Monday, June 25, 2012

Some Benefits of Organics Part 3

I’m going to continue writing about the benefits of organic products and wetting agents in your landscape. This article is part three of this topic, so if you missed the first two articles, you can go to under Horticulture Hotline and catch up.

Here are a few general facts about mulch. 

·        In the old days, the recommendations were the more mulch the better up to 6-8 inches, now days; the recommendation is only 2-3 inches. 
·        Always wait to apply mulch in the fall until after the leaves have dropped from your deciduous trees. In the spring wait for the late leaf droppers like Live Oaks and Water Oaks to drop their leaves. 
·        Be careful not to apply mulch right up to the trunks of plants, shrubs or trees.  The trunk has a different cell structure than the roots and cannot handle prolonged periods of moisture.  The moisture will soften the tissue and allow disease and insects to attack the trunk, or the trunk will send out adventitious roots. 
·        The main purpose of mulch is to buffer the temperature extremes and suppress weeds.  If your soil is naturally wet, it is better to have a very thin layer of mulch so that the ground dries out quicker. If your soil is dry, a thicker layer of mulch will help hold the water in the soil longer. 
·        When applying mulch around your house, try to keep an 18-24 inch mulch-free zone from the base of your home.  You might even contact your professional pest manager to inform him that you have added mulch to your beds. 

Now days there are many synthetic mulches (synthetic pine straw, mulch made out of ground tennis shoes, mulch made from ground tires), also rocks, and dyed wood mulch that will keep their color longer.  These mulches look good but will not add organic matter to your soil (except the dyed wood mulch).  

There are many types of wood mulch (hardwood, double shredded hardwood, pine nuggets, mini nuggets) that over a period of time will break down and help the organic content of your soil.  Wood mulch will add more organic matter over a period of time, than the pine straw.

If you like to have your cake and eat it too, you can apply Cotton Burr Compost at a depth of 2 inches and cover it with pine straw (or wood mulch) and this would immediately benefit your soil.  Every time it rains or your irrigation runs, your plants would be receiving a tall drink of compost tea chocked full of nutrients.  This combination would also feed the beneficial micro-organisms in the soil and not tie up any nitrogen.   You can have the neat tucked appearance of pine straw and get the nutrients from the Cotton Burr Compost that will immensely improve your soil.

As an update from the yard, if you have not noticed, the mosquitoes and chinch bugs have gone crazy out there. Sucking on us and our St. Augustine lawns.

Always read, understand and follow product label. The product label is a Federal Law.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Some Benefits of Organics Part Two

I’m going to continue writing about organics for the landscape from last week. If you missed last week’s article you can find it at under Horticulture Hotline.

Cotton Burr Compost, Flower Bed Amendment, Nature’s Blend, composted chicken manure, composted cow manure and / or SeaHume are great products to use now on your ornamental plants and lawn. For best results spread over the yard including beds; however, you can spread the products around individual plants or just troubled areas in the turf. If you plan to do individual plants, be sure to cover where the roots are and out a little past where you think they are. Also remember to keep compost or mulch off the trunk of trees and shrubs. On turf use multiple applications at a ¼ inch as needed.

Organic products feed the soil as microorganisms break the organics down into a usable form to the plants. When the soil is cold, these microorganisms are inactive. As the temperatures warm up, the microorganisms begin to break down the organic material and make the nutrients available to the plant. As the plant is beginning to grow and put on new leaves as the temperature warms up in the Spring, so, like magic, there is food available to the plant right when it needs it most. The forest with its leaves, twigs, limbs, and microorganism population is fertilized in this manner. With the warm weather we are having now, the organics are really working well.

Cotton Burr Compost, Flower Bed Amendment, Nature’s Blend, composted chicken manure, and composted cow manure are all composted to the point that they do not tie up nitrogen. Some organics can actually steal nutrients away from the plants while they decompose fully. Wood chips, fresh raked leaves, or grass clippings (if you are collecting bags of grass clippings compost first, mulching or regular mowing the grass clippings can stay on the yard) are best put into a compost pile until you are unable to tell what they were originally, and they are fully composted.  

SeaHume is a combination of cold water kelp (Ascophyllum nodosum) and humates.
The seaweed is full of sixty major and minor nutrients, amino acids, carbohydrates and natural occurring plant growth promoting substances (bio stimulants) that increase plant vigor, quality and yield. Humates increase the availability of nutrients in the soil, increase root growth, keeps nutrients in area that roots can reach (high CEC), make the soil more friable and many other benefits that will be discussed in a later article.

The organics help the microorganisms that break down the organic matter into a usable form for the plant. The microorganisms also move around in the soil, aerating it which makes roots grow deeper, so the roots can collect water and nutrients deeper in the soil, which means you save money on water and fertilizer!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Some Benefits of Organics

As the summertime heat and humidity begin to move into the Lowcountry, I want to remind you of some of the benefits of using organic fertilizers, composts, mulch, wetting agents with biostimulants, and bridge products. Some of the things I write about are generalizations (ex. 10-10-10 is all synthetic – a fertilizer blender could put organic filler in the formula, but not likely).

When you purchase a typical 10-10-10 fertilizer, you are getting 30% nutrients and the rest of the bag is filler (70%). Filler usually consists of drying agents to keep the fertilizer from absorbing moisture and becoming clumpy. Filler is also limestone or other non-nutritional ingredients. The nutrients in a 10-10-10 are water soluble so the plant can absorb them. The 10-10-10 is usually all fast release, so once it goes out the plant better be ready to take it in, or the Nitrogen (what part hasn’t already volatized into the atmosphere as N2 gas) and the Potassium will leach through the soil profile or run-off into non-target areas.

Unlike humans, plants uptake only the nutrients that they need. No obese plants out there! A natural or organic fertilizer may have a lower N-P-K ratio; however, all the ingredients are either a food source for soil organisms, plant essential minerals or micro-nutrients. Organic fertilizers are not water soluble, and depend on beneficial soil organisms to convert the nutrients into a form that the plant can uptake. This is the same process that feeds the trees from fallen leaves and limbs in the woods. This process is the true, original slow release fertilizer. Nothing is lost to evaporation or run-off which is good with all the water around here.

With an organic fertilizer you generally have slow steady growth as the soil organisms meter out the nutrients. Slow steady growth is easier to maintain and less susceptible to disease and insect attack. The plant will grow deeper roots, making it more drought tolerant; therefore requiring less water (lower water bill).

A 10-10-10 might cause “flush growth” that requires more hedge trimming or mowing. The plant will be more susceptible to disease and insects. Excessive fertilization could also add to thatch in the lawn areas. A plant that is putting out a lot of new growth is often sacrificing root growth for top growth and the landscape needs more water as a result.

Well, I’m out of column inches, so I will have to continue next week.