Lawn Care In The Winter Months and Some Unexpected Help for Spring

Many people love complaining about the weather, but let’s be honest, this winter has been horrible. You can take your pick of your least favorite part – the rain, the cold, the snow that seems to magically bring much of the country to a halt.

Its times like this when you look through your rain-smeared windows to a lawn that used to be the pride of the neighborhood and see something a little closer to a Jurassic swamp, occasionally with the final dying remnants of a snowman lost among it.

If you’re an enthusiastic gardener like myself, your first instinct is to charge out into the rain and take any action you can to save your precious lawn. However, you have to rein those instincts in.

Right now the best thing you can do for your lawn is steer well clear of it. This means that if there’s a shed, greenhouse or vegetable patch on the other side you need to reach you should either go around the grass, or get some old wooden boards to construct a temporary footpath.

Setting foot on the grass right now would be like taking a walk across wet cement- it will make a mess of your shoes and leave lasting damage where you’ve walked as well. Those wet footprints will dry, creating an obstacle course for your lawnmower that you’ll be cursing when spring eventually rolls around.

Help From an Unexpected Friend

How do you tell when it’s time to start repairing what the wind, rain and snow have done?

wormFortunately when it comes to working out exactly when lawn maintenance can take place, you have some tiny allies on side in the form of the humble earthworm.

Earthworms are an excellent judge of soil conditions.

When it’s freezing cold they dig deep into the soil to keep warm, when it begins to warm up they start to rise to the surface again.

When you see worm casts starting to appear the dirt, that’s a good sign your lawn is starting become more hospitable.

wormcast

Aerating Your Lawn

That’s your cue (read section above) to start going up and down the lawn with a garden fork, spiking the turf evenly about two inches deep every six inches along.

Then walk back up the garden sprinkling a little coarse horticultural sand over your lawn, about a handful for every square foot. This will help with both aeration and drainage.

The chances are some of this sand will end up in the holes you’ve just been spiking, but that’s what worms are for. They’ll poke it back up to the surface in no time.

Now at this point the lawn still won’t have returned to its luscious former glory.

You’ll probably be thinking it looks a bit anemic and will be itching to throw down some lawn feed or start tackling all the weeds and moss that have got a foothold through the winter.

Resist temptation!

Above all, remember not to panic and treat the grass with kid gloves. In its own time your lawn will be back to its old self again.

Enhance Your Landscape by Lighting it Right

Many of us who own a home have put some work into making our front or back yard look nice because it is what people see most.

It seems an extension of ourselves, so we put plants, trees, and paths in the ground, perhaps place statues, arbors and other ornamentation.

However, without proper consideration for outdoor lighting, all that work can wash into obscurity as the sun falls. As artists know, lighting is a crucial element of the visual effect of an object.

Here are some lighting techniques that can give your hard work its due recognition by bringing objects in your yard to life.

Up Lighting

If vegetation is a prominent feature of your yard, you may want to start with up lighting. This technique is often used to accent the lower part trees or plants or sometimes an arbor or covering. The effect is achieved typically by placing a spotlight or floodlight on the ground and aiming it either directly up or angled up toward the object of interest.

Down Lighting

Essentially the opposite of up lighting and often called “moon lighting,” this technique accents the higher parts of the object and also casts distinct shadows on the ground.

It involves either mounting the light above an object or high within the object (typically a tree in this case). It is called moonlighting because it is often used to mimic the celestial object by not only softening the light with the obstruction of foliage, but also drawing attention to the branches shadows cast on the ground.

This can often create the most beautiful aesthetic in a yard.

Silhouette Lighting

This technique is used to dramatic effect by placing the light behind the object and projecting toward the front, creating a silhouette of the object.

This is typically done next to a background fixture such as the house itself or sometimes a fence as it enhances the overall aesthetic of that fixture.

Keep in mind that what you are really bringing out in the object is its shape, so you may want to consider another technique if you would rather bring out its color and texture.

Shadowing

Opposite to silhouette lighting, this type of lighting points the light toward your object from the front, which means that the light will probably be on the ground and angled up. This has the benefit of bringing out all the detail of the object, but the focus is on casting an artful shadow on a backdrop.

Grazing Light

A slight variation of these other types of lighting (typically up lighting or down lighting), this technique is used to accent marginal features of an object.

Though it involves more careful angling, the idea is to touch the edge of an object so that you are highlighting an object in such a way that it brings out elements of texture as well as shape of the object.

This is great when you are having trouble figuring out which element of the object you like more.

Applying one or more of these techniques in your yard can make a big difference.

If you having a hard time coming up with a good setup, one thing you can do is get a good hand held spotlight (preferably cordless) and experiment with the different lighting techniques. If you like what is in your yard, chances are you’ll find a fresh way to enhance its appeal with light.

Ross Donald is a freelance writer and has always loved anything to do with houses, homes and humble abodes. He’s a stay at home dad, a blogger and a chronic DIY’er.

