From what we have been hearing, it seems to be unanimous
that winter overstayed it’s welcome this year.
Our crew members in the Northeast were blasted with record snowfall this year, while California is suffering from record drought.
Here in the Southeast, plants are blooming weeks later than normal. Better for spring to be late than never arriving though. Spring is such a wonderful time of year, with all of the many flowers, blooming shrubs, and trees. Unfortunately, it is also when the weeds seem to sprout all at once. As you’ve probably noticed, all of the fertilizer and pesticide companies are pushing their toxic products on television. This is a timely subject that we want to discuss with you. This past season, our company achieved 100% organic fertilization. We used less fertilizer, by soil testing. The turf, shrubs, and trees were all green and healthy. It was no more expensive to go organic, in fact we spent less on fertilizer last year. We are now moving toward 100% organic pest control. Finding alternatives has never been easier with the internet. As we find effective ways to contend with common pests, we will be sharing our successes. We may also be exposing any failures, to prevent someone from making the same mistake.
Something new to our site is our Horticultural Horrors Sustainable Garden Store. We have teamed up with Amazon.com to bring you the products that we use and trust. The products don’t cost any more than if you buy them directly from Amazon. We receive a very small commission from each sale, which will help to defray the expenses of providing this website. In our store, you will find organic fertilizers, organic pest control, tools, and books. We will be adding more products to the store after we have tested them on a professional scale for effectiveness and/or durability.
As spring develops, many will be looking to “green-up” their lawns and gardens. Please take the time to test your soil first, then apply an organic fertilizer as necessary. You do not to want to just broadcast a heap of high-nitrogen fertilizer to green up your grass. Two to three lighter applications, of a more balanced fertilizer, throughout the season will prove more effective. This will also reduce or eliminate runoff, as well as leeching. Why are organic fertilizers better? Well, let’s look a little deeper into fertilizer. Many of you know the three numbers on the fertilizer package represent N-P-K content. N is the nitrogen, P is the phosphorous, and K is the potassium. Some people refer to the potassium as potash. Potash is a water soluble salt that releases potassium. Nitrogen is responsible for strong stem and leaf growth. Phosphorous aids with root growth, as well as flower and seed production. Potassium helps with overall health and disease resistance. These are very general explanations, and there are many more variables that affect the health and the success of a plant. We will discuss these variables in later articles over the growing season.
It would seem that many of the major consumer type fertilizer/chemical companies want us to believe that we can have bug free, weed free, green, flower filled gardens, free of any disease. Just broadcast their bag of magic, and voila, Eden in your back yard. Nobody wants to live with clouds of mosquitoes biting us, while aphids and beetles defoliate our shrubs and trees. Nobody wants disgusting funguses turning our lawns brown. The truth is, that in a well balanced system these problems won’t come to pass. That’s right, nature is not out to get you and your garden. The commercial products in your local builders warehouse are NOT the ONLY line of defense. In fact, nature itself is often the best defense against the lifeforms that we refer to as pests. We should not work against nature.
Let’s look at mosquitoes. Dragonflies will help keep mosquito populations low. Dragonflies do not sting or bite humans. They are actually quite beautiful masters of flight. They are also voracious predators of mosquitoes. Birds like Purple Martins, Swallows, and migratory song birds eat mosquitos. All kinds of fish eat mosquitoes. Spiders and other life forms, to a lesser degree, also help to control mosquitoes. When we try to completely eradicate mosquitoes using chemicals, we are also reducing the food supply for a lot of other animals. Hence, the populations of those natural predators also reduces. The direct effect, both known and unknown, that these chemicals are having on beneficial populations is devastating. Unfortunately, one rainy season will see a huge resurgence in the mosquito population, while the predators take longer to rebound. This actually makes sense in a natural world. It would be better to have an abundance of food for the beneficial/predator species before the populations increase. Unfortunately, as humans, we rush back to the chemical controls, rather than allowing the natural predators to bounce back. Bat populations all over the country are dangerously low, and dropping yearly. We need to start working toward a more balanced approach to dealing with pests, so that the natural controls built into our environment don’t disappear entirely. This would leave us completely reliant upon chemical manufacturers to protect us from all out pestilence…conspiracy theory anyone?
