If you've been fertilizing your lawn & garden without chemicals-- if you’re using microbial drenches (Worm Tea), compost and organic slow-release fertilizers to grow things in your yard-- then you’re part of a growing global movement to rebuild our planet’s soil. And you’re in the good company of both scientists and farmers.
Sure, farmers and scientists are making all the headlines when it comes to organic soil management these days, but homeowners like you are just as important to the health of our planet, if not more so.
In the United States, more land is planted with turf than with corn; that means what homeowners do to their lawn matters. Almost 75,000 tons of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides get dumped on American lawns annually; those chemicals are carcinogens, they also kill living creatures in your soil that our planets needs to function, and they are poisoning our watershed. So when you make the decision to stop using chemicals on your yard & garden, you’re no longer part of the problem, you’ve become part of the solution.
This past summer, both the New York Times and Politico—publications not exactly known for their stories on agricultural trends—published articles on the importance of microbes in our soil, and what is being done to rebuild our soil after decades of chemical abuse.
From the story in Politico (“Can American Soil Be Brought Back to Life?” 9/13/17): “[There] is a new trend in agriculture, one with implications from farm productivity to the environment to human health. For generations, soil has been treated almost as a backdrop — not much more than a medium for holding plants while fertilizer and herbicides help them grow.
"The result, over the years, has been poorer and drier topsoil that doesn’t hold on to nutrients or water. The impact of this degradation isn’t just on farmers, but extends to Americans’ health. Dust blowing off degraded fields leads to respiratory illness in rural areas; thousands of people are exposed to drinking water with levels of pesticides at levels that the Environmental Protection Agency has deemed to be of concern. The drinking water of more than 210 million Americans is polluted with nitrate, a key fertilizer chemical that has been linked to developmental problems in children and poses cancer risks in adults. And thanks to some modern farming techniques, soil degradation is releasing carbon—which becomes carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas—instead of holding on to it. In fact, the United Nations considers soil degradation one of the central threats to human health in the coming decades for those very reasons.”
From the New York Times (“Beyond Blades of Grass,” 6/16/17): “What if, instead of seeing lawns primarily as decorative, the more uniform and manicured the better, we saw them as living ground?
“Unpaved ground is bursting with life. A teaspoon of healthy soil holds millions of species, and far more microorganisms than there are people on earth… But the chemicals we pump into our lawns kill off the upper level of these microorganisms, which then requires us to use synthetic fertilizer to do their job — some 90 million pounds of fertilizer and more than 75 million pounds of pesticides per year. In doing so we create millions of sterile acres.”
So as we wrap up another growing season, if you’ve had us apply Worm Tea to your lawn, of if you’ve used Worm Tea or Worm Compost on your garden this year, know that you’ve done something amazing...yet simple: You fed your plants the way they were fed for millions of years before synthetic chemicals came on the scene, through soil microbes. And, while sort of hard to believe, that puts you on the cutting edge of agriculture today.
If you're interested in having natural lawn treatments on your turf in 2018, get in touch-- soon! We're already signing up new customers for next year.
In West Michigan this time of year, especially in the Holland area, it's hard to avoid the hype around the tulip-- and for good reason. These bulbous members of the lily family are an annual reminder that spring has sprung; they thrive in areas with dry summers and cold winters, so West Michigan is a great place to enjoy them.
If you're interested in growing tulips, or even if you've had them in your yard for years, we've got some tips for getting the most from these beautiful perennials.
Tulips don't last long, but they are a welcome flash of color after a cold gray winter. Follow these tips and yours will be the envy of the neighborhood for years to come.
Source: Farmer's Almanac. Read more on raising tulips here.
Vermicompost-- or compost made by worms-- is not only a great alternative to chemical fertilizers, it's also a better alternative to traditional compost. We've been using it in our yard and garden, and selling it to our customers, for years with amazing results.
But what are the actual benefits of vermicompost-- what's the science behind it? We've laid it out for you below:
What is vermicompost? Vermicompost-- or worm compost or worm casting or worm poop-- is what you get after worms consume organic matter and excrete it. As food passes through their digestive tract, worms secrete chemicals that break down organic matter into sustainable nutrition. These chemicals, excreted with their castings, comprise vermicompost, which improves soil texture, structure and aeration. From the Latin “vermi,” which means worm, vermicompost offers nutrients that are immediately available to plants. It can be applied as mulch, incorporated as a component in potting mixes or brewed in water as a compost tea liquid fertilizer.
Soil enrichment. University studies have shown vermicompost to actually add nutrients to the soil, which are immediately available for plants. This makes it superior to traditional "hot" composted material, and it makes it a nice organic alternative to chemical fertilizers. Purdue University reports that earthworms leave soil 5 to 11 percent richer in the essential plant nutrients of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium than when they first ingest it. As an organic fertilizer, vermicompost is a substitute for synthetic fertilizer in soil-enriched vegetable transplant potting mixes. As a soil conditioner, vermicompost is superior to traditional compost for its ability to improve soil structure and increase its water-holding capacity, according to the University of California’s Project Compost.