Plants Basics, How Do Plants Grow?

Without the right conditions and some basic element plants will not grow and thrive well. Here are some basic elements that you need to know about for your plants to grow:

  • Water
  • Soil
  • Air
  • Sunlight
  • Correct air temperature
  • Correct soil temperature

These elements although necessary for plants, are needed in different amounts depending on the type of plant and where it’s from originally.

How much of each element a plant needs initially depends on the plant’s original habitat. Plants that are from rainforest areas will not thrive well in a desert and those that are from wet areas will not grow in hot dry areas.

Man however, has been able to grow plants outside of their habitat and so many plants have been cultured to adapt to new environments. Growers have successfully cross-pollinated plants in an attempt to make them hardy for their new environment.

This cross-pollination has resulted in several varieties of a particular plant which are now able to survive and thrive outside its original habitat. Cross-pollination affects the plant in several ways such as color of flower, flavor of fruit and the depth of the roots.

Stages of a Plant’s Growing Cycle

Plants go through a cycle as they grow which involves 7 processes.

  • Pollination
  • Fertilization
  • Formation of seeds
  • Dispersal of seeds
  • Germination
  • Constant growth
  • Pollination

Pollination

Reproduction in plants can either be sexual or asexual. Asexual reproduction happens when stem cuttings or root cuttings of the plants are planted and new plants grow from these. Sexual reproduction occurs through pollination and this is how most plants are grown.

Pollination is aided by animals or insects which carry pollen grains from male to the female part of the plants.

The flowers of a plant contain the sexual organs necessary for reproduction. When the pollen comes in contact with the ovule of the female plant the result is pollination. There are two types of pollination; cross-pollination and self-pollination.

Self-pollination occurs within the same plant, while cross-pollination is between two plants.

Fertilization

The flower of a plant is responsible for the development of the seed and reproduction. The flower consists of many parts but the main sections are the petals, sepals, carpals and stamen. The carpal is the female part while the stamen is the male part.

  • The petals are the colorful part of the flower that often carries a fragrance and attracts insects.
  • The sepal is the green structure resembling leaves that protects the flower in the budding stage.
  • The stamen is the part where pollen is produced and is made up of the filament and the anther.
  • The anther is a sac that contains the pollen and is found at the tip of the filament.
  • The filament is connected to and holds up the anther.
  • The carpal is made up of the stigma, the style and the ovary.
  • The stigma is the sticky, top of the carpel which collects the pollen.
  • The style is a tube-like structure that extends down to the ovary
  • The ovary is the female part of the flower that contains the ovule or egg.

Some plants contain the stamen which is the male part of the flower. Pollen grains travel down to the female part of the flower- the ovule-so that reproduction can take place. After the ovule is fertilized it becomes a seed, and the ovary containing the seed grows into a fruit.

Some flowers are called perfect flowers because they have both stamen and carpel. There are other flowers that are without carpel or stamen and they are called imperfect flowers.

Where a flower contains the four main parts; sepals, petals, stamen and carpels, it is said to be a complete flower.

Seed Formation

Seeds begin to form inside the plant. The growth of the seed will continue inside a fruit. When the fruit matures and ripens, the seed falls or is scattered by animals, wind, water or insects. This allows the seeds to germinate and begin producing new plants when the conditions are right.

Germination

This process takes place when new plants start growing from seeds and roots, stems and leaves are formed. Germination takes place when the seed is buried in soil or any other growing medium.

Sustained Growth

Plants are able to produce new plants all the time. Their ability to produce new plants depends on the needs at the moment. This happens in two ways; root or shoot system. Plants are able to have sustained growth because of processes such as transpiration, nutrient transfer and photosynthesis.

Pollination

The mature plant produces its own flowers necessary for pollination and fertilization and so the cycle continues.

Dirt to Grass with Hydromulch

If you have a bare patch of dirt you are probably thinking of how to ‘fix’ it.

Out of all your choices, I bet you haven’t thought of spraying Hydromulch over it. The result is instant cover that protects the dirt from the effects of wind and rain.

Hydromulch has the grass seed imbedded in it and is designed to make it as easy as possible for you to grow your own grass for a lawn or lush green field.

What is Hydromulch and How It Works

Hydromulch is a thick soupy mixture of a mulch base that will hold together under a variety of weather conditions and at the same time be a great nursery for seeds to germinate in.

The other things in the ‘soup’ are fertilizer to feed young grass, tackifier or binder to hold everything together, and some coloring which is just there to make it look pretty on the ground.

The last item is the grass seed. This is up to you to choose what grass you would like. The operator will mix it all together in a specially designed machine then pump it out through a hose or a mounted gun to just the right thickness.

spray-grass1

Once the Hydromulch is covering your bare dirt, let it dry then start giving it some water. Not too much but frequently so that it stays damp long enough for the seeds to germinate.

Grass will start growing and show above the hydromulch cover as it sends roots down into the dirt.

