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.
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!
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!
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 email@example.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.
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; firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy gardening everybody!
We hope you had a Happy Easter and enjoyed the taste of Spring that we had last weekend.
The date for Easter changes every year because it's based on the first full moon after the Equinox.
The four seasons are based on the four cardinal sun dates of Spring and Fall Equinox and Summer and Winter Solstice.
Traditional and tribal cultures noticed, however, that the season didn't actually begin until it was "activated" by the full moon. So Spring weather tends to appear around the time of the first full moon after the equinox.
The Equinox was March 20 this year and the full moon was Wed, March 27 with Easter being the following Sunday. Right on time, we had great temperatures altho a few clouds kept a chill in the air.
Results vary from year to year but this basic principle can be observed.
Now is a great time for sowing seeds. The full moon in March is known as the "Seed Moon" because temperature, moisture and sunlight are working together in a powerful way.
Grass seeds won't germinate until they are touching soil. We like to put down some topsoil on the brown patches and sprinkle seed onto it and then rake it in so the birds don't get it and to prevent the seed from drying out.
My friend Chris Saad has honey bees and he told me the bees are bringing in pollen from the soft maple trees which are flowering now. That would be Silver Maple and Red Maple. These are always one of the first trees to flower in the Springtime and the bees are working the trees to get pollen which they use for food. Pollen is high in protein and minerals and bees use these nutrients to grow their bodies. Nectar is high in sugars which they use to fuel their activity but there is not a lot of nectar right now.
Chris is out and about applying organic lawn fertilizers now that the weather has warmed up a bit. Feel free to contact him at email@example.com to schedule a free estimate for professional feeding of your lawn and trees.
Happy Gardening everybody and feel free to leave a comment or ask a question!
This nice weather is about a month late and the plants are more ready than we are! This weekend looks like the temperatures will be fantastic so there will be a lot of people out gardening this weekend.
Here are a couple of tips that are important for organic gardeners in the Chicago area to keep in mind.
1) DO NOT WORK THE SOIL WHEN IT IS WET !! The soil will set up like cement. This is a really big deal so please be patient until the soil has had a chance to dry out a little bit.
Here is how you can tell; take a little soil in your hand and gently roll it into a ball. Stand up and hold the ball of soil at your belt and drop the ball of soil on to something hard. For example; the ground or sidewalk or stone or even your shoes.
If the soil stays in a ball then it is too wet. If the ball shatters then it is dry enough to begin digging.
This includes after a rain in the summertime. It is not only for the Springtime.
I know a guy who liked to rototill his weeds (which is *not* a good idea) and he rototilled his garden after a rainfall in July and the soil was like sharp rocks for the rest of the year. Frost will soften the soil again so this is not permanent thing but it is important to know this point.
2) Leaf compost is the best for your gardens. As I mentioned last time, rake your leaves into your beds so they can decompose over the summer and feed your plants. If your neighbor is crazy enough to bag their leaves and take it to the curb then grab those too! Just grind it up with a lawn mower and add it to your beds.
Leaves are high in phosphorus which is extremely important for plant health. Do NOT burn the leaves! Many important nutrients go up in the smoke. (like carbon)
3) Now is a great time to feed your trees! Fruit trees can get an application of dormant oil to control insects and landscape trees can get an application of Miracle Gro and molasses. The Miracle Gro mix that I recommend is called "Bloom Buster" which is high in the middle number. I mix according to the instructions and also add an equal amount of molasses. I spray this on the trunk of the tree.
Trees absorb very well thru the bark of the tree and within 4 days the nutrients will be all the way to the tips of the branches.
I realize Miracle Gro is not organic but the nutrients are very high quality and help the trees enormously. Kind of like vitamins. Also the molasses has complex carbohydrates which helps balance the Miracle Gro.
Chemical fertilizers work much better when we add sugar to them.
4) Now is a great time to add gypsum to the lawn, as I have mentioned before.
That's all for today!
Contact Chris or I for expert organic lawn and tree service for the Naperville, Wheaton, Glen Ellen, Hinsdale and Fox Valley areas. DuPage and Kane Counties. We have been doing this for a long time and have a lot of experience working with these soils and this weather.
