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Grub Control w/o pesticides? Why yes... consider Milky Spore
Lawn mowing... how high should I cut my grass?
Is there a disease in your lawn?
Ants "eating" your house?
Leaves as fertilizer?


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 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
Weather report
weed control
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Lawn Clippings (Bill's blog)

organic lawn care, calcium, gypsum, dog urine spots on lawn

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!


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!


Weather report, Spring cleanup and mulching our beds.

Greetings gardeners!

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. :-)

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.


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

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

Organic Lawn Care

Hi Everybody!

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!
Happy gardening!

Why fertilize your lawn in the late fall?

In the late fall as the soil temperature drops the lawn starts to go dormant.  The grass starts to lose the dark green color and slowly takes on a light brown color...winter is coming.  

At this time of the year when the days are significantly shorter and colder, when lawn furniture is covered or in storage. When summer flowering bulbs have been dug up. Lawn mowers and rakes switch places with snow blowers and snow shovels there is one thing is is all too often not thought of, THE LAWN!

Many homeowners figure they are done with the lawn fertilization program for the year. I have been doing professional lawn care for about 18 years now...and now is an important time to get that last application down into the ground. This last application can be called a late fall application or a winterizer application. 

There are a vital reasons to feed and take care of the lawn this one last time.  One is the lawn will still need some food for those occasional days when the temperatures rise and it warms up enough for the lawn to grow a bit.  But more importantly this last application is ofgreat benefit in the early spring of the next year. This fertilizer that gets applied in the late fall will work it's way into the soil and be ready to get used up as soon as the temperature rises in the early spring.  The fertilizer will be there to be used up and turn your grass a nice dark green color way before the other lawns that didn't get that late fall/winterizer application.

As we start up mid March we can usually spot those lawns that were fed in the late fall.  They have a distinct dark green color while the neighbors lawns still have the straw colored/light brown hue to them. We smile with satisfaction as we work on lawns and see the neighbors lawns looking less than desirable. We even take some quick pictures in the early spring of "our" lawns so that we can help remind (and show) others of this important step that should be taken late in the season. We try to make sure to get part of the other neighbors lawn in the picture so that "our" nice green lawns really are noticeable.

Who doesn't want to come home to a natural and organic lush, healthy green lawn? A lawn that can be enjoyed by all, pets and children too with no "stay off the grass time". Each season, many special memories are created, let your lawn shine. 
Enjoy your lawn and make sure that late fall fertilizer application gets applied as the lawn starts to go dormant. Make sure to schedule your last seasonal application and rest easy knowing that come spring, you're already a step ahead. 

For a complete list of the different services we offers please visit our Calender of Services.

See you next season! 

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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