You will not see it at first but if you get on your hands and knees and look along at ground level you will see a ‘hairy’ effect. A few days later the tiny sprouts will have turned green. Interesting to note, that what ever length the grass is above ground, underneath the roots are about 4 times as long. This is why you change your watering to a long drink at night once you see the grass at this stage.

Preparation

Now just before you pick up the phone and order the Hydromulch to cure your bare paddock or side of hill from looking so much like the face of Mars, have a think about preparation.

This is bit that makes all the difference. Just think of how a tiny little grass root is going to tunnel down deep to find moisture and food. If the ground is hard then little grass roots are going to have a devil of a time doing anything except dying.

Be kind, loosen the dirt or put out some fresh dirt so that it is nice and soft for young grass to get established in. At the same time this is the perfect moment to mix into the dirt some slow release fertilizer. What you do at this stage will make all the difference in the world for your final result, both in the time it takes and how it looks. If you have questions ask Hydro Spray Grass to help you out.

Lastly, do not be too worried about the slope of the land.

Hydromulch is made to hold tight to very steep banks, or batters. Your Hydro Spray Grass operator will adjust the mix to hold to just about any slope. It is surprising how well it holds onto steep banks even during heavy rain. Many times customers will call after a storm and the newly laid Hydromulch looks like it’s gone.

At this point don’t worry too much because it’s not as bad as you think. Most of the time the hydromulch is still there but dirt has washed over the top. You will find that about 3 days later the area will be festooned with young grass all over the slope.

This will then put down roots to hold the bank in place and your erosion concerns are yesterday’s problem.

Scientists Promote Benefits of Black Soil

The future of environmentally friendly farming may well lie in our past.

A new discovery has shed light on a strange quality of soil made by our ancestors’ happy accident, and it is likely to become a beacon for the practices of tomorrow.

Terra preta, or ‘dark earth’, was created long ago by the Amazonian people due to their unique methods of waste removal, which involved smoldering the waste with a slow burning fire.

Discovered by a group of archeologists from Brazil’s University of Sao Paulo and termed black soil, scientists doubt the Amazonian people had any indication of its fertility when they created it, hence the “happy accident”.

Properties of Black Soil

Terra preta was the byproduct of an entirely different process, and its uses went undiscovered by its creators. Many modern Amazonian farmers are reaping the rewards of their ancestors. The black soil is rich in carbon – perfect ground for a new foundation of modern farming.

“These indigenous people were not farmers,” pointed out archeologist Eduardo Goes Neves to LiveScience“ (source). The potential has just been lying in the soil waiting for modern farmers to discover it.”

The incredible properties not only is terra preta fertile for crops and growing, but the process of making this dark earth effectively removes carbon out of the atmosphere. Carbon reduction has become a tending topic in these wearisome days of global warming, and in this reduction terra preta finds its second ‘happy accident’.

Johannes Lehmann, a biochemist at Cornell University, points out how the knowledge buried in this terra preta can not only teach us how to improve our farming techniques through more sustainable means and soil, but also how to cap the critical carbon of the air into the soil itself, effectively hindering future global warming.

It may well be the first substantial step the modern world takes in transferring its farming practices into a new and environmentally conscientious century. Both Lehmann and Neves reported as much at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. As a result, the terra preta has come into demand by local farmers wizened to the unique properties of this precious and ancient soil.

In the aftermath of this discovery, Brazil is now utilizing the dark earth to increase their crop production to meet the demands of its nearly two hundred million population. However, due to the limited amounts of terra preta readily available, scientists would do well to caution the farmers from exhausting the resources available to them. As of this writing, terra preta is limited to the reserves leftover from the Amazonian people, and the exhaustion of those reserves would damage the precious information of these wondrous archeological sites filled with many possible answers for modern farming.

Creating new terra preta has become the top priority for those involved, and its successful production would yield both incredible advancement and incredible profit.

Slash and Char

Today scientists are imitating the waste burning practices of ancient indigenous tribes people, and it’s quite the clash of old world practices transformed into new world solutions. The smoldering method concerned is known as ‘slash and char’, and, like the processes used by the Amazonian people, intends to capture carbon from the air and trap it inside of the ground, effectively limiting other soil emissions.

But the modern take on this ancient practice is decidedly mundane, and deceptively simple. Scientists have been able to replicable the effects of slash and char with a combination of charcoal, leaves, a bit of cow dung and normal everyday soil. “

Bio-char has these very efficient properties of retaining nutrients,” Lehmann said. “It will retain more carbon in the soil better than any uncharred organic matter.”

But the benefits of slash and char don’t come from new methods alone. A hidden benefit to this new process is the benefit of substitution: modern farmers use slash and burn techniques to clear ways for their fields and crops, which releases incredible amounts of gases into the air. Lehmann estimates that the adoption of this new technique may result in a twelve percent drop in such human-caused emissions.

Featured image:image source

This was a guest post by Dwayne Bravo who writes for a company called, Weedaway. It’s a company which manufactures black garden soil mix.