By Jeneen Wiche
Soil Food Web
Soil structure is important. I don’t just mean waiting for the garden to dry out enough so it is workable; I mean the web-of-life kind of structure. There are organisms in the soil that help plants succeed. Healthy soil is alive with good bacteria, fungi, nematodes, earthworms and more.
Bacteria and fungi help break down organic matter and what they don’t eat they share with our plants, naturally making important nutrients available at a rate they can handle. Earthworms gently aerate the soil. Beneficial organisms eat bad ones for breakfast.
The bad news is that we have managed to disrupt this symbiotic relationship in the soil because of lazy management practices in the garden. We destroy soil structure, literally and figuratively, when we rototill and use synthetic chemicals and fertilizers. Overtime the soil literally gets tilled to death so most gardens no longer have healthy soil. Unhealthy soil means unhealthy plants that rely on too much intervention. The irony is that we can now purchase all of these naturally occurring things to add back to the soil we have killed. Organic matter, earthworms, various types of inoculants, and good fungi are all for sale.
On the subject of wood chips as soil-builders, I am a fan. Even if just slightly aged the wood chips will return nitrogen to the soil as they begin to decompose. They can reinforce undisturbed soil around trees, shrubs and vegetable paths. They will provide a neat walking path as they build soil and they are an available by-product of arborist’s work.
I now hand-turn and hand-cultivate my vegetable garden adding composted horse and hen manure, once in the spring and again as a side dressing about mid-season. I look forward to seeing the earthworms and the mycorrhizal fungi, evidenced by little white squiggly things, like threads, literally creating a web of life beneath the soil surface. Mycorrhizal fungi fix nitrogen in exchange for carbohydrates and scavenge absorbable phosphate for our plants so we don’t have to.
So, it really is all about the soil. Wait for it to warm up, dry out and abuse it as little as possible if you are planting a garden. If you are maintaining a healthy landscape of trees and shrubs consider mimicking nature as much as possible this autumn as the leaves begin to fall. Rake them back beneath the canopy of the tree to build soil in a truly sustainable act. The soil is alive so feed it with compost and encourage the symbiotic relationship between the soil and plants that nature intended. Feed the soil naturally and it will in turn feed the plants that will ultimately bring you shade or make it to the table.
For more information about building healthy soil, call Limbwalker at (502) 634-0400 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Royce Hall
Every year, following the glorious colors of autumn, millions of leaves cascade to the ground and cover your lawn with their faded beauty. Fall, with all its colors and nicer temperatures, is my favorite time of the year, but it is also one of the most labor intensive times of the year. We have to go to the hardware store to get bags and rakes. Then we have to rake the leaves, bag them, and haul them to the curb. Our work stops there, but the leaves have to be hauled away by the city or by a private company and processed by them as well. We as individuals, and as a society, put a lot of time and resources into throwing away our leaves, but it does not have to be this way.
Mulching you Leaves = Mowing your Leaves
An easy alternative to raking and disposing of your leaves is to mow, or mulch them where they lay with a lawn mower. The goal of mulching leaves is to chop the debris into pieces that are smaller than the head of a dime. This prevents the leaves from smothering the turf over the winter. Likewise, you want no more than ½ of debris in your lawn for the same reason. To accomplish this, you may need to take multiple passes over your lawn (Pro tip: on your second pass, rotate your mowing pattern 90 degrees from your first pass to create a nice checkered pattern in your lawn). In the end, you should be left with a nicely manicured lawn with minimal visible debris. These leaves will decompose over the winter, leaving little evidence that they were there by the spring.
For better results with your mower, you may also want to consider buying a mulching blade. These blades are designed to keep debris in the mower for longer, thus chopping each leaf more times before the mower ejects it. Always remember to take out the spark plug before working under your mower!
Advantages of Mulching your Leaves
Less work and effort
Leaves add organic matter to your soil
Leaves fertilize your soil
Save money on bags
Will Mulching Damage my Lawn?
A common misconception about mulching leaves is that it will add to a lawn’s thatch layer. Extensive research through Michigan State University has demonstrated that mulching leaves does not detrimentally affect lawns, and does not cause thatch or disease problems. You can read Dr. Thomas A. Nikolai’s, lead turf expert at Michigan State University, summary of their finding here: http://grounds-mag.com/mag/grounds_maintenance_leaves_turn_litter/.
