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!
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!
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
A few weeks ago I mentioned that in late January or early February that plants get a signal from the soil to wake up from their winter dormancy.
Popular culture refers to this as Ground Hog Day but tribal and traditional cultures were very aware that both plants and animals would become active, the sap would begin to rise and that the new growing season is about to begin.
Two to three weeks after Ground Hog Day begins maple syrup season which shows that traditional cultures had a keen sensitivity to the seasons of the soil.
Tribal cultures poetically referred to the full moon in February as the "Sap Moon" because it was time to begin collecting sap from the maple trees and boil it down to make maple syrup.
The tribal cultures of the Potowatamie, Iroquois, Algonquin, all knew how to make maple syrup and taught the Europeans how to do it when they arrived.
According to tribal lore, a chief was going out on hunt and threw his tomahawk into a tree. The tree oozed some sap into a bucket that happened to be under the tree and his wife collected the bucket thinking her husband had thoughtfully brought her some water to cook with. She heated up the sap water to make a stew and it boiled down to a sweet syrup and this is how maple syrup was born.
Everyone has a sweet tooth and word of this new food spread quickly!
This past weekend, the Kane County Forest Preserve hosted "sugaring" demonstrations where people could go to learn where maple syrup comes from and how it is made.
There were many tables, each showing one step of the process.
So at one table we learned what a maple tree looked like and how to determine the number of holes to drill in a tree. At another table we learned that tree sap is very clear early in the season but as we get closer to the emergence of leaves the sap becomes darker colored with the addition of minerals.
At another table we saw the sap being boiled down to syrup and we learned that it takes 30 to 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup! There was also a table showing the tools used to drill and collect maple sap.
Maple syrup season lasts 2-4 weeks.
Everyone who watched the demonstration realized that a lot of work goes into making maple syrup. It is labor intensive to collect and boil the sap and stoke the fire for literally three straight weeks.
While it does seem like a lot of work, what else are farmers doing this time of year? Making maple syrup seems like a great way to start the new growing year. Or maybe a sweet way to bring an end to winter.
This is an article I wrote for a local newspaper called "The Voice"
which is printed in Aurora, IL. I posted this here because it's important to understand biology if we are going to do organic lawn and tree care in the Chicago area. Not just the biology of the trees
but also the tremendous influence that the moon has on our weather and the seasons in the soil. I hope you find these posts interesting
and informative and if you need organic lawn or organic tree care
in the Chicago area, especially Wheaton, Glen Ellen, Naperville,
Geneva, Batavia, St Charles, then give Chris a call and he will
help you get started so your family can enjoy happy healthy plants
all cared for without poisons. Call Chris today! 630-649-1476
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!
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!
Everyone likes organic lawns because they our safe for our children and pets and better for the environment but is it possible to have a good looking lawn using organics? And if it is then how do you do it?
It's actually pretty easy if you know a couple of important points (but you won't find them in any lawn books).
Organic lawn care tip #1: Grass is a heavy feeder.
Organic lawn care tip #2: High quality grasses require high calcium and high phosphorus to be healthy and weed free.
Lets break this down so you can understand what we mean.
Lawns consume an enormous amount of food. A common mistake people make is they don't give their lawn enough food so it becomes pale and thin. Especially thin. Nitrogen is important but so are carbohydrates and minerals. Chemical lawn care products provide lots of nitrogen but no carbs or minerals. The more minerals and carbohydrates we provide the less nitrogen we need.
This is where organic fertilizers do a better job than chemical products. Organic nitrogen is balanced with carbohydrates. Microbes in the soil will chew on the organics and use the carbohydrates as a food source. As they digest the organic fertilizer, nutrients are slowly released to the lawn.
Chemical fertilizers are like breakfast cereal, they give energy but not health.
Chemical fertilizer nutrients dissolve in water (rainfall) and quickly release their nutrients to the grass which stimulates top growth until the food runs out. This growth is poorly mineralized and that is why many lawns easily get sick in the heat of summer.
