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Lawn mowing... how high should I cut my grass?
Is there a disease in your lawn?
Ants "eating" your house?
Leaves as fertilizer?
Pruning Roses in late fall/winter

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ants
calcium
compacted clay soil
core aeration
crabgrass control
dog urine spots
drought
fall lawn fertilizing
garden tips
green spring lawn
gypsum
lawn aeration
lawn care
lawn disease
Lawn Mowing
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
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Lawn Clippings (Bill's blog)

gypsum

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.


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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.


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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.

:-)

Bill




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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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!

Bill

Great weather and Spring gardening tips

Hi Everybody!

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;  pureprairieorganics@gmail.com

Happy gardening!

Bill


Dog urine spots, road salt, grubs and other brown spots in the lawn

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.


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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!

Bill

Chris and I can be reached at; pureprairieorganics (at) gmail.com

How to drought proof your lawn


Greetings gardeners!

From the weather reports that I have been getting from Nancy, 2013 looks to be dry year for the Chicago area.  For those of us that practice organic lawn care I would like to recommend a few tips to help your lawn and landscape get thru dry weather.

1) Add sugar to your fertilizers.  In nature, carbon regulates moisture.  One carbon will hold four waters.  So for every pound of sugar we put out there the lawn will hold four pounds of water which is a half gallon.  Sugar will also feed the microbes in the soil and the activity of the microbes will open up the clay and allow water to penetrate.

2) Mulch your beds. Wood chip mulch and leaf mulch add fantastic amounts of carbon to the soil and also keep the sunshine off of the soil so the water won't evaporate.

3) Add gypsum to the lawn and beds.  Gypsum will soften clay and allow water to penetrate more easily.  Gypsum has calcium in it and the microbes in the soil require a high calcium environment.

4) Mulch your grass clippings.  This is similar to mulching our landscape beds. Grass clippings will form a small layer of thatch which is very good for the lawns.  The perfect amount of thatch is a half inch.  Thatch keeps sunlight off of the soil and holds in moisture.  Thatch will also decompose over time and add carbon back into the soil so it will hold more water.  Thatch is our future topsoil so I never recommend dethatching a lawn even though it is often advertized.

5) Encourage earthworms.  How do we do that?  Feed them!  The favorite food for earthworms is bacteria.  Bacteria need sugars and a high calcium environment.
So by using organic lawn fertilizers, sugar and calcium the population of microbes will rapidly increase and the earthworms will soon follow.  The secret is that it needs to be done regularly.  Bacteria consume enormous amounts of food and need to be fed regularly, just like us!

Earthworms tunnel more than 10' per week.  These underground tunnels allow precious water to go deep into the soil where it is protected and where the roots have access to it.

6) Mow high.  The longer the grass the longer the roots.  We can reduce our watering in half just by raising the mower to the highest setting.  In the summer we definitely need to allow the turf to get long so it can support deep root growth. Sometimes I only mow once a month.  The longer grass will also shade the soil and in the heat of summer we need every protection we can think of.

7) Water at night.  I know this goes against everything you've read but for those of us in the Upper Midwest this is absolutely true.  Our evaporation rate is so high that the only way we can get water to percolate down to the roots is to water at night.  If we water in the morning it will be gone by 11am.  We just cannot keep up with the evaporation from our hot sun.  The advice to water in the morning comes from the East Coast where they have high humidity and they get more diseases if they water at night.  The Chicago area is drier than the East Coast so we don't have the problem as much as they do.  Turf diseases are a calcium deficiency so if we are having problems that way then we need to add lime AND gypsum to our soils.  Try this for yourself !  Make your own observations and conclusions on this point.  You don't have to take my word for it but my opinion is based on 20 years of observations.

As they say; Read books and observe nature.  When the two don't agree, throw out the books!

We love to read your comments and questions!  Let us know what you think in the comment box and we'll be happy to answer.  Happy gardening!

Bill


Organic crabgrass control

Hi Everybody!

Did you know that there is crabgrass seed everywhere?

If crabgrass seed is everywhere then why doesn't it germinate and grow everywhere?

That's because crabgrass only germinates where there is salt.

Here in the Upper Midwest, crabgrass grows along the side of the road where the snow plows push the snow.  It also grows along the sides of the driveway where the salt melts off our tires.  Round Up breaks down to a high salt so if someone sprays Round Up then they may get some crabgrass germinating in that spot.

Gypsum neutralizes road salt.  Gypsum (calcium sulfate) is a better crabgrass control than the chemicals are.  The first year it may only reduce some of the crabgrass but by the second year it should be much more under control.  

For organic crabgrass control,  we recommend applying gypsum at Thanksgiving and Easter.  In the Chicago  area, that will work out to be before and after the snow season. 

Here in the Chicago area, we mix some lime with the gypsum (50-50) and it makes the gypsum work much better.  Adding a few pounds of table sugar also helps.

We don't worry about the pH of the soil...the microbes will take care of it for us.  The main thing is to get plenty of calcium in the soil.

Crabgrass also grows along the Gulf states(Mississippi, Louisiana)  as well as sandy areas like vacation spots.  This is because crabgrass will also grow in soils that are low in calcium and phosphorus and low in biology.

If you have sandy soil and crabgrass is growing everywhere then it is not worth it to try and control it.  Just mow it and call it good.  

If you are in the Western suburbs of Chicago,  call us (630-649-1476) and we will help you with your crabgrass problem.  Over time, we will correct the cause of the problem and  do it without the use of harmful chemicals.  Very cool!

Thank you for reading our blog and happy gardening!

Bill Scheffler

Dog Urine Spots


It's the time of year when lawns are greening up.... except where their dog has gone potty.  These spots have been "burnt out" and will not grow again.  The grass around it might be nice and green and my start to fill in slowly but more can be done and with quicker results!

We recommend spreading some gypsum on those bare spots. We use gypsum all year to loosen up the soil in "our" lawns mainly because of all of the clay compaction we have. The gypsum dissolves when wet and the small particles work their way down into the soil to the clay and loosens the tight bond of the clay. This permits water to trickle thru and reach  deeper. Thus getting the roots to grow deeper as well. Soon organic matter is carried to that loosened clay and the soil is transformed from compacted clay to healthy soil that is full of life! Gypsum also supplies the nutrients calcium and sulfur.  It may be applied anytime during the year and is safe for the environment too!

Once the gypsum is applied and possibly worked into the soil to a depth of about an inch or so the areas can be reseeded with the appropriate grass seed blend. With adequate moisture and sunlight, the grass sprout and the lawn will fill in, looking wonderful again. This will probably not be the last potty spot your dog makes so keep the gypsum, a rake and seed handy for next time. 

Visit our Calender of Services to learn how we can help you create a healthy soil and a healthy lush organic lawn that is safe for your whole family.

Happy Gardening!
 
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