Spring is here and many of you just noticed that you need a new lawn. Mike McGrath reveals who can accomplish that easily and who needs to sit on their spreader. Plus: Mike speaks with Emily Boell, from Delaware Valley University and Justin Barclay from the Rodale Institute who are working together to help veterans learn organic farming techniques.
Question of the Week:
“My lawn is mostly weeds. I recently removed a large bed of English Ivy that surrounded two dogwood trees and bordered the driveway. I want to plant grass seed this spring but am not sure which type. Can you give me some advice?”
— Patty in Elkton, Maryland
Photo by Flickr user Alan Jones
Highlights from show for April 2, 2016:
Working with wood mulch
Patty in Bucks County, Pennsylvania heard that wood mulch is not recommended to treat plants, but she noticed that it’s being sold and used everywhere. Patty wants to know what she should use instead of mulch. Mike tells us some history about the rise of wood mulch popularity: wood mulch was heavily marketed to people after the lumber industry was told they could no longer dispose of their waste at landfills. Mike says that wood mulch is okay as a divider in raised beds, and it’s even okay to use on plants as long as it doesn’t touch the plant itself, and isn’t spread deeper than two inches, because that will prevent rainwater from reaching the roots. Lastly, wood mulch should never be used on disease-prone plants such as tomatoes, roses, lilacs, or dogwoods.
Photo by Flickr user RG. Almeida
Josh in Annapolis, Maryland wants to control crabgrass in his lawn by applying corn gluten meal. Mike says that Josh may have missed his window of opportunity because of the especially warm soil temperatures we have experienced this year. However, Mike says Josh should still put down as much corn gluten meal as he is allowed to use. Mike also advises wetting the corn gluten meal when putting it down and then letting it dry out because that’s the way it inactivates seeds the most effectively. Lastly, Mike says that the best method is getting a flame weeder. It’s like a shepherd’s hook and it has a bottle of propane gas attached to it. The best way to eradicate crabgrass is to torch it.
Featured Interview: Emily Boell and Justin Barclay
Mike speaks with Emily Boell, Organic Farming Program Coordinator at Delaware Valley University and Justin Barclay Veteran Farming Program Coordinator at the Rodale Insitute. They are working together to help returning veterans learn organic farming techniques, how to take their produce to market and how to find farmland to grow on. Find more at: www.delval.edu
Composting with eucalyptus
Robert in Los Angeles, California just started a garden this year, and wants to get into composting, but doesn’t have access to fall leaves out on the west coast. Finally, he found a supply, but all the leaves are from eucalyptus trees. Robert asks Mike if the resin and oil from the eucalyptus plant might damage his garden. Mike says eucalyptus in general is highly bioactive, and highly insect-repellent. He suggests using it on the garden to deter pests. As far as compost goes, Mike advises Robert to use his personal food waste, along with coffee grounds. He supposes that dried palms from local palm trees could serve as good west-coast substitutes to our fallen leaves here in the east. Lastly, Mike highly recommends using worm bins.
Photo by Flickr user John Mayer
Grubs and Beetles
Anne in Dayton, Ohio has large patches of torn-up grass in her yard, as though some critter had been messing around there. Mike immediately thinks it’s a beetle problem. The beetle larva, the grubs, feed on grass roots in the late summer and early fall. During that time, if you see grass turning brown as autumn approaches and temperatures drop, you should suspect grubs. To check, you can lift up the grass and you will see them. Mike asks if Anne has any raised tunnels or obvious holes in her yard. When she says no, Mike concludes skunks are the problem. These nocturnal animals can hear and smell the grubs underground, and will dig around these patches to get at the grubs. Mike advises cutting the grass at a height of three inches (no less) and with a new blade. Lastly, around August 15, Mike tells Anne to sow matching grass seed in the damaged areas, and to apply a product called milky spore which will kill the grubs.
Getting rid of mosquitoes safely
Kay in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania is trying very hard to avoid mosquitoes this year, but does not want to use sprays or pesticides. Her neighbors signed up for a six-spray package from a company called Mosquito Platoon, and were trying to recruit Kay to get a group discount. Kay wants to find alternatives that she can use for her own yard, and that she can recommend to her friends. Mike first suggests BTI as a way to treat standing water, which halts mosquito eggs from hatching. Next, Mike discusses garlic oil spray, a substance that is repellent to many insects. Last, Mike mentions that some spraying companies offer botanical spray options that are less harmful.