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Monthly Archives: January 2017

Benefit of Use Leaves for Fertilizer

Harvest time is just about upon us, and you know the other word for the season – Fall. Why? Since the leaves will soon be falling surrounding us. Many individuals consider falling leaves as something that must be raked up and discarded, yet departs are planned by nature to be a characteristic compost and defensive cover for the earth.

Go into a woodland where nobody ever rakes up the leaves, and burrow down a couple inches. Have you ever observed such dim, prolific soil? You don’t need to be a nursery worker to realize that on the off chance that you were a plant you would preferably live in this dirt than in the stuff a large portion of us have in our yards. The distinction, obviously, is the takes off.

Leaves are full of nutrition that nourish the organisms that live in the soil. These organisms in turn help produce healthier roots on your plants, including your lawn grass. You may be saying, “I can’t just allow leaves to pile up on my grass. It will kill the grass.” You are probably correct, but that doesn’t mean bagging them and sending them to the landfill is the answer.

Try a new approach this year. When the leaves start to fall this autumn, continue to mow the grass as usual. Mow right over the leaves, letting them scatter over the grass. You can mow over leaves that are one foot deep, and your grass will be happy, but it’s better to mow often before they pile up, so you don’t clog the mower. This is much less work than raking and stuffing them into plastic bags.

The secret to healthy soil in your garden or lawn is feeding the billions of living organisms in addition to the earthworms that live in that soil. The best way to do that is by adding organics to the soil. Chemical fertilizers are artificial. True, the plants can’t tell the difference between natural and artificial nutrients, but those living microorganisms in the soil can. By feeding your soil instead of your plants, the soil becomes healthier, the plants develop better, deeper roots, and they, in turn, become healthier and more self-sufficient.

A lawn on a strictly chemical diet may look green and lush as long as you continue to water and fertilizer it. If you stop regular feedings or watering, the grass will die off quickly because it has shallow roots and no reserves. Chemical fertilizer supplies nutrients to the plants, but the high salt content will eventually kill the microorganisms, leaving you with dead soil! In a lawn fed organically, the grass will have deeper and healthier roots, and will be able to withstand periods of stress and drought.

Many people think that if they mow their grass without bagging, they will be creating thatch, but this isn’t true. Grass clippings are full of nitrogen which the grass needs. In autumn, when the leaves start to fall, you should keep mowing, mixing the grass clippings with the leaves.

This same idea for feeding the soil applies to your garden. The easiest way to make good garden soil is to mix grass clippings with chopped leaves and apply them to your garden beds as mulch each fall. It will supply nutrition to the garden soil, help retain moisture, and provide a breeding ground for those good microorganisms. In your vegetable garden, apply a thick layer of leaves and grass in the fall, and you can eliminate the need to till in the spring. This will save you work, eliminate much of your weed problem, and improve the over-all health of your soil. Tilling chops up your earthworms and microorganisms, and it exposes buried weed seeds to the light and oxygen they need to germinate.

In a perennial garden, a layer of leaves and clippings will not only nourish the soil, it will insulate the ground, preventing heaving and protecting the crowns of your plants. There is one note of caution to all this: if your lawn has recently been treated with a broadleaf herbicide, you don’t want to be spreading that grass in your perennial garden!

As valuable as leaves and grass clippings are to us in our yards, they are a huge problem in landfills. We hear constantly that landfills are running out of room and that billions of dollars are spent each year to handle the situation. Did you know that according to the EPA, as much as 50% of that waste comes from plant debris…namely grass clippings and leaves! This is one environmental problem to which we each have the opportunity to contribute to the solution.

How to Pick Native Trees for Your Yard?

There are 77 types of local backwoods trees in Frederick County be that as it may, not every one of them would be reasonable or alluring for a home scene. Locals are not really more impervious to malady than different plants yet they are appropriate to the atmosphere and soil and furthermore give sustenance and haven to neighborhood untamed life. By and large the more quickly developing trees are all the more brief and inclined to a bigger number of issues at development than slower developing species. For an uncovered parcel you may wish to plant a couple quickly developing trees to acknowledge now and to give some prompt protection, yet bear in mind to plant some slower developing trees for you or your great children to compose sonnets about. Great soil, (not compacted by development trucks) and great seepage is valued by generally assortments.

Of the native evergreens the White pine (Pinus strobus) is fast growing but intolerant of air pollution and salt so don’t plant them close to busy roads. Also, remember that it will eventually get 50-80’ high and 20-40’ wide! Hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis) (40-70’)can handle a shaded location but are susceptible to many diseases and insects. They also can not handle wind, drought, or bad drainage so be sure to use this native only under ideal conditions. The Scrub Pine (Pinus virginiana) will grow where nothing else can and can even handle salt spray but its ornamental value is debatable. The Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is also tolerant of adverse conditions, particularly limestone based soils but I would recommend one of the cultivars that has better color and form than the species.

