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Recent Posts

Is there a disease in your lawn?
Ants "eating" your house?
Leaves as fertilizer?
Pruning Roses in late fall/winter
Summer Lawn Care Tips


compacted clay soil
core aeration
crabgrass control
dog urine spots
fall lawn fertilizing
garden tips
green spring lawn
lawn aeration
lawn care
lawn disease
lawn winterizing
Leaves... bag them or mulch them?
organic control of brown spots
organic crabgrass control
organic garden tips
organic grub control
Organic lawn care
organic lawn care, calcium, gypsum, dog urine spots on lawn
organic tree care
pure prairie organics
snow mold
Summer Lawn Care Tips
Tree care
Weather report
weed control
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Lawn Clippings (Bill's blog)

Is there a disease in your lawn?

Sometimes a lawn service will want to get rid of a fungus in a lawn or in the soil.  In my opinion probably the only thing most can do is spray a fungicide which
is a particularly nasty chemical.  Feeding the lawn is elegantly simple
and far more effective.  Occasionally the organic fertilizer application that some use will help the lawn as well as a little change in weather. (weather is a big influence)
But it's a process similar to someone getting over an illness.

Diseases are a calcium, phosphorus and copper deficiency.  Plants absorb 
10x faster thru the leaves than thru the roots.  I recommend a nice calcium-phosphorus-copper in liquid form that is highly effective.  The process usually starts after just one feeding but if the nutrient deficiency is deep then it might need to be fed more often until I get good results.

I also recommend a microbe tea application (which Chris can do) and this will put many probiotics in the soil that can digest minerals and make it available to the lawn.  Plants don't have a stomach so the digestion has to happen in the soil and these probiotics do a great job of making food available.

I hope this helps!  I have a lot of experience controlling diseases with nutrition.

Powdery mildew affects the top (blades) of the grass and does not kill the roots so you will not lose your lawn.  The roots will push out new grass and grow out of this problem.

Usually a disease can be fixed with nutrition but at last resort after getting the soil and lawn healthy again you can turn to a fungicide.
It's similar to you or I getting sick and addressing the issues first and getting healthy... then turning to medicine if needed.
Happy gardening!
Bill Scheffler

Ants "eating" your house?

Do you have ants that appear to be eating your house?

There are some places like the Shedd Aquarium, Lincoln Park Zoo,
and many Chicago hospitals where poisons are not an option.

The ants are not the problem, they are the clean up crew.  They are eating a fungus that is attacking the wood.  They cannot eat "clean" wood.  

If you have ants "eating" your house it means you have a leak or condensation somewhere and moisture is getting in and rotting the wood.  The ants
are cleaning up the rotting wood.

For temporary control, you can use mint oil or boric acid, but until you fix the source of moisture, the ants (or someone else) will be back to clean up the rotting wood.

For mint oil, put about 5 drops in a spray bottle full of water and shake it up.  Maybe add a few drops of ammonia to "broadcast" the mint oil.  Spray it around the area.

This will overpower the ants and do a great job of repelling them, even killing a few.  
It will need to be reapplied as needed.

Some say rubbing alcohol will kill the ants and a light bleach solution will erase their trail.  Erasing the trail is real important because that's how they know where to go.

I hope that helps!

Bill Scheffler

Leaves as fertilizer?

he best fertilizer you will never have to buy is Autumn leaves. Leaves are high in phosphorus, potassium and carbs which are very important for plants to be healthy.

For those of us who work nutritionally, the five most important nutrients for healthy plants is: Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium and Carbs.  Leaves has three out of five! Just add lime and gypsum for calcium and green grass clippings for nitrogen and you will have some very happy plants next year.

Chop the leaves with a lawn mower because the smaller the pieces the faster they break down. I go over and over the pile of leaves until the pieces are fingernail sized.  Then I rake them up and add them to the beds

I buy my lime and gypsum at Home Depot or Menards. A 40 pound bag costs $5.

Gypsum is important because it contains sulfur. Sulfur is needed to begin the compost process.Microbes use sulfur to make compost. If the microbes don't find any sulfur then the carbon digested from the leaves is released as CO2 gas and goes into the atmosphere. So sulfur is very important. Gypsum is calcium sulfate quickly and is available to the microbes and plants.

Microbes require a high calcium environment so I always add some lime together with my gypsum.  The two work together very well and make good results in the soil.

Leaf mulch makes plants very happy so save your leaves every year and grab your neighbors leaves too if he bags them or dumps them near the road. 
Happy gardening!
Bill Scheffler

Pruning Roses in late fall/winter

It sounds funny to talk about pruning your plants in Nov-Dec but there is some biology that is important to understand at this time of year.