Most of us don’t live in a well balanced natural environment. So what can we do? Will it even make a difference? My neighbors all use synthetic fertilizers and broad-spectrum pesticides. How could what I do matter? It does matter! Every effort matters! You can create an oasis for beneficial insects, birds, and animals to live within a desert of inhospitable territory. But won’t I add to the problem? NO! In fact, when the pests build a tolerance to the widely used chemicals, you may be harboring one of the last bastions of beneficial species left in your neighborhood. Not to get too depressing, but these pests can, and do, build tolerance, and resistance to chemical controls. This is exactly like the overuse of antibiotics leading to “Super Germs”. What about when I do need to control a pest species? There are products like Neem Oil available from your local small business or our store, that help to control pest insects, pest fungi, and some diseases. Do not apply these oils when plants are in bloom. They might be detrimental to pollinators with direct contact, in some cases. We will discuss timing of pest control in another article.
What are the pros and cons of organic versus chemical type fertilizers? Here is a comparison:
They are manufactured from natural, renewable, materials that actually build the soil as they break down
They break down slowly. This feeds the plant at a slower rate, which can prevent “burning”. This also prevents leaching and runoff.
With less leaching, and runoff, you can make fewer applications.
You don’t have the buildup of toxic materials in your soil that come from the repeated use of chemical fertilizers.
They are primarily manufactured from non-renewable resources, which can include fossil fuels.
Because the breakdown is caused by chemicals rather than soil fungi and bacteria, the nutrients are available very quickly. This can lead to killing the plant by over fertilizing, or completely upsetting an ecosystem. This also leads to extra applications to maintain the plant. This can lead to pollution, and wasting your money on extra fertilizer.
As chemical fertilizer breaks down, it does not build the soil. It also does not replace many trace elements that are gradually depleted and results in long-term damage to the soil.
Repeated use of chemical fertilizers can lead to buildup of toxic materials like arsenic and cadmium. If you have a vegetable garden, or fruit trees, these chemicals can eventually work their way into your foods.
Chemical fertilizer can upset beneficial microbial ecosystems, increase pests,change the soil pH, and contribute to the release of greenhouse gases.
We recently watched an episode of PBS Nature that was discussing the effect of agriculture on frogs. You can see the whole episode at: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/frogs-the-thin-green-line-video-full-episode/4882/ …If you are not seeing a video below, try refreshing your browser window.
Agriculture needs to get on board with no-till farming, ending mono-crops, and less reliance on synthetic chemicals. We are finding toxic chemicals building up in human cells, our blood, and they are even showing up in newborn babies. Effects are being tied to lower I.Q.’s as well as many other health issues.
It seems impossible for any of us to eat completely organic, garden naturally, and turn around the planetary environmental problems. All we can do is try to improve our own practices and habits. We are continually trying to use more sustainable practices, and look for places to reduce energy use. Little by little, if we all begin to make an effort, maybe we can make a change. Agricultural chemical manufacturing, and the seeds that tend to work in partnership with them, is a very profitable business, that relies on our money. From the groceries that we choose to purchase, to the products we use in our gardens, it is our choice.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us. We truly want this to be a balanced conversation, so that we can all come to the right answer. We can’t, and should not, go backward. We can, and should, move forward on a sensible and sustainable path.
Get Grounded Crew
-The HH Team
Tips and Timing
Test your soil as soon as possible
Based on the soil test, add fertilizer and lime if necessary.
Use organic fertilizer (It is available at our store)
Look up into mature trees for broken limbs hanging. Use a certified, and qualified, arborist if necessary.
Clean up any remaining leaves, and prune any deadwood from winter damage
Do NOT apply weed prevention anywhere that you intend to plant seeds (like your lawn). Weed prevention, will also prevent your lawn or garden seed from germinating.