Michigan Organic Lawn & Tree Care Tips

Organic Lawn and Tree Environmentally Friendly Alternatives

Lawn Care

The following are the most important factors in maintaining healthy lawn.

  • Mow High: Set your mower as high as it will go (3 to 4 inches).
  • Water infrequently: Water only when your grass shows signs of drought stress and then water deeply (put a cup in your sprinkler zone and make sure it gets at least an inch of water).
  • Fertilize with an organic fertilizer in the fall and spring.
  • Periodical core aeration
  • Have the pH of your soil professionally tested. Add lime if it is below 6.0 and gardener's sulfur if it is above 7.0.
  • If you have less than four inches of soil, you must add topsoil.
  • Disease & Pest Control as needed

Proper Mowing

To get the most out of the grounds you care for, remember these tips:

  1. Be sure your mower is set at the right height. The recommended mowing height is three inches. Cutting the grass too short and infrequently will cause it to be thin and weak, and it will eventually be taken over by weeds. Exceeding the recommended length will cause the grass to become tremmy, coarse, and it may mat down.
  2. Schedule your mowing to remove only one-third of the leaf surface at any one time. Removing too much of the leaf at one cutting is a severe shock to the grass. This causes thinning, curtailment of root growth, excessive clippings and unnecessary watering for the grass to recover. If you only cut 1/3 of the grass blade each time, it is not necessary to pick up the clippings. They put almost 25% of your fertilizer back into the soil, as well as retaining more moisture in the lawn since 80% of a grass blade is water.
  3. Keep the mower blades sharp. The key to a quality job is sharp blades. Dull blades beat and tear the grass and leave frayed leaf tips, which turn brown. Sharp blades cut cleaner and quicker with less power. Inspect the blades often for nicks and dullness, and sharpen them often.
  4. Mow at a different angle each time. You should make a point of mowing in a different direction each time to help avoid soil compaction and turf wear caused by the mower wheels.

Deep Watering

How you water your lawn can make a difference. With the proper use of water, maximum benefit can be derived from each gallon, and the quality and appearance of the turf can be improved. Water comprises about 80 to 90 percent of the structure of a grass plant and is therefore a very important element for proper growth and continued good appearance. It is essential that adequate moisture be maintained in the soil to replace that loss to drainage, evaporation and plant consumption.

WHEN SHOULD I WATER? Checking the soil and the turf itself is the only way to determine when water is needed and to follow a proper watering program. Evidence of a blue-gray color and/or "foot-printing" on the turf is an indication that wilt is imminent. Another guide is the use of a soil probe to check the soil moisture content and distribution in the upper six inches of the soil. Watering on a regular basis will protect your grass from many harmful conditions. Healthy grass is more resistant to natural problems.

HOW MUCH SHOULD I WATER? To check the discharge of your sprinkler, place three or more straight-sided cans in a line at intervals out from the sprinkler. Place the can nearest the sprinkler no closer than eight to ten feet. When the average depth of water in the three cans is one to one and a half inches, sufficient water has been applied. The rate of application should not exceed the rate that the soil can absorb it, or water may rest on the surface. This surface water could lead to compaction of the soil, scald and submersion injury, and general deterioration of the turf. Persistently wet soils give rise to weeds such as nutsedge, poa trivialis and others.

WHAT'S THE RIGHT TIME OF DAY? Many lawnkeepers disagree over what time of day to water. So you'll find there is much to be said either for or against any particular time. However, don't believe the popular fallacy that grass is harmed if watered during the middle of the day when the sun is hottest. Early morning or late afternoon watering may be preferable to late evening. Watering at night allows water droplets to remain on the leaves for an extended period, resulting in greater disease problems.

Core Aeration

Core Aeration is one of the most important processes used in keeping turf healthy. Aeration helps to alleviate compacted soils and greatly reduces the number of attacks by insects and diseases. Aeration also helps nutriets and water to reach the root zone where it is more readily available to be taken up by the turf plant.

Grub Control

Grubs are the immature or larval stage of a dozen or more different beetles. They are found in the soil below the turf surface. Grubs are typically cream colored, white, to grayish white with an orange-brown head, a dark area at the posterior end of the body, and three pairs of legs. Grubs feed on grass roots as much as 2" below the soil surface, which may cause lawns to turn brown and die.

With heavy infestation grubs will severely damage the root system making it easy to roll the sod. Birds and animals such as moles, skunks, and raccoons cause damage while they hunt for grubs to feed on. Since they are so deep in the soil it is very important that any insecticide used should be heavily drenched into the soil to get it to the root zone.

Recommended Cure

The best method of control is the two-step grub program. This involves a spring insecticide to control adults, followed by a mid-summer insecticide to control the new hatchling grubs that may be present. The second treatment should give the necessary control for the rest of the season.

Understanding Grubs

A grub's life cycle starts in summer with the hatching of eggs laid from the May beetle or often called June bug. Once eggs hatch the babies develop during July and August and begin feeding on the turf's roots, and damage becomes visible in September and October. The Fall Grub Preventative kills baby grubs before adulthood and prevents turf damage in fall. During the winter grubs do NOT die, they hibernate and once soil temps reach 55-60 degrees in spring they wake up as full adults and do serious damage to truf in a short period of time. To eradicate the adult grubs and stop further turf damage the Spring Grub Curative needs to be applied.

Pest & Disease Treatment

A single treatment applied typically in early to mid-summer for surface feeding insects. This treatment targets such pests as Sod Webworm, Chinch Bugs, Billbugs, Army Worms, and other truf feeding insects that may be feeding on turf at time of application.

Hire an Arborist

An arborist is a specialist in the care of individual trees. Arborists are knowledgeable about the needs of trees and are trained and equipped to provide proper care. Hiring an arborist is a decision that should not be taken lightly. Proper tree care is an investment that can lead to substantial returns. Well-cared-for trees are attractive and can add considerable value to your property. Poorly maintained trees can be a significant liability. Pruning or removing trees, especially large trees, can be dangerous work. Tree work should be done only by those trained and equipped to work safely in trees.

The following links provide information from International Society of Arborisculture about specific topics in proper tree care.

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Organic Lawn & Tree Care

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