I remember a few years back– before we got into organic yard care at our house– walking into stores like Home Depot and Aco Hardware in the spring and getting excited about the smell of fertilizer in the air. You know what I’m talking about– the Scotts, Miracle Gro, synthetic, chemical smell that infiltrates your nostrils in the lawn and garden section of your favorite hardware store.
I say it used to excite me because back then, to me, that was the smell of new life, it was the smell of spring. Now after several years of going organic in the yard, those smells don’t illicit the same happy feelings. Those smells come from chemicals; they’re dangerous to get on your skin, they’re dangerous to ingest, and so why would inhaling the scent of petroleum-based fertilizers be a positive thing?
These days, I get excited about odors that are a bit more organic. When I walk into the Good Sweet Earth workshop, a different set of scents offer up olfactory stimulation– and these scents are all safe and natural (and by “natural,” I mean they come from nature, not a lab). Here are a few of my favorites:
1) Alfalfa. Is there anything sweeter than the smell of cut alfalfa? We use this wonderful grass as a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer for turf, and there is possibly no finer smell in the entire workshop. Unless you get a whiff of…
2) Black strap molasses. I know the taste isn’t for everyone (it’s pretty strong and bitter), and the smell can be equally polarizing, but I think it’s almost got a smoky scent that makes me think of a cross between a campfire and leather. We use it for brewing Worm Tea (it gives the microbes something to feed on until they arrive in your soil), so when the tea’s a-bubbling, the molasses lightly kisses the air.
3) Bat guano. Now, on its own, this stuff is pungent. You definitely won’t find it in a potpourri bowl on the kitchen counter. But when combined with the alfalfa, the odor does soften quite a bit. And maybe I’m nutty– maybe I’m just like the cattle farmer who becomes accustomed to the smell of cow manure– but my workshop just wouldn’t be the same without the sharp bite of bat guano in the air. And since it’s been partnered so much with the alfalfa in our turf fertilization program, it’s just taken on the aroma of what healthy turf should smell like to me. (And really, once applied to turf, the guano odor is truly overpowered by the sweet alfalfa.)
4) Wet soil. The smell of freshly-harvested Worm Compost has the smell of soil after a good rain, and man, the scent of wet, healthy soil is a smell to behold. There are thousands of pounds of compost constantly being produced by the worms, so this wonderful smell is definitely at the forefront year-round.
5) Kelp extract. We use this as an additive in the Worm Tea for lawns, and it smells exactly how you’d think: like seaweed. It gives the workshop a faint hint of being at the ocean, which is a nice touch.
Now all of these items bring new life to soil and provide nutrients to plant life in their special own way– and they all bring a wonderful aroma to the workshop. Sometimes the sense of smell is the first indicator of what lies ahead, and when I’m breathing deeply in the workshop, it makes me think of healthy soil and vibrant flowers, gardens and lawns.
The chemical fertilizers smell like death, not life; I feel like I should be holding my breath when I walk by those shelves in the store now. But the alfalfa, the molasses, the guano, the compost, the seaweed– these smell like nature. And isn’t that what we want our yard and garden to smell like? Let’s clear the air and breathe deeply again!
Check out our products and services for making your yard and garden more natural and healthy, or contact us as office@GoodSweetEarth.com for more information.
One of the biggest problems people face with their lawn is weeds. And it’s one of the easiest to combat.
First, let’s define what a weed is. There is no official botanical classification of “weed;” whether a plant is considered a weed depends upon the context. Simply put: A weed is any plant that is growing where it is not wanted. Clover, for instance, is something some people consider to be an unsightly addition to their lawn. Other people, however, embrace clover.
That being said, there are some plants that are more prone to sprout in your lawn without you wanting them to. And don’t those nasty things just seem to sully your lawn year after year after year?
Here’s the thing, though: Most of those weeds invading your lawn are annuals. That means they germinate, do their thing, and then die all in one season. Which is good, because it means your lawn isn’t actually doomed to support the same weed plants every year– if you start taking proper care of it.
So the question you ask yourself shouldn’t be “How can I get rid of these nasty weeds?” Rather it should be “How can I prevent these nasty weeds from germinating in my lawn?”
Here are five simple things you can do to make your lawn less attractive to weeds.
Stop using chemical fertilizers. Chemical fertilizers like Scotts, are toxic to soil. Those chemicals kill beneficial micro- and macro-organisms living in your soil (bacteria, fungi, beetles, earthworms, etc.) which kills the soil itself. Turf doesn’t grow well in soil that’s been stripped of all life. But there are plants that do thrive in dead soil– they’re called weeds. Ugly, nasty plants that no one wants in their yard. If you stop killing your soil with chemical fertilizers and pesticides, healthy turf will abound, and healthy turf always wins out over those nasty weeds.
Instead of chemicals, use organic fertilizers to feed your lawn and apply microbial soil drenches to replenish the microorganism population.
Mow your lawn higher. Set your mower up to the highest setting, which will give you a longer, thicker turf. The longer turf will make it harder for the weed seeds to get the sunlight they need to germinate and grow.
Water less frequently. If you water your lawn everyday, the weed seeds that are present will have an ideal environment for germination. Full-grown turf doesn’t need as much water to thrive, but seedlings need constant water. If you cut back to a longer, deeper watering once every seven to 10 days, your grass will be healthier (deeper roots), and there won’t be as many weeds germinating on your lawn.
Fill in the gaps in your grass. If there are gaps on your turf, holes where grass has died or weakened, fill them in with seed. The ideal time to do this is late summer or early fall (mid- to late-August all the way to mid-September). Early spring is less ideal, but you can do it then too. Use a mixture of cool weather seed– Kentucky Bluegrass and fine fescue are a nice mix. Spread a thin layer of topsoil over the gaps, put some seed down, then cover it with a soil/Worm Compost mixture. For further help on when and how to overseed your lawn, give us a call at 616-594-0693 or email Steve at steve@GoodSweetEarth.com.
Pull the weeds. Every week go around your lawn and look for unsightly weeds growing, then pull them up by the roots. Staying on it early in the growing season will mean you won’t have as many weeds to pull later in the season. Effective weed control really can happen without chemicals. And remember this: Your lawn doesn’t need to look like a TPC golf course or the outfield at Comerica Park. If your yard looks good from your front porch, or from the street, then it’s good. No one is gonna be out there penalizing you for any tiny plant that doesn’t conform with the turf around it.
So if you live in west Michigan, and you’re interested in controlling your weeds organically this year, give us a call at 616-594-0693 to set up an appointment with Michigan’s only 100% organic certified lawn care manager. Or shoot an email to Steve@GoodSweetEarth.com. Here’s more info on the lawn services Good Sweet Earth has to offer.
Steve & Corey Veldheer are organic yard & garden specialists in west Michigan.