Soil, Compost & Lawn Care
When Compost Goes Bad...
Compost is wet and smelly - Compost should smell like a walk in the woods - a sort of fresh, earthy scent. A high amonia smell may indicate too much nitrogen - if you're adding grass cuttings, which are high in nitrogen, add some leaves, which are carbon based - it will balance the compost out and fix the smell. A rotten egg smell means it's probably overly compacted and not getting enough air - and it's too wet. Compost should be damp. You shouldn’t be able to squeeze out any moisture from a handful of compost, nor should it be dry. Turn the pile to create air pockets and dry it out. Add some bark chips to help increase air space. The compost pile isn't heating up - The microorganisms that decompose the organic material need heat to do their job - the warmer the pile, the harder they work - and provide you with garden-ready compost quicker. If the compost isn't hot enough, they stop working. Your pile may be too dry, the most common reason for lack of heat. Turn the pile and while turning, add water. Let it sit for a few hours and give it the squeeze test. Turning it will also improve aeration - another cause of cool compost. There may be a lack of nitrogen - add some food scraps or grass clippings. However, your compost may also be finished and it won't heat up any longer. If that's the case, it will be brown and crumbly - like a good chocolate cake mix! A compost thermometer can help with monitoring the soil temperature. Critters think it's a buffet - When you add kitchen scraps, bury them a few inches below high-carbon items like leaves or wood chips. They may just be munching on your leftovers. Avoid meats, bones, oils and dairy - these will not compost and will cause a mess (and critters). Don't include weeds that have gone to seed either, they might be attracted to some of those. It's got bugs - It should. Most of them will help decompose the organic material. But watch for problem bugs like earwigs and ants - an indication that the pile isn't hot enough to destroy new insect eggs.
Organic Material - does it matter?
The #1 reason most plants fail is due to poor soil conditions.
What do those 3 letters on fertilizer bag mean?
P - Phosphorous - Reponsible for root growth and fruit development
K - Potassium - Reponsible for the plants overall health
The numbers indicate the percentage of each nutrient in the mix.
A 20-5-10 bag will have 20% nitrogen, 5% phosphate, and 10% potassium.The rest of the bag contains a filler that helps ensure even application.
Simple Lawn Care Methods
Watering the LawnIf Mother Nature were to cooperate, the lawn would receive its needed 1 ½ to 2 inches of rain every week. More often than not, however, she doesn’t. So what is right - watering regularly or letting the lawn turn brown? Grass naturally goes dormant to conserve nutrients when water levels are low. Watering less frequently saves time and money. Rather than watering in short bursts during dry spells, wait until footprints are visible in the lawn, the first sign of stress, and then water deeply for at least 30 minutes. Deep, infrequent watering will promote a healthy and strong root system that also helps deter weeds.
Removing Thatch from the LawnThatch is the layer of dead and living organic matter that rests between the grass and the soil. When thatch becomes more than 1/2-inch thick, it becomes a welcome mat for lawn pests and disease, and leaves an unhealthy environment for the lawn. Excessive thatch also prevents fertilizers, lawn seed and control products from penetrating into the soil where they are needed most. Dethatching in the spring will make lawn maintenance easier throughout the growing season. Light power raking or the use of a dethatcher will loosen and remove the thatch and improve the lawn’s health. Ongoing, be careful not to over water or add more fertilizer than is needed; both tend to increase the development of thatch.
Fertilizing the LawnAt most, two applications of fertilizer are needed to add the required nutrients into the soil. A spring treatment of a slow-release fertilizer adds nitrogen at a healthy pace to promote good root growth as the season begins. Fast-release products may cause the lawn to burn; read the package instructions for the correct application. Fall fertilizers contain higher levels of potassium, a needed element to help repair any summer lawn stress and put the lawn in good condition to over-winter.
Mowing the LawnAs summer arrives and mowing becomes a regular chore, let the grass grow to 5 inches in height and set the mower cutting height to 3 inches. Longer grass helps with good root development and shades out weeds such as crabgrass that thrive in bright sunlight. Save additional time and add nutrients back into the lawn by mulching the clippings instead of bagging or composting. The clippings will decompose quickly, adding nitrogen back into the soil, which ultimately may reduce the need for further spring fertilizer applications.