippings on the lawn, as they are rich in nitrogen. Obviously if your lawn has become a hay field you will need to collect them.
Leave them for a day or two to dry out and then collect them for compost or to use as mulch. A mulching mower will help as well.
There is no point in feeding your lawn a high nitrogen diet just so you can cut the grass twice a week. Nitrogen (N), the first number on your fertilizer bag, can cause excessive green growth. And though it may look like your lawn is very healthy this excessive growth is weak and prone to disease and insect attack.
Organic fertilizers don’t cause this problem, as there are no organic ingredients that are so high in nitrogen as to cause excessive growth and they are slow-release. Try to keep the nitrogen down around 15 % in June and as little as possible for your fall treatment.
- Contain trace elements and provide long-term benefits
- Do not kill off the worm population, as chemical fertilizers tend to do.
- Worm castings are excellent lawn fertilizers in themselves
Any fertilizer has three basic ingredients: Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K). N supports lush growth, P builds roots, and K increases hardiness. These are listed as a percentage of the whole content, for example, as 8-5-2. This example totals 15%, which means the rest of the bag is filler. Filler is often comprised of powdered rock, which can increase soil acidity. Organic fertilizers have trace elements essential to your lawn’s well being, as well as organic material, such as seaweed. This increases the biological activity in the soil and helps the soil to hold moisture and resist compaction. A slow-release organic fertilizer is essential to building a healthy lawn. Compost is ideal. It can be screened and spread as fertilizer. Put the large particles in the flower or vegetable garden.
Weeds – They cause most of the headaches you will encounter with your lawn. Try to remember that no lawn can be free of weeds. Ultimately you will have to pull a few. However by overseeding in spring and fall, your lawn will be so thick that most weeds will be crowded out. Corn Gluten Meal applied at 10kg/1000sf will cause a significant decrease in germinating weeds according to the University of Iowa. Apply in late spring or early fall. www.hort.iastate.edu/gluten/home.html
Insects – Most insect problems can be reduced with proper maintenance and just a little outside help. The most destructive pest in the lawn is the white grub, which eats the grass roots. Skunks and moles will dig up your lawn looking for these grubs. By reducing the grubs you get rid of these digging pests. A very effective form of control for grubs is a microscopic parasite called a nematode. Once watered into the soil to the level of the grubs, the nematodes invade the grub causing its death. To be effective it must be applied in late May/early June and/or early September.
Thatch – Most lawns have a thatch problem, caused by poor maintenance practices. A chemical program increases the problem because it boosts growth and slows the natural disintegration of the old roots and runners. This thatch layer harbours insects and slows the rate at which the lawn can absorb water. Chemicals also kill the worms that normally loosen the soil and allow air to reach the roots. To deal with both of these problems, aerate the lawn. Core aeration removes plugs of soil 2” – 3” deep allowing water, fertilizer and air to penetrate. It also speeds up the breakdown of thatch.
The Canadian Wildlife Federtion maintains a list of native plant suppliers across Canada.
If you are coming by the REAL Deal, take a look at our native garden in front of the store!
Updated April 2015
If you are, or know of, a native plant supplier in our area, please let us know.
Carleton Place Nursery
County Road 29
64 George St.
Ferguson Forest Centre and Ontario Woodlot Association
275 County Road 44
Native trees and shrubs
Forget-me-not Herbs ‘n’ Wildflowers
1920 Beach Road
Limited quantities of native plants
Garden Market Garden Centre
115 William Street West
5984 Third Line Rd. N., North Gower
613-489-0065 or 613-489-1208
Gemmell’s Garden Centre
11862 Hwy 15 RR3
Green Things Garden Centre
1892 Hwy 2 East
Native herbaceous and woody species
313 Wayside Drive off Hwy 7, E of
687 Harper Road RR7
Native and drought-tolerant species
Old Field Garden & Wildflower Nursery
2935 Porter Road
Plant list and good links on Web site
Saturday mornings May-October
at McDonald’s Corners Farmers Market
632 Van Buren Street
142 Pick Road
6986 McCordick Road RR2
North Gower 866-870-5088
Rideau Woodland Ramble
210 County Road 23
Limited selection of native perennials/trees
Rock Wall Gardens
995 Code Road off Hwy 7 E of
Stoneridge Gardens & Nursery
1851 Galbraith Road
Sylvia’s Plant Place
2172 Upper 4th Line RR7 Perth
Native and drought resistant species
594 Rae Road RR2
202 Arklan Road
Note: Most establishments with a website include a complete plant listing.
