Friday, July 15, 2011
Almost Forgotten Truth
The birthright of living things is most likely health.
This is true for the soil, the plants, the animals and man; in fact the health of all is connected.
All health begins with the soil.
The return of organic wastes to the soil, in order to build a humus reserve in the soil, is the basis of soil health.
Lawn maker’s reliance on routine applications of nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium fertilizers may help green and thicken the lawn for a while but can eventually degrade the lawn soil health. Poor soil health is caused by depleting dozens of other soil components which lead to an unsustainable lawn maintenance practice.
Relying on purely chemical nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium lawn fertilizers ignores and condemns the beneficial biology of lawn soil life. The soil bacteria, fungi and numerous other micro-critters are all members of the web of life. Petro-chemical based N-P-K lawn fertilizers produce acidic toxins against this natural chain of life in the soil.
Following up this probably unintended assault on the soil life a host of insecticides, fungicides and herbicides exerts further damage to the lawn soil rhizophere.
There are “softer” alternatives to many of these practices.
While N-P-K fertilizers help to provide macronutrients for improved lawn grass growth, they do not provide the micronutrients so essential for the health of the lawn.
I think before we go any further we should define what soil is. Any soil has basically five components.
In the soil humus is constantly being decomposed and being reduced to its basic elements by the microscopic soil life. The elements that are released then move into the soil solution and are eventually absorbed by green plants through osmosis. Organic acids that are produced during this process etch away at the mineral portion of the soil releasing elements into the soil solution, also to be absorbed by grass plants. Microscopic root hairs, on the roots of green plants, are the means by which this nutrition is absorbed.
However, there is another mechanism at work here. A mechanism by which living fungal threads (mycelium) invade the cells of plant roots, acting as a conduit, that carries nutrient rich soil solution into the green plant. This process greatly enhances the plants ability to gather nutrients.
The role of earthworms in the formation of deep-organic topsoil cannot be over estimated. Charles Darwin made the observation that the humus content of the soil has passed many times through the intestinal canals of worms. They are nature’s cultivators. Year after year they deposit castings on the surface of the ground. The result is rich humus that is very beneficial for green plants.
Earthworms also create an extensive network of tubes or canals in the soil to a very considerable depth. Rainwater and air follow this network bringing life to the soil. The roots of plants will also follow this immense network of tubes. It is estimated that earthworms turn 35 tons of soil per acre per year. No rototiller can work as well in making passageways for the easy penetration of roots.
Healthy soil can contain 1 to 2 million earthworms per acre. Earthworms can produce 20 to 40 tons of nutrient rich castings per acre, per year, improving and enriching the soil. Beneath our feet our organic soils are in motion and continually being enriched.
Even in death the earthworm continues to enrich the soil. At least 1,000 pounds of earthworm bodies are decaying in an acre of organic soil throughout the year, with this protein-rich matter releasing an estimated 40 pounds of available nitrogen all through the year, as well as contributing to other life cycles in the soil.
We need to invest in the long-term health of our soils. A better balance of soil life wards off attacks by pathogens in the soil by out competing them for space in a healthy soil environment. Plant cells walls grow stronger and thicker enabling them to better ward off foliar attacks by pests. Plants that are used for food production contain higher nutritional levels when grown in a healthy, organic rich soil. Good soil health leads to our foods having more ascorbic acid (vitamin C), more anti-oxidants (important in cancer and heart disease), more flavinoids (better taste), and more resveratrol (anti-aging).
What is the most important first step in growing a superior home lawn?
It is the grass seed that is planted, whether it is a new lawn or the maintenance of an existing lawn. Remember the lawn can be no better than the grass seed that is used. All the fertilizer and control products that are used will not change this fact. So start with superior, competitive grass plants and the rest will fall into place.
How does Jonathan Green get superior, competitive grass plants? We have our own turfgrass breeding program. By means of this program we have developed lawn grasses that are truly superior. These perennial turfgrasses produce a beautiful lawn, even under tough growing conditions. The Jonathan Green Grass Seed Mixtures have been designed for organic lawn care programs, so they require less water and fertilizer and possess more drought tolerant, heat tolerant and insect resistant varieties. The Black Beauty Turf-Type Tall Fescue, the Blue Panther Kentucky Bluegrass the New Frontier Perennial Ryegrass and the Flying Eagle Fine Fescue elite turfgrass varieties are the end result of this program.
With the Black Beauty Fescue we have developed plants that are genetically superior. They root up to four feet deep to access available water much deeper than other lawn grasses. They possess an invisible waxy, cuticle coating on their leaves, which lowers their evapo-transpiration rate and conserves water during times of drought stress. This coating also helps the green plants to ward off fungal disease spores. The Black Beauty varieties are genetically dark-green, requiring less fertilizer to achieve an attractive appearance. The Black Beauty varieties are erect growing, producing an attractive turf that is difficult for the layman to distinguish from Bluegrass turf.
The New Frontier Perennial Ryegrasses are very dark-green in color and fast to germinate, usually in only 5-7 days. These new perennial ryegrasses have been bred for superior drought tolerance and disease resistance and all the grasses in this program contain endophytes for natural insect resistance.