Examples of organic fertilizers include: bone meal (Scotts Organic Choice), feather meal (Bradfords, distributed by Purina), corn gluten meal (Garden's Alive, etc) and poultry manure compost.
Milorganite is not USDA organic but it is a natural product and not a man made chemical. Milorganite can be found at Ace Hardware, Home Depot and other home centers and big box stores. It is made from human compost and grows really thick lawns and large perennials. Human compost, if it is handled correctly, is the cadillac of compost.
Poultry manure also grows very good lawns but I don't recommend it because poultry is fed GMO grains which is sprayed with glyphosate (Round Up). The glyphosate goes into the grain and is eaten by the poultry and then leaves the body in the manure. When we apply the recommended rate of poultry manure to our soils, we are also applying the recommended rate of glyphosate. Not good!
The best organic fertilizers for the lawn are bone meal and Milorganite. To get your lawn thicker just apply a little extra food or feed a little more frequently, (4x per year, minimum).
Next time we will look at calcium and phosphorus and why they help us control insects and diseases and weeds. After that, we will answer some FAQ's.
With us, your family and pets are safe
and you'll have a beautiful lawn!
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
. 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.
We wrote this up for a fruit club that we
belong to, Midwest Fruit Explorers (a fruit club with serious hobby fruit
growers). We shared some tips on transplanting fruit trees. It will work for
all trees so we thought we would share it with you. Enjoy!
Helpful tips for transplanting
With springtime just around the corner we are all excited to start the new gardening year by cleaning up our beds and planting new fruit trees and berry bushes. Here are a few planting tips that will make our efforts more successful.
1) Do not work the soil when it is wet, it will set up like cement!
Working the soil when it is wet destroys air spaces and the chunks of soil become rock hard which will not soften until the freeze-thaw of another winter has loosened it back up. How do we know when the soil is ready to be worked? Place some soil in one hand and roll it into a ball, next drop it to the ground from waist height. If it shatters then it is dry enough and we can dig or cultivate. If it does not shatter then it is too wet and we should wait a couple of days.
2) When roots can breathe, magic happens.
One secret to growing healthy plants is knowing that roots need as much air as they do water. Compaction kills. Trees and shrubs love wood chips and leaf mold because of the beautiful crumb it makes. Just like the soil in the forest preserve which is leaves and branches layered and aged. For planting young fruit trees, we should amend the planting area with aged wood chips and leaves. Whether it is a deep hole or a shallow hole, generous amounts of this mulch will allow the roots to quickly establish.
I have planted trees on top of the soil without even digging a hole and covered the roots with a mini mound of wood chips and the trees have done extremely well. In a few short months, beneficial fungi had softened the soil beneath the mulch and the tree was rapidly rooting and setting healthy leaves and growing bark that did not split.
3) Plants don't have a stomach so the digestion has to happen in the soil.
Grasses are fed by bacteria and trees are fed by fungi. Fungi like wood chips. To jump start the system, we like to add some aged wood chip compost which has fungal hyphae and fungal spores already in it. If we don't have that then we can use some soil from an untouched forested area of our yard or sometimes a nearby Park or Forest Preserve. A small bucket of duff (decaying vegetable matter covering the ground under trees) from wooded areas is rich in fungi that will quickly colonize our new planting area. Tree root
exudates will feed the fungi and a beneficial relationship will quickly establish.
4) Higher orders of plants, like fruit trees, require a high calcium and high phosphorus environment in order to be healthy.
We add a handful each of lime, gypsum and bone meal to every new plant to make sure it has enough minerals to be healthy. Bone meal has a small amount of nitrogen in it which should be enough for the fruit tree. Soil has many nitrogen fixing microbes that will feed the tree once it is established. Nitrogen fixing microbes take nitrogen from the air and put it into the soil but this can only happen if the soil can breathe. Compacted soils cut off air from the microbes so they cannot do their work. This is a big problem in suburban and urban soils. Aged wood chips and leaves is the best way to open a compacted soil.
These simple tips will greatly reduce transplant shock and grow healthy and happy fruit trees.