When temperatures go below 50*F plants automatically move sugars to the roots.   This gives the plants some food for the winter and also some food to repair any damage that may happen during a storm.

Even when the leaves fall off the plants the plants continue to move sugars from the stems to the roots. This process continues until Jan 1. 

This is why pruning and trimming plants in the Autumn causes trouble. The transfer of sugars was not complete and the roots go into winter with low reserves.  If we have a difficult weather then the winter kill is greater.

Plants defend themselves from winter kill but only if they are well fed with sugars and minerals. I often use molasses as an antifreeze so my lettuce can live longer in the cold.  As long as I kept the wind off my plants with a plastic sheet, my lettuce was good to 0*F.

There was a commercial raspberry grower in Wisconsin who mowed half his canes in early December and the other half in March. The ones that were mowed in December had 30% winter kill and the ones that were mowed later had very little damage because more sugars had trans located to the roots. Waiting that extra time made that much difference.

The rule of thumb for pruning roses (and other plants) is; any good weather day after Presidents Day and before the new shoots emerge in Late March-early April.

Happy gardening!
Bill Scheffler

Summer Lawn Care Tips

Pure Prairie Organics
 Summer 2016                                        pureprairieorganics@gmail.com                                          

Here are some tips for keeping your lawn nice over the summer:
  • Mow the grass at  least 3 inches tall... this will be beneficial for many reasons.  If the grass is left tall it will use it’s energy to grow the root system deeper, this is good because it will find it’s own water when it gets dry out.  
Also tall grass will shade the soil keeping moisture there to be used instead of evaporating.       
  • Water the lawn when you can,  We have not had much rain lately so if you want the lawn to green up you will need to water for 30 min 2-3 times per week.

Why Organic/Natural Lawn Care?

First of all why not?  We should all be eating heathy and excercising... getting plenty of rest is good too.  
When I think of lawn care I think about whats in the soil, how it has been treated in the past and who is using the lawn.  Chemical fertilizers and weed controls add salt to the soil season after season and year after year.  This damages the soil and creates a sterile environment where it's difficult for beneficial insects to live.  It should be a natural healthy soil where there are certain beneficial insects (like those roly poly bugs that decompose the stuff in the soil making natural nutrients or nematodes which eat grubs), there should be lots of worms (to make tunnels for water to flow deep down encouraging deep root growth), there should be beneficialfungi (mycorrhiza - which grows in association with the roots of a plant in a symbiotic or mildly pathogenic relationship) and beneficial bacteria which when living in the right environment can and should reproduce very quickly and live close to the roots of plants/grass - Google "why is bacteria good for soil" for LOTS of great info!!
Some lawn care companies just think about NPK and pesticides... Hmmmm for more info please visit go to my home page and leave a note

Backyard Berries and how to take care of them!

Hi Everybody!

I will be giving a garden talk on "Backyard Berries and How to Take Care of Them" with The Resiliency Institute in Naperville.  The program begins at 7pm and costs $25.

Everyone is welcome!  There will be a handout with lots of great information and plenty of time for your questions.  We will be talking about real practical ways to improve the soil so your plants will be healthy and some simple tricks to do when insects and diseases show up.

I hope to see you there!


The best kind of mulch for the Chicago area

Hi Everybody!

This great weather means we will all be out doing our gardening this week.

I wanted to make a quick recommendation about mulch;  For the Chicago area the best mulch to use is the free mulch from the tree chipper guys.  Whether it's from the village or the Township or the local tree trimmers, the local wood chip mulch works great for our plants and soil.  

Sometimes people ask me about diseases but we don't need to worry about that.  A healthy tree knows how to take good care of itself and a big part of tree health is the right kind of mulch.

Gas stations are selling cedar and cypress mulch but plants don't like it so we should not use it.  And the colored stuff is an absolute disaster.

Happy gardening and contact Chris to schedule lawn and tree feeding to make your plants happy and healthy.

Take care Everybody!


Heavy rains and our evaporation rate here in Chicago

Hi Everybody!

Yesterday we got another two/thirds inch of rain to go with the 7" we got last week.  My basement was just starting to dry out!  We have had fans going non stop for five days now.

Last year was very sunny which is code for dry.  Well, any deficit from last year is long gone.  I'm sure those of you on wells now have a very high water table to draw from.

Our subsoil moisture has been thoroughly replenished.  This wet period began in late January and for a long time the creeks were dry or very low as the water percolated into the very dry soil.