You can contact us at; firstname.lastname@example.org
I see that Tom Skilling took the clouds out of the forecast for next Friday and I've been shouting from the rooftops about a big winter storm on the 29th. Well, at this point I hope he is right because I am tired of cold and grey. Nancy did say that we would get most of our winter in March and it sure feels like it.
Starting Thursday we are forecasted to be in a 50-30 degree weather pattern which suits me just fine. I'm a month behind in my field work so things are gonna be busy for a while trying to get caught up.
Here's something interesting you should look for; notice how soft the soil is after a frost.
Freeze-thaw is the best way to aerate the soil. When the temperatures go above and below freezing like they do now the water in the soil will freeze and then thaw during the day and it makes the soil as soft as a babies bottom. No rototilling!
Of course it settles again and becomes more hard like we are familiar but it's good to notice when it happens. This soil softening is very important for the roots.
Here's a big secret to gardening; roots need as much air as they do water. When roots can breathe you will see amazing growth in your plants.
How do we do this in our garden beds? Aged wood chips and leaves. Think of the Forest Preserve; layers of leaves and branches.
We pick up our leaves and branches so the soil has lost its source of fiber which is what makes the soil so crumbly. This Spring, as the weather warms up and we do our Spring cleanups, rake the leaves into the beds where it will break down gradually thru the year. If that looks ugly then rake it into a pile and grind it up with the lawn mower and then put it in the beds. The smaller the pieces the faster it will break down.
Definitely mulch your beds this Spring and I recommend the local wood chips which are usually free. North Aurora has a free pile on Route 56 and also the tree chipper guys will be happy to drop a load in your driveway for free. It saves them a trip to composting place!
That's it for today.. Next time I will explain how the we can soften the soil in our lawns where we can't mulch with wood chips.
If you need help with your lawn and gardens this year, give Chris a call and we can suggest natural ways to make your lawn and trees healthy and happy without the poisons.
We do organic lawn and tree care in DuPage and Kane Counties and we have a lot of experience at working with these soils and knowing which products will get results. Chris can be reached at 630-649-1476.
You can also reach us by email at; pureprairieorganics (at) gmail.com.
Happy gardening everybody!
btw, these blog posts can be sent to your email! Just sign up in the box on the left and these garden tips and comments will come straight to your email box. That way you will stay up to date on my latest garden tips and modest attempts at weather forecasting. :-)
Happy Spring Everyone!
Yesterday was March 20 and the wind chill was -4 degrees. What is wrong with this picture?!
According to my weather friends, the quarter moon can be very windy. I have noticed this in the past but it is not every month. On Tuesday we had a quarter moon with the moon in Gemini which is an air sign. Wind on top of wind. I think our peak gusts were about 35-40 mph.
Nancy McEwen says we won't really warm up until April 1. Right now we are in a 30 degree - 20 degree weather pattern and April looks like a 50-30 and 60-40 pattern.
That would be a nice warm up without getting too hot and making the plants go crazy. Sometimes we are concerned that if the weather is extreme one way then it will flip and become extreme the other way.
Kind of like last Spring where we had 5 days of 80 degree weather in March with 5 nights of 20 degree frost in April that froze all the blossoms on the tree fruits.
North America is still on track to have an extreme weather event on March 28-29 with a strong snow storm here in the Chicago area. We may also get some winter storm on April 6 and that should be the end of it.
Now is a great time to put down gypsum to neutralize road salt and to fix dog urine spots. Call Chris if you need to save time and would like us to do it. If you would like to do this yourself, gypsum is available at Home Depot and Menards and a 40# bag is about $6. We apply a 40# bag for every 1,000 sq ft of lawn area to neutralize the salt and urine.
Sugar also works for dog urine spots. Put one or two handfuls of table sugar on each spot and let the rain water it in.
Spring is a great time to apply gypsum to the entire lawn. It will soften the clay and help control lawn diseases which will show up in July.