The Blue Panther Kentucky Bluegrasses have all been developed using the new photochemical efficiency and anti oxidant testing evaluation and screening tools. The photochemical efficiency test measure each grass plants ability to convert the suns solar energy into chemical energy. The anti-oxidant test measures the level of anti oxidants present in each grass plant. Antioxidants are the shield, which protects the plant cells from the free radical damage caused by the constant bombardment of ultraviolet light. (Very similar processes are at work in the human body, which is why many people take daily vitamins containing anti-oxidants. The Blue Panther Kentucky Bluegrasses knit faster and recover form stress better than any of the Kentucky bluegrass varieties which have previously been available. The Blue Panther Kentucky Bluegrasses are now being grown by hundreds of sod farmers to produce elite Kentucky bluegrass sod.
The Flying Eagle Fine Fescues offer the largest advancement in shade tolerance for many years. These elite fine fescues perform better in poor soils of lower pH, which receive only limited fertilization and maintenance. The Flying Eagle Fine Fescues also mix better with other turfgrasses than earlier fine fescues because they are darker green in color, more uniform in texture and possess a wider leaf blade than earlier fine fescues whose grass blades possessed a hair-like appearance.
Many Jonathan Green lawn grass seed mixtures contain endophytes and are therefore naturally insect resistant. These endophytes are actually a beneficial fungus, which lives synergistically off the grass plant host. Endophytes produce defensive compounds, called alkaloids that are detrimental to above ground feeding insects. Endophytes are all natural and do not diminish over time in the living grass plant. Endophytes reduce the need for chemical pesticide treatments of the lawn.
Evaluating Your Own Lawn
If your lawn care program has become a vicious cycle of weed removal and return, insect treatments followed by insect damage, and fungus control applications which temporarily eliminate the lawn fungus, only to have the lawn disease return during the next time of stress; perhaps its time to try a new approach on your lawn, one that is in sync with the natural organic cycles we call this – “The Wheel of Life.”
My Organic Lawn Care Programs aid in the development of an infinitely complex substance that we call soil. Healthy lawn soil is rich in organic matter and soil life. Healthy lawn soil holds water, resists erosion, wards off disease and provides a favorable environment for the growth of lawn grass. These programs are presented only as a guide. You should assess your own lawn to determine the best course of action. Often the best way to upgrade your lawn is to introduce superior lawn grasses. Along the idea that the best defense is a good offense; the first step in controlling weed competition is to introduce competitive turfgrasses into the lawn. You can fertilize with either my Organic Lawn Fertilizer or my Natural Beauty Lawn Fertilizer before seeding. An application of my MAG-I-CAL Fertilizer at this time would also be beneficial before seeding. Remember, if you apply my Organic Weed Control plus Fertilizer, do not seed for 60-90 days. Time your lawn applications at 6 to 8 week intervals as you progress through the seasons. If there are multiple products in a program step, you may apply them on the same day in any order.
Before starting any lawn care program, a soil test should be performed to determine your soil’s pH level. Apply MAG-I-CAL and/or soil amendments to reach a desirable pH level. When soil is balanced, lawn growth thrives and the incidence of weeks is reduced. Look for my Soil pH Test Kit.
One of the best ways to control weeds is to seed with superior turfgrass plants that compete successfully in the lawn. Core or slice aeration of the soil before seeding will improve germination and alleviate compaction. Aeration of the lawn helps the grass roots and fertilizer enter the soil profile and increases bio-activity.
The best defense against insect pests is seeding with one of my grass seed mixtures that contain endophytes, which impart natural insect resistance. A deep, full root system can withstand the presence of some grubs. Remember, if you need to treat for grubs, they are only present in sunny areas.
A cutting height of 2 ½ to 3 inches helps to prevent disease and shades the soil to inhibit weed seed germination. Also, lawns that are mowed higher require less watering.
Keep your mower blades sharp so they don’t shred the grass - making it vulnerable to disease. Rotate your mowing patterns. Reduce your carbon footprint: use an electric mower or hand push mower.
Leave grass clippings on the lawn, as long as they are not in clumps, to decompose and return nutrients and water back into the soil. Mulching mowers work very well and are designed to finely shred clippings. Clippings do not promote thatch.
Water longer and less often to encourage deep root growth. Your grass needs about one inch of water per week. The best time to water is early morning, avoid watering at night.
If you really can’t live with weeds – dig them out and reseed bare spots.
Be aware of local ordinance requirements concerning fertilizers. They may limit or prohibit fertilizer applications from late fall to early spring.
The organic system of lawn fertility, based on the use of natural organic materials as the source of all fertility, has merit. This is not a new approach to the subject of lawn care and soil management; it is the oldest method of trying to make the soil more fruitful. It is a method whereby natures own laws of maintaining fertility are applied. Healthy soil is a living, breathing system. It contains essential minerals, air, water, a wide variety of living organisms, and the decaying remains of dead ones.
The ultimate goal of my Organic Lawn Care Programs is to improve the soil, making it more hospitable for lawn grass plants.
Why Care for Your Lawn Organically?
Synthetic chemical insecticides, fungicides and weed controls have the potential of killing the “soil life”. My Organic Lawn Care Programs do the opposite. They encourage “soil life”, including earthworms, in the work of recycling organic matter. The maintenance of natural soil fertility and health is the fundamental basis for the development of a healthy lawn that is better able to withstand drought, and resist insects and disease.
Jonathan Green Seedsmen
I saw Eternity the other night,
Like a great ring of pure and endless light,
All calm, as it was bright;
And Round beneath it, Time in hours, days, years,
Driven by the spheres
Like a vast shadow moved; in which the world
And all her train were hurled.