A couple weeks ago the creeks started running a little higher as the soils were getting replenished and some rainfall was beginning to runoff and flow downstream.  And then we got 7" last Thursday which has saturated everything.


Here is something no one thinks about; Our evaporation rate.

Even tho we got all that rain last Thursday, by Monday afternoon the soil was dry enough to begin gardening.

As I have mentioned before, DO NOT WORK THE SOIL WHEN IT IS WET!!  It will set up like cement.  But one of the secrets of gardening in the Chicago area is that we dry out very quickly.

If your soil is wet then just wait a few hours or a day or two and it will be just right.

This is really important to know in the summertime.  People will tell me that their lawn should be fine because it rained a few days before but I remind them that in the summertime we evaporate one and a half inches of water PER WEEK  !!  

The average sprinkler puts out a half inch of water per hour so that is three hours of water just to replace what evaporated!  

Most people just look at the rainfall but no one considers how quickly we evaporate it back into the air.

If the sun is out and there is a light breeze, it is amazing how fast our sidewalks dry off and we can get back into our gardens.

I lived in Seattle for five years.  In the time I was there we had a one inch rain only ONE time !!  It took two weeks to dry everything out.

We get one inch rains all the time!  And three hours later the sidewalks are dry and we are out walking the dogs.

In the Chicago area, it is very important for gardeners to understand this point and to know how our strong evaporation rate has such a strong influence on our gardening.  

We get the same amount of rain as Seattle! The temperature is much cooler there so the evaporation rate is very low.  We are much warmer so we evaporate quicker.


Just as Nancy McEwen predicted, our warm up begins this weekend and next week it looks sunny and 70 with the farmers and gardeners getting in *lots* of field work.

We are getting in lots of field work as well.  For expert lawn and tree care In the Western suburbs of Chicago contact Chris Burisek at pureprairieorganics@gmail.com and schedule an estimate for us to feed your lawn and trees the nutrients that are designed to make your plants healthy and happy and resistant to bugs, diseases and drought.

Happy gardening everybody and leave a comment if you have a question on something in your garden.



Organic crabgrass control, weather report for April/May

Hi Everybody!

Here is a  reminder of what my weathercaster, Nancy,
wrote for April 2013;

April will have more clouds than sun. There should be frequent drizzle or light rains but thunderstorms could quickly turn severe, with strong winds, heavy rain or even thunder snow. Temperatures fluctuate wildly, with a couple of isolated heat spikes in the middle of the month. However, there’s still the possibility of light snow through April 21, with lows frequently in the 30s. The big warm-up finally happens near April 22.

And for May, 2013

Dreary (cloudy/light rain) days alternate with sunny days in a typical springtime weather pattern.  Heat spikes remind us that summer is near.  Thunderstorms that do form could quickly turn severe.


So May looks similar to April with warmer temperatures.

The overnight temperatures that Nancy is forecasting are all above 40 degrees so we gardeners will be able to put our plants in the ground the end of April.  The official frost free date for the Western Suburbs is May 31 with most people planting their gardens after Mother's Day and protecting the plants when needed.


Little by little our lawns are greening up.  The best way to control crabgrass is with gypsum.  Crabgrass comes up from seed every year.  Crabgrass seed germinates when the soil temperature is above 60 degrees for three consecutive days.  This usually doesn't happen until June so applying a chemical crabgrass preventer right now is not a good idea.  The chemical will wear off in about 6 weeks so you don't really get much control and anyway it's too cold for the seed to germinate.

Here is a secret that no one knows; Crabgrass only germinates where there is salt.  Gypsum neutralizes salt.  It's even on the bag of gypsum!  Go to Home Depot and find the pallet of gypsum in the gardening section and read the label.  It will say 1) neutralizes road salt  2) neutralizes dog urine spots and  3) softens clay soils.

What's not to like?  The amount of gypsum to use to neutralize road salt is on the bag but we usually do one 40# bag per 1,000 sq ft  and apply it out by the curb where the snow trucks push the snow.  We also apply a half bag of gypsum along each side of the driveway to neutralize the salt coming off our tires.


Here is a cute little trick that I use to know when the soil is warming up;  

Dandelions bloom when the soil temperature is between 50 and 55.

Fifty degrees is when the bacteria in the soil become active.  

So the trigger for dandelions to blossom is soil temperature.


Pure Prairie Organics was started in 1994 to provide natural and organic lawn and tree care for DuPage and Kane Counties in the Chicago area.  We do a great job!  Please call or contact us when you need expert service for your own lawn or trees.  Please contact us at;  pureprairieorganics@gmail.com

Happy gardening everybody!


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