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Organic Philosophy
 

The Organic Philosophy is simply that healthy soil grows healthy turf and plants. It understands that we cannot control, but rather must encourage nature. It is taking the approach of treating the cause of problems and not the symptoms. Organic Gardening is not a great mystery. It is a different system that requires observation and common sense. For every problem you might come across while you transition from chemicals (synthetics) to organics, there is an organic solution. So go organic and make your home environmentally safe for your family and pets.

Steps to Organic Gardening:

Soil Test, Add Organic Matter, Fertilizing, Mowing, Watering (see details below)

Soil Test:

To be successful using an organic program the first thing we recommend is a soil test. It’s like going to the doctor to get blood work done. A soil test will tell you the nutrient levels, organic matter percentage, pH, soil texture, and other vital and useful information. The conventional chemical lawn care programs we have been using for the past fifty years have really declined the health of our soils. For more information on soil testing contact TX Plant and Soil Lab in Edinburg, TX or at their web site,  www.txplant-soillab.com.

Add Organic Matter:

Once you receive the soil analysis results apply the necessary amendments in the recommendations. To “Jump Start” the organic process do any combination of the following things:

Apply ˝ inch of finished compost to your lawn, add Amendments like Rock powders and Humates, liquid Soil Conditioners, Biostimulants, and Molasses. 

Fertilizing

An organic fertilization program yielding excellent results utilizes both granular and liquid fertilizer. Organic fertilizers are often manure-based fertilizers. They have a slow release and will last 60-90 days once applied. Apply granular fertilizer at the rate of 20 lbs. per 1000 square feet three times a year (March, May, and September). Foliar feeding (using liquid fertilizers) provides the plants and lawn an instant feed. The nutrients are readily absorbed through the leaves into the plant. Foliar feed as often as possible (once or twice a month) from February through October. Remember to always foliar feed early in the morning or late in the afternoon (avoid the hot afternoon sun).

Fertilization Schedule

Feb

 

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

CGM

G

 

G

 

 

 

G

CGM

F

F

F

F

F

F

F

F

F

 

S

 

S

 

 

 

S

 

CGM = Corn Gluten Meal (natural weed and feed)   G=Granular   F=Foliar   S=Biostimulant

Mowing

Mowing practices are as important as soil care in an organic turf program. Proper mowing is the single most effective way of controlling weeds without herbicides. Mower blades must be sharpened on a regular basis (every 8-10 hours of mowing time). Dull blades tear and stress the plant inhibiting its natural resistances and aggressive growth. Lawns should be mowed high (2 1/2 –3 1/2 inches) and often, never removing more than 1/3 of the blade of grass. Use a mulching mower to recycle the clippings. The recycled clippings will return nutrients and organic matter back to the soil. Keeping your lawn at the proper height will keep weed seeds from germinating and hold more moisture.

Watering

One inch of water a week is recommended for most of our heavy clay soils in North Texas, in as few applications as possible.  Frequent watering encourages a shallow root system and unhealthy grass. A deep and infrequent watering schedule promotes stronger and deeper root systems that can handle our heat stressed summers. Slowly increase the duration of your watering and decrease the frequency.  Eventually, your soil will “open up” and you can apply one-inch of water in one application. Learn how to operate your sprinkler system. Use rain gauges or tuna cans to measure the amount of water your system is currently putting out in every zone. Then adjust the timer and frequency on your sprinkler system until you reach the desired one-inch mark. Long, hot, and drought conditioned summers might require more watering. Remember to take into account the rain nature provides – that counts too!

Are there differences in Fertilizers?

Synthetic or Chemical fertilizers force-feed plants. When applied, the plants readily uptake the nutrients forcing them to grow. Synthetic fertilizers do not feed the soil. In a bag of synthetic fertilizer with a 15-5-10 analysis for example, only 30 percent of the bag is actually fertilizer. The other 70 percent is made up of inert fillers and salts. The inert ingredients, by law, do not have to be disclosed on the bag. So what are you really applying to your lawn? Over time, soils treated only with synthetic chemical fertilizers will have decreased organic matter and altered biological activity. And as soil structure declines and water holding capacity diminishes, a greater proportion of the soluble chemical fertilizers applied will leach through the soil. Ever increasing amounts of chemicals will be needed to feed the plants.

Organic Fertilizers feed the soil, which in turn feeds the plants. The NPK analysis of organic fertilizers will be smaller – ex. 5-3-4, 4-6-4, or 5-2-4 – but 100 percent of the ingredients in the bag consists of food for the soil. The ingredients are derived from plants, animals, and rock minerals. Organic fertilizers are naturally time released so they do not overload the plants with nutrients at the wrong time. Organic fertilizers can be applied at the rate of 20 lbs per 1000 sq. feet. As you bring the soil back into balance less fertilizer will be needed over time making organics the smart choice.  They are not water soluble like the chemical fertilizers so they do not leach away into our watersheds.

How can I control weeds?

Weeds were given to us by Mother Nature to cover the bare soil, protect the earth from erosion, and to help turn lifeless soil into soil that is full of life. Weeds don’t actually like good soil. They thrive in unbalanced and poor soils. They result from compaction, improper mowing heights, improper watering, and too much or too little fertilizer. So in order to help control weeds without herbicides, all the above items need to be addressed. We do have organic products that will kill broad-leaf weeds. Vinegar at 20% strength and Acetic Acid based products can be used to spot-treat unwanted weeds. They are non-selective; meaning whatever you spray will be killed.

Corn Gluten Meal is another product that helps control weeds. Corn Gluten Meal affects the root growth of sprouted seeds at the time of germination. Apply Corn Gluten Meal at 10 –20 lbs per 1000 sq. feet. The timing of the application must happen just before the natural germination time of the weeds. Corn Gluten Meal is 60 percent corn protein and approximately 10 percent nitrogen (N) by weight.  This is the equivalent of an organic “weed and feed”.

What is Organic Pest Management (OPM)?

Organic Pest Management is an approach to pest control that combines cultural, biological, physical and chemical control measures to prevent problems or keep them in check. Through a combination of organic soil building, proper plant care, and preventive pest control, you can create a garden environment where even organically accepted pesticides are rarely used.

Cultural Controls: Gardening practices that reduce pest problems, including keeping plants healthy, and selecting well-adapted cultivars.

Biological Controls: Pest-control measures that use living organisms to fight living organisms, including releasing, attracting, and protecting natural insect predators and parasites, and using microbial sprays to control insects and plant infestations.

Physical Controls: Control measures that prevent pests from reaching your plants or physical removable if they do. Barriers, traps, and hand picking are physical controls.

Chemical controls: Control methods that involve substances that kill pests. Organically acceptable chemical controls are naturally occurring minerals or plant products, and they tend to break down into harmless substances faster than synthetic pesticides.

How can I control plant disease without fungicides?

The best way to avoid plant diseases is to choose varieties that resist them.  look on the tags at the garden center or in catalog descriptions for mention of disease resistance. Then be sure to put those plants in the conditions they thrive in, because a stressed out plant is more susceptible to disease. Many fungal diseases are encouraged by constant moisture and too little air circulating around the plants. To remedy that, plan your garden with enough room to accommodate full-grown plants. Water evaporates more slowly and air doesn’t circulate well among crowded plants. Water your garden beds deeply and then allow the top level of soil to dry out before watering again. If diseases do appear, remove the afflicted leaves (or entire plants) or try to treat the area with a low toxic fungicide.  There are organic fungicides available if all else fails.