Furthermore, some research suggests that mulched leaves may help control dandelions (see this scientific article: http://turf.umn.edu/files/2013/11/tree-leaves-and-weeds.pdf)!
If you have any questions about fall lawn maintenance, please contact Limbwalker at 502-634-0400, or Royce at email@example.com.
Come out and cheer on the guys from Limbwalker as they compete in the Kentucky Tree Climbing Championship, hosted by the Kentucky Arborists Association! The championship is a great way to see what arborists do every day but with plenty of cheering and a lot more excitement.
The action starts at 8 a.m. with 25 climbers from around the state (including defending champion and Limbwalker arborist Cory Petry) competing in five preliminary events. They’ll do two speed climbs using protective gear and test their skills at placing a throwline and climbing line on a target, moving around in a tree and performing work tasks and rescuing another climber from a tree.
Contestants earn points for each event and the top three go on to the Masters’ Challenge, which starts between 2:30 and 3 p.m. The three fearless competitors will race to the top of the tallest tree in the park, between 100 and 125 feet off the ground. (Are you impressed yet?!?) The champion moves on to the 2015 International Tree Climbing Championship in Tampa, Fl.
For a small donation to the Kentucky Arborists Association, kids can put on safety gear and participate in a special supervised climb. Local food trucks will also make an appearance. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday, huh?
Event at a glance:
-Saturday, October 18 at George Rogers Clark Park (at Poplar Level Road and Thurston Avenue near St. Xavier High School)
-Preliminary events start at 8 a.m. and go until approximately 2 p.m.
-Masters’ Challenge starts between 2:30 and 3 p.m. and will last about 30 minutes.
-The event is free and open to the public. Parking is available off Thurston Avenue.
By Royce Hall
Service your mulching lawn mower, or have it serviced by a local dealer. Sharpen blades, add new fuel, and change air filters. Efficient machines save time and money. If you getting under the mower deck, make sure to pull the spark plug out first so the mower doesn’t start running with you under it!
Set your mowing height to 2.5” – 4.” We recommend a mulching style mower, as your grass clippings will provide nutrition for your grass. Thatch is not usually a problem for bunch-type grasses, such as fescue, and our Bio-TeaTM will help break down any thatch that may be present on your lawn.
Never remove more than 1/3 of the total grass blade during any one mowing. Letting the clippings fall back onto the lawn is similar to adding a 4-3-2 fertilizer.
The time for spring fertilization is over. Water will be the most critical addition your lawn needs this summer. So, before it gets too warm, you should check to make sure your irrigation system is in good working order.
Water consistently 2-3 times per week for 30 minutes, as long as water is not pooling on the surface. Avoid short, frequent watering. Longer watering periods will help your lawn grow deep roots. Summer is the most stressful time for your grass, so be sure to give it the water it needs!
Water early in the morning rather than late in the evening so your lawn can dry out, as this will help you avoid harmful lawn fungi.
Mowing your grass higher (3”-4”) can help your lawn conserve water and energy during the stressful summer heat.
On Limbwalker’s lawn program your lawn will be core aerated and over-seeded at this time. In the coming weeks, as you mow your lawn these cores will break down and disappear, so you do not need to remove them.
You can help your new grass seed grow by changing your watering routine for the next three weeks. Water 2-3 times a day for 10-15 minutes each cycle. This light, shallow watering will keep the seed moist and help it grow.
Keep your lawn free of leaves to ensure that none of your grass or grass seed is smothered by debris.
Once you are done watering your newly seeded lawn, you can move your above-ground irrigation system into storage, or have your in-ground irrigation system blown out for the year.
Continue to keep the leaves off your lawn, and cut your lawn short for the winter, To keep from removing more than 1/3 of the grass blade at a time, your next to last cut can be at 2.5” and your last can be at 2”.
Be careful to not get salt in your grass during the winter, as this will kill your grass. Also choose a place for your snow to be moved to, as snow piles may freeze and kill the grass they sit on. You may want to mark the edge of your driveway with stakes if it is to be plowed so your lawn will not be plowed and damaged by mistake.
Now would be the time to winterize your lawn equipment by either running your mower out of fuel, or by adding fuel stabilizer to the tank.