It increases crop yields and plant growth. Gardeners and organic farmers like using non-synthetic amendments and fertilizers for the benefits it provides to the environment. But when these fertilizers also produce faster plant growth and higher crop yields, it’s an added bonus, says Clive Edwards of the Ohio State University Extension. Edwards’ collaborative field crop experiments on tomatoes, peppers and strawberries showed that plants fertilized with organic vermicompost significantly outperformed the same crops fertilized with inorganic, synthetic chemicals. Edwards’ research revealed vermicompost tea fertilizer yielded dramatic plant growth rates and crop yields of up to 50 percent.
(Source: SFGate Home Guides) Read more about the benefits of vermicompost here.
If you'd like to try vermicompost for yourself and see the amazing results in your yard and garden, check out the Good Sweet Earth product page.
Good Sweet Earth is offering a new service for West Michigan gardeners looking to take their garden to the next level this year: Your own personal gardening consultant to work with you, from the planning of your crops through the harvest.
You'll have your very own Master Gardener to walk you through the entire growing season! Need help with your garden? Want to maximize your harvest? Looking for someone to answer tough questions as they pop up during the growing season?
We got your back!
Whether you do container gardening, raised beds or have a quarter-acre of yard space ready for planting, we can help! Here's what's included in your season-long Gardening Consultant Service:
1. An on-site assessment of your garden space-- we'll check your soil, sunlight, irrigation, space, etc.
2. A personalized plan for when and where to plant your seeds and seedlings. We'll sit down with you to go over the fruits, veggies and herbs you and your family most enjoy, and we'll map out your garden to maximize your harvest. We'll also make recommendations on different plant varieties based on your level of gardening experience, West Michigan climate and your personal tastes.
3. Season-long guidance. Questions always come up, but with Good Sweet Earth, you'll have an expert at your beck and call as you encounter pests, unproductive plants, fertilization questions, and any other curves nature can throw at you. We'll walk you through it all season long, from planting in the spring to wrapping things up in the fall!
4. Discounted soil test and analysis. We'll knock $10 off of our soil test and analysis. Testing is done at a Michigan State University lab, and analysis will give you guidance on how to effectively amend your soil for maximum results! Regular price is $50; discounted price is $40.
This package is only available to West Michigan residents (Kent, Ottawa and Allegan Counties), and is only available for purchase during the months of September-April, so that we can have adequate time to come out and assess your garden space and prepare your customized garden plan for spring. Best part? It only costs $100, but the food you'll harvest will be worth it!
Questions? Email Corey at Corey@GoodSweetEarth.com.
Ready to purchase? Sign up here and we'll be in touch to schedule an on-site assessment of your garden space!
How do you know when it’s time to start planting? Our weather has been more spring-like here in Michigan than wintery and if you are anything like me you have your seeds ready to go.
Is it too early though? A major deciding factor is what you want to plant. It is by far too early for summer crops like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, which shouldn’t hit the ground until mid- to late-May. But for the spring crops*...it depends.
For those marvelous spring crops that we all love to plant as soon as the ground thaws and the sun kisses the air? The deciding factor is the soil-- the soil's moisture and the soil's temperature.
First, grab a handful of soil and squeeze it into a ball. If the soil becomes tight and holds its shape too well, then it's too wet to plant. Rototilling soil this wet or even walking on your crop rows at this point will compact things unnecessarily. However, if your handful of soil becomes a light ball that breaks apart easily, your soil's passed the first test of spring.
The next consideration is your soil temperature. Cool weather vegetables need the soil to be at least 35 degrees for your seeds to germinate. An inexpensive addition to your gardening toolbox is a soil thermometer. A good strategy when you are unsure if the temperatures will remain warm enough is to plant only a section of your crops, then wait a week and plant more. This way, if temps drop too far, your entire crop won't be lost. Staggering your sowing also spreads out your harvest a bit-- an added bonus.
Now before you put your seeds in the ground don’t forget to prepare your soil. Ready to purchase your Living Worm Compost? Click here. It's never too early or too cold to stock up on compost. Not sure how much you need? Email me at Corey@goodsweetearth.com and I'd be happy to help.
(*For the record, these are really the only things you should be putting in the ground in the early spring: spring cabbage, garlic-cloves, kale, onions, peas, radishes, shallots, spinach and turnips. Those are your spring crops that are able to handle a little extra cold.)
Corey Veldheer is the owner of Good Sweet Earth and has been Master Gardener Certified through Michigan State University.
Steve & Corey Veldheer are organic yard & garden specialists in west Michigan.