In this area we see a lot of Bradford Pears, Norway Maples, Pin Oaks and Cherries but, there are many native deciduous trees that are used less often that I would recommend. White Oak is king of the oaks but it prefers undisturbed forest soil, so try the Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor)or the Overcup Oak (Quercus lyrata) as an alternative if you’re looking for a long lived, stately tree. The Swamp White Oak grows 50-60’in swampy locations but also has good drought resistance and is easier to transplant than the White Oak. The Overcup Oak also can withstand considerable flooding and is easier to transplant. It grows 40-60’ high and wide and has yellow-brown fall color.

The Chestnut once made up 50% of the forest in Frederick County but was wiped out by blight in the 1920’s. The American Chestnut Foundation is working on developing a resistant chestnut and it would be an excellent addition to your landscape as soon as they are available

The Red Maple (Acer rubrum) grows 40-60’ high but not all will get good red fall color in this area. Be sure to pick a cultivar that is cold hardy since some southern cultivars are not hardy here. The cultivars “Brandywine”, “Somerset”, and “Sun Valley” are males (no helicopter seeds to sweep up), have red fall color and are tolerant of leaf hopper (a common pest).The White Elm (Ulmus americana) (60-80’) was once used extensively as a street and lawn tree for it’s classic vase shape but many have been killed by Dutch Elm disease. The National Arboretum has developed a few disease resistant cultivars. “Valley Forge” shows the most resistance and should be available now.

If you’re looking for another large tree (60-75’ high and 40-50’ wide) with medium to fast growth the Sweet Gum (Liquidambar stryraciflua) might be your choice. Fall color can be excellent but is variable and the tree may take awhile to become established. The seed balls are attractive on the tree but can become a nuisance on the ground (especially in bare feet) so choose the cultivar “Rotundiloba” which is seedless and has good fall color.

If you are looking for fall color the Sour gum (Nyssa sylvatica), also known as Black Tupelo (30-50’), is one of the prettiest native trees. Growth can be slow but plant this tree when small to avoid transplant problems. Sassafras (Sassafras albidum, 30-60’) also has excellent fall color and while it may be scrubbier looking than many specimen trees it’s fruit makes great bird food. The same can be said of another native, the Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis) which is shrubby with white flowers in spring.

Picture of Cornus florida
Cornus florida

If you are looking for a smaller tree (up to 30’ high) two common but beautiful, spring flowering natives are the Redbud (Cercis canadensis) and Dogwood (Cornus florida) which both enjoy some shade. But more uncommon is the Hop Hornbeam (Ostyra virginiana) which likes dry, or well-drained soil and is an attractive tree for a smaller area. The Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) also known as Blue Beech is another under used species that will tolerate heavy shade, periodic flooding, and pruning. It can be used as a tall hedge or in a naturalized setting. Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is also small and flowers in late fall or winter when nothing else is in flower.

Last, but not least is a tree to plant for posterity, the Beech (Fagus grandifolia). It doesn’t like wet or compacted soil and grows slowly but is worth it. Golden leaves often persist into winter and the nuts are food for many types of wildlife. Don’t forget, it will eventually get 70’ tall!

All of these trees can be planted in the fall but still need regular watering until they become established. Look for trees without any trunk damage, that are labeled correctly, and that are not left over from spring inventory. Also, while a bare landscape may be hard to live with, remember younger trees become established more quickly than more mature specimens and have a better survivability rate. Also be sure to consider the mature size of a tree when determining it’s location and the number of trees to plant.

Know The Reasons Why Grow Natives Plants

To start with how about we characterize local. As indicated by the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), local plants are one which happened inside the state before settlement by Europeans. As we turn out to be more worldwide, our local types of plants are turning out to be less present in our scenes, and tragically in our regular living space. As plants from different parts of the world come into our scenes, things happen. For example, barberry and blazing shrub – now found in our woods – are decreasing the herbaceous material that ordinarily develops in forested zones. No normal predators, no regular controls.

Why would that be an issue? Here is a fascinating actuality: “In 2000, 5% of PA local plant species had been wiped out and another 25% were in threat of being wiped out.” ( Research demonstrates that the diminished local plants directly affect our local bugs, creatures of land and water, winged creatures, and natural life. We ought to be concerned in light of the fact that as our local creepy crawlies diminish, so does are sustenance supply. We require bugs to fertilize our vegetable plants, similar to cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and beans.

More interesting facts: “Americans manage 30 million acres of lawn. We purchase 100 million tons of fertilizer per year and 80 million pounds of pesticides (10 times the rate per acre of pesticides used by farmers). We spend $750 million on grass seed. Grass clippings consume 25 – 40% of landfill space during the growing season. Before settlers, 95% of the watershed was forested, now less than 60% is forested.” (

Growth is expected, but the way we manage growth can be controlled. We can increase plant diversity and connect plant corridors with our neighbors. We can reduce turf grass by planting shrubs, trees and perennials. We can increase insect diversity, reduce pesticide usage by planting plants that attract these insects. Increasing pollination for our vegetable crops by introducing native perennials into our landscapes will attract these beneficial insects.