Provides wildlife habitat
Local bird, butterfly and other wildlife have co-evolved with our native plants for thousands of years. By simply providing their local familiar favourites, your efforts will be rewarded with an incredible diversity of visitors to your garden.
As a result of having developed alongside their regionally occurring pests and diseases, native plants are naturally less susceptible to attack.
Reduce water usage
Having adapted themselves to a variety of local weather conditions, native plants are better equipped to withstand drought than many cultivated plant varieties.
Since native plants require very little care once established, you will be able to just sit back, relax and enjoy your wonderful surroundings.
Native plants often propagate themselves quite freely, so you won’t have to replenish plant stock annually, as you would with bedding plants. You can also look forward to considerable savings from reduced pesticide and maintenance costs.
It’s naturally beautiful
From majestic oaks, fragrant vines and wetland irises to exotic woodland orchids and over 500 species in-between, Eastern Ontario is blessed with a rich tapestry of native flora to suit any personal preference or landscaping need.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR …
Complete Latin botanical names
This is the only way to correctly differentiate plant species, as many plants are known by the same common name. For example, if you want native High-bush Cranberry, insist on Viburnum trilobum, or you might come home with European High-bush Cranberry, Viburnum opulus. Also, steer clear of names varieties, which may include one or more names in quotation. So, while Chokecherry, Prunus virginiana, is native, Schubert Chokecherry, Prunus virginiana “Schubert’ is not.
Nursery propagated plants
Make sure the plants you purchase have been nursery propagated and NOT dug up from the wild. The last thing we want to do is support practices that disrupt or diminish populations in established plant communities.
Plants adapted to existing conditions
There are a number of native plants that will thrive in many conditions. Know which plants are naturally suited to your existing site, and select the right plant for the right site.
Provenance of plant stock
Select plants that have been grown in conditions similar to those in which they will be placed. This helps to avoid transplant shock, and ensures a better chance of survival.
Quality and health above size
Look for plants that are full, lush, healthy, and well branched, and possess strong, well-established root systems. Small perennials with several crowns in the pot will yield better results than a tall, singular plant.
- It’s easy
- Saves money on garbage fees and cuts your garbage by one-third
- Your garbage won’t smell
- Produces Gardener’s Gold – the best fertilizer possible for your plants and lawn
- Cuts fertilizer costs
- Reduces production of the greenhouse gas methane from landfills by keeping wet, organic materials out.
- Protects groundwater by keeping wet, organic materials out of landfills.
- Reduces greenhouse gas production from transportation of garbage
1) Get a small stainless steel bucket to collect kitchen scraps.
Plastic containers retain odours. Line the container with newspaper or old paper bags. These are a source of carbon so they absorb odours in the container and add important carbon to the compost pile. Bonus – they make the container easier to keep clean. Or, keep your collection container in your freezer.
2) Get or build a composter.
Check your local municipal office for subsidized composters or build one from old wood pallets.
3) Set up your composter so it is easily accessible and in the sun.
Follow the old adage “Put the wood pile between the outhouse and the house, and no one has an excuse for not bringing in fire wood!” Put your composter where it will be easy for you to frequently dump your kitchen scraps, especially in winter.
4) Roughen up or t urn the soil in the location where the composter will be.
This will help the compost workers, the soil bacteria and fungi, come up into the compost pile.
5) After placing the composter, cover the floor with a layer of small branches.
This will allow for air movement and drainage.
6) If available, add a little “finished” compost, garden soil or a compost starter (available at most garden centres) to the pile.
This helps speed up the start of the composting process.
7) Throw in your kitchen scraps!
8) Collect bags of leaves in the fall and prop them against the composter. Every time you throw a container of kitchen scraps in, add a handful or two of leaves.
This keeps the carbon/nitrogen mix in balance. Bonus – no leaves to go in leaf pickup and the bags held insulate the compost pile.
