April is National Lawn Care Month and National Pest Management Month! To help your May flowers get off to a healthy, pest-free start, learn how to start your first completely organic garden. Your lawn and garden will look lush and green, and of course, will be completely organic. Spring is the best time to start!
How to Start an Organic Lawn & Garden
Even if your soil looks dead and lifeless, it can be brought back to life. But in order to find out what your soil needs, you need a soil test.
Get a Soil Sample
Testing your soil is the first step toward building good garden soil. You could waste a lot of money and energy, not to mention the possibility for poisoning, by adding things to your soil before conducting a soil test.
It’s a good idea to test your soil every 3-5 years since levels change all the time. Spring is a great time to get it done. Keep in mind that you may need to take multiple samples depending on the size of your lawn or garden. The front yard may need a completely different strategy than the back garden.
You can either contact ABC or send your sample into a certified testing facility. Make sure that the laboratory tests for the things you want.
Once you get your soil test results back, you can break them up into three improvement categories:
Organic Content (Humus)
Organic matter (humus) is measured in terms of percentages. Your garden soil’s organic level should be at least 5% (by volume). If you have less than 5% organic matter, don’t worry. There are many ways to increase organic soil matter:
- If your soil is deficient in humus, add a lot of aged, fully rotted compost.
- Green manure crops can add large amounts of organic matter. Green manure crops, also known as cover crops, are planted and then tilled or dug up so that it decomposes in the soil. Some examples of good green manure plants are buckwheat, oats, rye, clovers, and vetches.
- Grow a perennial pasture. Perennial grasses are a great source of organic leaf matter. Within just a couple of years, the soil organic matter will improve.
- Cereal crops leave behind a lot of vegetative matter after harvest.
- Organic fertilizers can help, but they probably won’t make a significant impact.
- Keep the organic materials from plants close to the surface. This will hlp improve the concentration of organic matter near the surface.
Every soil test will include the pH (potential of hydrogen), or relative level of acidity, of the soil. The pH scale goes from 0 to 14, where 0-7 is acidic, 7-14 is alkaline (basic), and 7 is neutral.
Most vegetables do better in slightly acidic soil ranging from 6.5 to 6.8. Conifers tend to like soil close to 6.0 and regular lawn grass prefers a neutral soil, around 7.0-7.5.
Be very careful when adjusting the pH levels of your soil. To help make acidic soil more basic, add some dolomitic limestone according to the bag’s instructions. Add gypsum or iron sulfate to increase the soil’s acidity.
The main nutrients that are essential for your plants’ health are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Other important nutrients include calcium, magnesium, sulfur, sodium, and hydrogen. For truly healthy, organic soil and plants, all of these nutrients need to be present and in the right amounts.
Speak with a professional about organic ways to correct nutrient imbalances.
Nutrients and pH levels are essential for your lawn and garden’s ability to fend off pests and disease.
Soil is made up of four main parts: clay, silt, sand, and humus. Clay and silt provide essential elements. Sand are large particles that help keep the soil open and allow for drainage. Humus is the decayed, nutrient-rich organic and plant matter near the surface, where the plants feed.
Your soil test will tell you what kind of soil you have. Learn more about how to improve the soil quality of your lawn and garden.
Add Compost and Organic Mulch
Compost does many beneficial things for your lawn and garden. It provides plants with needed nutrients, helps absorb and retain moisture, and stimulates microbial life to build up resistance to disease.
Unlike other lawn and garden products, you very rarely have too much compost. A compost heap is extremely easy to start. Compost is best created in some sort of enclosure, either chicken wire, wire lath, or a pre-made compost bin.
The main ingredients are leaves, grass clippings, weeds, yard waste, and of course, moisture and air. On top of this, you can add all of your vegetable scraps from the kitchen, as well as straw, woodchips, and sawdust. Learn how to make your own compost!
Mulch helps improve soil structure and reduce evaporation, helping plants retain moisture. Consider using woodchips on flower beds and pathways. For vegetable gardens, consider seaweed, straw (not hay), or shredded leaves; when they rot down, you can mix them in with the soil.
Use Organic Soil Amendments and Fertilizers
Chemical fertilizers can interrupt the natural processes in the soil. Plants grown in chemically treated soil build up a dependence on artificial ingredients, much like narcotics do to humans.
Luckily, there are organic soil amendments and blended organic fertilizers available, such as Holganix, a 100% organic plant probiotic. Holganix can be used pretty much everywhere.
Speak with the professional at ABC for more information on organic and non-chemical fertilizers.
Grow Plants Native to Your Area
Native plants require less maintenance, are easier to care for, and are more resistant to pests and diseases. Since they have evolved naturally to their environment, native plants require less fertilizer and care. Make your lawn healthier and more sustainable by using native or organic grass seed.
Pull Weeds Up as You See Them
Pull weeds up from the root as you notice them (use a weed removal tool). Other natural weed control methods include boiling water and vinegar. Speak with a professional at ABC for more information on organic, non-chemical weed control, such as corn gluten meal. Ascetic vinegar can work as a post-emergent herbicide for new weeds.
Early spring is the best time to attack weeds before they begin to grow roots. Learn more about chemical and non-chemical herbicides.
Tip: Whenever removing weeds, use a weeding tool to remove the plant from its root. But, we’ve all had the experience of removing one weed only to find two or more in its place. To help avoid buried weed seeds from germinating, spread some fully composted mulch over the turned up soil.
Avoid Leaving Areas of Bare Soil
This is pretty self-explanatory. If you want a healthy, organic lawn, it’s best not to see your soil. Instead, make sure you have growing plants or at least their residues so that you soil is full of life and healthy microorganisms.
Vegetative cover provides your soil with necessary food and cover it needs. For instance, when rain pounds the soil, it can start the process of soil erosion. Consider green manure (cover) crops to help improve nutrient cycling.
Instead of bare soil, a well-managed lawn and landscape can provide many benefits, including:
- Clean and purify the air
- Provide oxygen
- Minimize noise
- Protect water sources from unhealthy runoff
- Acts as a natural coolant
Speak with a professional Pest Control Specialist for a healthy, balanced soil. Learn more about common weeds in the South and what you can do to get rid of them naturally.
Improve Irrigation System
Proper irrigation is a great way to keep pests at bay. If you notice brown spots, you may need to check your irrigation system and determine the correct amount of water. If you notice any leaks, get them fixed as soon as possible. Learn more irrigation tips.
Don’t Add Any Chemicals Without Speaking with a Professional First
The last thing you want to do is add harmful chemicals to your soil. Break your soil’s addiction to pesticides and herbicides by using only natural, organic products.
Contact ABC to learn more about our organic and effective lawn care products.
An Organic Lawn is a Better Lawn
Over decades of experience in lawn care, ABC has learned what a safe and sustainable lawn needs to thrive. Holganix and other organic lawn and garden products can lay the foundation for a strong and healthy lawn and garden year-round.
Contact ABC Home & Commercial Services to get your organic lawn and garden started today!