Imagine being an insect, amphibian or mammal in today’s world. All in the name of growth, you have been limited to small, forested areas. Remember, our area has been reduced by 35% and counting. Traveling from one forested area to another, we can see housing, streets, cars, grass, and water that are polluted with pesticides– lots and lots of open space. Survival rate for native insects, amphibians or mammals? Probably not so good.

Now, what if we take that same environment and connect yards with shrubs, trees and perennials. What if we reduce the turf? Suddenly, the animals, birds and insects have corridors that connect them from one forested area to another. Not only have we created more diversity in plant and animal life; we have provided more food as well as safe routes for travel. We have allowed these critters to visit our vegetables to pollinate, allowed for activity in our yards we never would have seen, and we’ve cleaned up our water because we are using less pesticides as we allow for natural predators to prey on pests.

As a horticulturist, I get questions every day that go something like this: what can I spray to fix “xyz” problem? We as a society want quick and easy answers, and expect immediate results. Quickly, we get frustrated because the amount of pesticides available to us as homeowners is reduced each year, or so it seems. Why has this happened? We are the most abusive users of pesticides. We don’t read the label, or if the label says to use ¼ tsp per gal, we use ½ tsp, because more must be better.

Farmers and professional pesticide applicators are regulated. They have to take a test to apply pesticides. They have to continue their training of pesticide usage to keep their license. Homeowners, are not. We can use pesticides that we get at Lowe’s, Home Depot, Wal-mart as we wish. We don’t always abide by label direction and can abuse our right to use pesticides without punishment.

Problems in our landscapes are often a result of bad planting, the wrong plant selection, or plant maintenance and have nothing to do with insect or disease issues; or the insect or disease issue is a secondary infestation resulting from bad plant management. Therefore, education is imperative so we can understand when to use pesticides, and what is the best management of our plants in our landscapes. If we concentrate more on native plants that are acclimated to our weather, soils, and natural insects, we will reduce the need for “fixes”.

As homeowners, we must look at our surroundings as a piece of the natural world. What was there before houses, streets and cars? What can I do to make my environment friendlier? Consider this: if we reduce our lawn, we reduce the amount of fertilizer we’re applying. If we reduce fertilizer use, we reduce pollution of local creeks and streams, possible contamination of ground water, air and noise pollution from gas powered equipment. Think about it: if we’re not mowing, we’re saving on gas. We are reducing our costs of fertilizers that potentially run into our water supply. We’ve increased biodiversity – the variety and variation of plants, animals, fungi, microbes and their relationship to each other, we’ve created a cleaner environment. We’ve reduced pollution of local creeks and streams and possible contamination of ground water.

It’s really quite simple. Each and every one of us can help our environment to become healthier and happier. All we have to do is:

Avoid fragmentation of forests by connecting your land to your neighbor through planting trees, shrubs and perennials.

Replace trees and shrubs with native plants and reduce turfgrass areas. This will allow our native critters to live happily, resulting in less pesticide usage and better pollination for our foods.

By your plants from someone that knows plants. Not all non-native plants are bad, not all cultivated or selected plants are bad. Many are good. Many have benefits to our environment, but ask a professional.

Wildlife Garden

A natural life garden can be depicted as a situation that is appealing to different types of untamed life, for example, winged animals, creatures of land and water, reptiles, creepy crawlies, and warm blooded animals. Natural life greenhouses may contain a scope of environments, including a lake to draw in frogs, dragonflies, and winged creatures; settle boxes for feathered creatures, log heaps to give asylum to creepy crawlies, reptiles, and worms; plants that pull in helpful bugs; and a differing supply of sustenance (year round) to pull in and keep untamed life in the garden.

There are four prerequisites to give a natural surroundings to untamed life, and these requirements can without much of a stretch be provided when you start to make your own particular untamed life cultivate. The four fundamentals are nourishment, water, assurance, and a place to raise a family.

Plant perennials and annuals that offer nectar, seeds, and fruits to provide nourishment for the wildlife in your garden. Shrubs that produce fruits and berries can be selected to provide food sources for wildlife.

A pond, water garden, or bird bath filled with fresh water provides a water source. Water is an essential component for any size and variety of garden.

Native plantings are best for the wildlife and the habitat. Some of the native species that we have are Eastern Hemlock (tsuga canadensis); Red Oak (quercus coccinea); Black-eyed Susan (rudbeckia hirta); Coneflower (rudbeckia laciniata); Pagoda Dogwood (cornus alternifolia); Lanceleaf Coreopsis (coreopsis lanceolata); Bluebell Bellfower(campanula rotundifolia); and Yarrow (achilea millefolium).

Trees provide the backbone of your wildlife habitat. Trees add protection, a place to raise a family, and provide roosting places along migratory routes. Low growing plants and ground covers are critical. They play an important role for ground-hunting creatures and provide vital shelter and protection for fledging birds and other wildlife escaping predation.

We have attracted a wide variety of birds to our gardens, along with frogs, dragon flies, butterflies, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, and an occasional hawk.