Composting and Soil ImprovementsWritten by David Selman, Tracker-Outdoors.com
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Compost is a dark-colored, loose mixture of well-rotted organic matter that can be used by gardener to improve garden or potting soil. Any organic matter such as garden waste is a good ingredient for compost. If soil is hard and crusty when dry or sticky when wet, vegetables do not grow properly. Good garden soil is loose, has high water-holding capacity and proper drainage. Put your compost pile in a well-drained area. A shady spot or a place behind bushes will shield heap from view.
It is possible to accumulate materials in a loose pile but it is better to have an enclosure for compost. This could be a pit dug 18 inches into ground of any length and width or an above-ground structure. Either type of structure should be divided with a partition. One side can be used for composting material and other for usable compost.
A rectangular pile 2 to 5 feet wide, 5 to 10 feet long and 2 to 4 feet high is adequate for most households. If space is not available, a single, tall pile can be used. Fresh material is added at top and finished compost dug out at bottom.
Build your compost pile in layers. First add 6 to 8 inches of garden refuse. Each layer of this organic material should be moistened. A little lime also may added to help process and keep new soil from packing. Add 1 to 2 inches of soil. Repeat this process as composting material is available.
The top layer should be lower in center to help collect moisture. Water may have to be added during dry weather to keep pile going. Compost materials should be moist but not saturated.
Turn pile with a garden fork a couple of times a month to hasten composting. In about a month pile should be hot in center indicating it is decomposing properly. If this doesn't happen, pile may be too wet or too small. Fertilizer or more frequent turnings could be needed. A well-maintained, active pile will not attract rodents. When adding food scraps, bury them in center of pile.
Soil that is ready for use from a compost is dark, loose and has an "earthy" smell. Most organic materials should compost in 4-8 months.
Article By: Tracker Outdoors www.tracker-outdoors.com
Lawns, Gophers & MolesWritten by Thomas Leo Ogren
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Skunks? Sometimes a grub-infested lawn will attract nighttime raids by skunks. The skunks (and occasionally raccoons too) will tear up pieces of your lawn as they dig up grubs to eat. The solution here is much same as it is for getting rid of moles. If moles eat up all grubs in your lawn they’ll move on to a new grub-filled area. Of course, in process they’ll tear up your lawn. So, what to do? The most obvious answer is to kill off grubs in lawn. These grubs are larvae from any number of insect pests, and in lawn they are also important pests of lawn. Left unchecked, grubs may well destroy most of your lawn by themselves. There are a number of organic or inorganic methods of killing off lawn grubs. Flooding lawn seems to help to bring grubs up closer to surface, where they’ll be easier to kill. Look for sources of these bio-controls in Links section of this book, under IPM. IPM is short for integrated pest management and it is often very effective and safe. Most of soil grubs are larvae of some kind or other of beetle. If grubs are larvae of Japanese Beetles they can be attacked with Milky spore, which is an organic product that only attacks Japanese Beetles. There are bio-controls, safe biological agents that kill soil grubs. Heterorhabditis bacteriophora nematodes have shown good results for white grub control. Nematodes are tiny soil wireworms. This particular species will find white grubs and kill them. These beneficial nematodes are available in mail order catalogs, often sold as Hb nematodes. They should be applied to already thoroughly watered lawns late in day and then watered in immediately. These nematodes will not damage lawn or other garden plants. Nematodes work fastest in sandy soils and slower in heavy, clay soils. Organic insecticides can also be used as a drench on your lawns and sometimes they’re quite effective. A mix of water, soap, pyrethrum and rotenone will often kill most of grubs. Even organic insecticides though will also kill off earthworms and other beneficial soil organisms. Chemical control For a chemical approach, a single treatment can be made between mid-July to mid-August. Commonly used chemical insecticides are chlorphyrifos (Dursban), carbaryl (Sevin), and soil diazinon. The pesticide must be watered into soil well after use, or it won’t be effective. Keep in mind that none of these chemical insecticides are healthful for family dog, cat, kids, or for songbirds that might well eat some of chemically poisoned earthworms or grubs. Some lawn experts will recommend use of chemicals trichlorfon (Dylox), imidacloprid (Merit), or halofenozide (GrubEx) in mid-summer as a preventative measure against lawn grubs. Other preventative measures ·Keeping a lawn healthy won’t keep grubs and moles out of it, but a healthy lawn can recuperate much faster after attack. · Mowing lawn too short will weaken a lawn and make it more easily damaged by grubs. Mowing higher promotes a stronger root system. There is evidence too that grubs, as with most insect pests, will attack an unhealthy lawn before they do a healthy one. ·Keeping nitrogen levels up and maintaining a good amount of humus in soil sometimes helps to lessen chance of grub damage. Grubs will attack any species of lawn, although worst damage is usually seen on bluegrass lawns. ·Aerating lawn makes for stronger roots and it also gives birds a better shot at picking out these grubs. Many birds that are attracted to our birdfeeders and suet feeders also will eat both grubs and beetles that grubs come from. Encourage wild birds in your yard. ·When you water, water deeply. This will also help develop a stronger root system. ·Over-seed bluegrass lawns each spring with a mix of fescue or perennial ryegrass seed. If grubs ruin bluegrass, you’ll still have a lawn. ·In heavily grub-damaged lawns, take a rake and rake exposed soil up; this will expose grubs to birds. ·Soak grub infected areas with soapy water. Use a quart of liquid dish soap to several gallons of water and soak lawn with this mix. It will kill grubs. ·Sometimes grubs can be held in check by dusting lawn several times with diatomaceous earth. This safe product kills grubs that come to surface and eat grass leaves. ·Lastly, some people put on those spiked strap on sandals and walk around on their lawn, spearing grubs as they walk. Of course they’re also aerating lawn at same time. I have no idea how effective this method is, but hey, it can’t hurt.
Thomas Ogren is the author of Allergy-Free Gardening, Ten Speed Press. Tom does consulting work on for the USDA, county asthma coalitions, and the American Lung Associations. He has appeared on CBS, HGTV and The Discovery Channel. His book, Safe Sex in the Garden, was published 2003. In 2004 Time Warner Books published his latest: What the Experts May NOT Tell You About: Growing the Perfect Lawn. His website: www.allergyfree-gardening.com