These lawn diseases are actually a fungi attacking the roots of the grass. This fungi is the food for the grubs. The advertising says the grubs eat the rots of the grass but that is not true. Grubs eat the FUNGUS attacking the roots of the grass. Control the fungus and we control the grubs.
Gypsum helps us control the fungus.
A spring application of gypsum gives it time to work before the brown spots show up in the Summer. Once the brown spots show up it's too late so it's best to get on it early.
If brown spots come in the summer then an application of gypsum and lime will stop it from spreading.
Gypsum and lime both contain calcium which is very important for plant health. When plants are healthy they resist diseases naturally.
Summer temperatures are also important because it can put a lot of stress on the turf so feeding good nutrients like lime and gypsum help the plants prepare for this.
Plants are strong but we need to give them a chance by feeding them good nutrients.
Chemical lawn fertilizers lack the supporting minerals and carbs to make plants healthy. The high nitrogen pushes plant growth but the cells are poorly mineralized and the lawns get sick in the summer because they lack the nutrients to protect themselves.
Our organic lawn applications have the minerals that help the plants be healthy. Not 100% because weather and types of grasses make a big difference but we make your plants strong so when the high heat of summer comes then your lawn will be the last to brown and the first to recover.
I know it sounds crazy to talk about the high heat of summer when it is 12 degrees outside right now but the time to prepare our plants is now, in the Spring.
That's it for today....Contact Chris or myself if you have any questions and if you would like expert help for your lawn this year then call Chris at 630-649-1476 for an estimate for our lawn and tree feeding program and we will get your plants well fed and happy.
Happy gardening everybody!
Chris and I can be reached at; pureprairieorganics (at) gmail.com
I want to give a big thank you to the Hinsdale Garden Club for their warm welcome and wonderful hospitality yesterday at their monthly meeting. You were very kind and gracious and I hope I could share a few things that was helpful or informative. Thank you again!
It's still winter! This morning the wind chill is zero degrees. More than that, it's the wind. Chris and I work outside and anyone who is outside for any length of time knows the wind will really take it out of you. My insulated Carharts are still front and center. :-(
Here's a progress report; The trees and lawns look good.
Turf is ready to go. The new green shoots are formed and ready to begin growing but they are hardy and these cold snaps will not do much damage. As soon as the weather breaks the lawns will green up quickly. Our turf grasses are well adapted to this kind of back-and-forth weather altho the wind may dry out a few of the new shoots. The roots systems of turf grass are very strong and plants will draw on root reserves to make new blades of grass to replace anything that might have been damaged by late cold or wind.
From the lawns point of view, these late winter snows and rains have been a real blessing. Last year was too dry. And what especially hurt was the dry Autumn. In the Autumn, plants store food in their roots but they need water to make their food so a dry Autumn means that plants are going into winter with low root reserves. I know some books say not to water your plants in the Autumn because it will make them grow and become soft and vulnerable to winter kill but I have not observed that and those dry plants will suffer more winter damage and have very poor vigor in the springtime. I have observed this many times.
The trees still have their buds tight to the stem just like they did in January. I see that Silver Maple buds have swollen and are separated from the stem so when the air temperature warms up they will be the first to flower. Their flowers are not showy but instead are small and reddish. From a distance they look like little red fuzz balls. They will develop little "helicopters" that will fall to the ground in May and the squirrels eat most of them as it's their first fresh food since last Autumn.
When the air temperature goes above 32 or 35 then we can begin feeding our trees if we want to. Bark has pores just like our skin and they absorb food thru the pores very well. Bark feeding our trees is very effective and efficient. Within one week the food will be translocated all the way to the top of the tree even if it is very tall! It's very important that plant foods be high in phosphorus. There are a number of reasons for this which I will explain another time.
Take care everybody and stay warm. Our plants are fine but they want some sunshine as much as we do!
And remember, for very high quality organic lawn and tree feeding
in the Western suburbs of Chicago then call Chris to schedule an estimate and start service when you are ready. We are experts at soil and plant nutrition. We control insects and diseases nutritionally or with minimal pesticide spray. Our organic lawn and tree fertilizers are very effective at growing healthy plants and are also completely safe for our children and pets. Call Chris today! 630-649-1476.