From the Garden…
Leaves (dry, not clumped. If you have time, chopped to speed their breakdown)
Grass (not wet or clumped)
Plants and weeds (without ripe seeds)
Old potting soil
Soft plant stems
DO NOT include…unless you have sufficient land and enjoy wildlife:
- Meat, fish and bones
- Fats and oils
- Dairy products
- Cheese, meat or other sauces
- Wet eggshells
DO NOT include for any reason:
- Pet waste
The compost pile will freeze in the winter. Keep adding your scraps though. Come the spring, just when you’re thinking you can’t add one more scrap to the pile, you’ll be needing to cut your fast-growing grass. Lightly sprinkle and mix in some fresh-cut grass. This adds a hit of nitrogen to the compost pile which will speed up the process. (Don’t put in great clumps of green grass or it will stink!)
If you have time, chop up or shred compost materials. Composting works best and fastest when pieces are small. If you want to enter the compost Olympics, try the 14-day approach.
Raccoons and other animals are particularly attracted to the wet albumen on the inside of eggshells. Let the eggshells dry out before putting them into the compost pile.Or, let them dry out, crush them and spread them around plants to keep soft-bodied insects from attacking your plants.
Don’t add thick layers of any one kind of waste . Grass should not be more than 6 cm deep, leaves up to 15 cm deep (cut or chop or dry and crumble them). If you can, let grass dry first or mix it with dry, coarse material such as leaves to prevent compacting.
The composter contents should be moist like a wrung-out sponge. If the contents are too dry, it will take overly long to compost; and if too wet, the contents may begin to smell.
If you have time, turn or mix the compost every couple of weeks or each time you add new material. This keeps the compost well aerated. With no time, just make sure you are layering kitchen scraps and garden material.
Composting can be done in the winter . You can add materials to your composter all winter long. The breakdown process slows down or stops when the pile is frozen, but it will start up again in the spring. Thorough turning in the spring will reactivate the pile. Empty the composter in the fall to make plenty of room.
Composting can be done indoors. You can use a vermicomposter to compost smaller amounts of materials indoors using worms. Great for apartment dwellers or a classroom. One local supplier is The Worm Factory in Westport.
- If the pile does not decrease in size or generate heat, composting may need a boost. If the pile is dry, add water – mixing thoroughly. If the pile is wet and muddy, spread it in the sun and add dry material. Remember to save “old” compost to mix with incoming material.
- If the centre of the pile is damp and warm, but the rest is cold, the pile may be too small. Try to keep your composter as full as possible. Mix new with old, dry with wet, breaking up mats and clumps.
- If the pile is damp and sweet smelling but not heating, it may need nitrogen. Add grass clippings, table scraps or a sprinkling of organic fertilizer from the garden centre.
- If the compost pile develops a foul odour, it may not be getting enough air. Loosen up the pile, break up clumps, unblock vents and perhaps add some wood chips to help the pile “breathe”. Turning the pile always helps aeration.
- Compost in a container with a cover to prevent animals from getting into the composting materials. A wire mesh around the base can help to prevent pests from digging under the pile. Dig in or cover food waste immediately.
The composting process can take from 2 months to 2 years, depending on the materials used and the effort involved. To accelerate the process, the pile must be a balance between wet and dry material, turned frequently and the waste shredded or in small pieces.
Compost is ready to be used when it is dark in colour, crumbly and has an “earthy” smell. You can sift the compost to extract material which has not yet finished composting. Return this back to the pile to complete its transformation into humus.
Compost is the perfect slow fertilizer and soil additive. It increases the soil’s organic matter content and its moisture-holding capacity. It improves soil porosity and helps to control soil erosion. It also enhances plant and flower growth and helps plants develop a sound root structure. Use it on your lawn, in your garden, around trees or combine it with potting soil for your plants.
With information from the Composting Council of Canada.
Pesticide Free Ontario
Facts about pesticide use in Ontario. How pesticides are affecting you, and what you can do about it.
Pesticide Action Network
This database contains lots of information on pesticide toxicity.
The Dirt Doctor
American yes, but excellent.
Natural Care Lawn and Garden Products
Source of organic fertilizers in Gananoque (Eastern Ontario).
Database of Canadian native plants.
Evergreen Avenue in Smiths Falls
Native plants planted on REAL’s Evergreen Avenue memorial pathway in Smiths Falls.
Natural Insect Control
Environmental lawn and garden control products. A source for Beneficial Insects, books for the birdwatcher and some interesting environmentally themed novelties. Mail order.
Mail order source for organic fertilizers and corn gluten meal (weed suppressant).
National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides (NCAMP) Lists alternatives, or safe pest management techniques.