Have you ever asked yourself, "Why do I have grass?" If I want it to look good . . . I have to mow it, fertilize it, water it and weed it. At least in America there is a whole litany of social pressure and indoctrination that grass is just what we do as a home owner who has "pride" in his or her yard. There has to be a better way. I have a thought. I know "scarey" right?
Ya know that damned clover that you can't ever seem to get rid of in your pristine lawn, or even in your less than pristine lawn. Well, what if I suggested that it may be the answer to your low maintenance, no watering, no weeding, no fertilizing, pristine landscape, prayers? You would rightfully think, "this blogger's sun may have set for the last time. His elevator doesn't go to the top, and his lawn mower is probably broken and he doesn't want to buy another one." And while all of those things may be true, that is not the motivation for my landscape renovation, restoration and emancipation, otherwise known as "nuke the lawn project".
I honestly have a real concern about the ever growing human population on our planet and the need to grow more food in the next 40 years than we have in the last 500 because of that growth. So I have decided I would rather eat food than grow grass, "like lawn type (grass) to be clear". Lol
I have to ask myself, what is so important about grass? It doesn't feed my family. It doesn't provide shelter. It is a drain on our potable water supply. It is a drain on my bank account and what if there were something, some astonishing way to release myself from the demand of mowing, the time consumption of buying and applying fertilizer, weekly watering and the laborious task of weeding. Okay Thomason cut to the chase! Get me out of this ridiculous, tail chasing, perpetuous, bamboo chutes under the fingernail activity. What is the answer?.
Remember the "damned clover"? Repeat after me, "clover is our friend!"
What if I told you you can seed clover right into your existing grass and initially you will have to water, but in 6 weeks you can turn off the water hose, turn off the mower, turn off the fertilizer spreader and enjoy a nice lush green clover lawn all summer long. Wait . . . how many hours did you just gain to go golfing, spend time with family and friends. You almost forgot how much you loved fishing. The amount of time and money you have been spending to support that stupid lawn has been a life robber.
"So", you say, "why don't we have to fertilize any more?" The answer is clover is a very interesting ground cover in that it's a legume and it is what is called nitrogen fixing. What that means is it has the ability to pull nitrogen out of the air and introduce it to the soil.
Do you remember the last time you bought fertilizer and on the label it has a sort of active ingredients section labeled N - P - K? NPK stands for nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. The most important, plant available food of these three is the nitrogen so you can see how the clover takes care of that. If the rest of your soil biology is in decent shape it will take care of itself. A simple light application of compost in the spring or fall will insure that the soil biology remains healthy. As far as the weeds are concerned, when you are no longer mowing your lawn the clover / lawn combination will grow to somewhere between 4 and 8 inches and have a very soft, lofty look to it. With the plant available nitrogen from the clover both the grass and clover will be very dense. The vast majority of weeds will be choked out by the clover and grass. You owe it to yourself. <Go with clover.>
Check back in next week to hear why using weed and feed products and pesticides are so detrimental to our planet and some info on insuring healthy soil biology.
To understand what compost (and vermicompost) tea is and the benefits of using it, it is important to know the relationship between plants and beneficial microbes in nature. Plants use the sun's energy to produce sugars that they use for food. However as much as 50% of those sugars are used in the root system to attract beneficial bacteria and fungi.
This team of living organisms consist of bacteria, nematodes, arthropods and protozoa etc etc. The bacteria attach itself to the plant roots to eat the sugars that the plant provides and while the bacteria provides no direct benefit to the plant, it attracts the arthropods, nematodes (predatory life) that eats the bacteria. It is these little guys digesting the bacteria that produces the plant available food.
The beneficial fungi has a different role. It attaches itself to the root of the plant because it too needs the sugar that the plant provides. The interesting thing about the fungus's role in this little eco-system is after attaching itself to the root, it grows long thin arms, legs and fingers that go out into the soil and mine for minerals that it pulls to the roots of the plant. Is nature amazing or what!
All of these natural processes flourish in nature when left uninterrupted. It is the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides that are largely responsible for destroying this naturally occurring system.
Restoring the natural system-
When leaves, sticks, pine needles and any other organic matter fall to the ground in a natural or forest like setting, almost immediately they begin to decompose. Interestingly, the same bacteria that colonize around the roots of the plants play a big role in breaking down these organic materials into compost. Once again they attract a host of other non bacterial life that help in this decomposition. So now we have all of this organic material teaming with beneficial microbes in a naturally occurring compost.
Is there a way to multiply these microbes, (natures little miracle workers) and put them to work doing what they were made to do? The answer is yes. This is the thinking that developed compost tea.
Compost tea takes rich, mature compost and puts it in water using the equivalent of a large tea bag. Then we add food specially formulated food and force air into the water to oxygenate it. With an abundance of food and oxygen these little guys multiply millions of times. Yes they are prolific little buggers. Insuring that there is plenty of food is critical but too much food will attract unwanted insects and disease causing pathogens. This is a delicate balance. Using the method described, and our food brewing kits, we have actively aerated compost tea or AACT within 24 hours.
Compost tea as a foliar spray-
When compost tea is misted onto the leaves of plants including grass, deciduous trees and conifers it coats the leaves warding off the attack of disease causing pathogens that might otherwise find a compromised place on the leaves where they can enter and potentially infect the plant. The presence of the micro-organisms on the leaves cause the plant to secrete a sort of glue-like substance that keeps the beneficial microbial life healthy and in place.
As you can see nature's micro-organisms are truly amazing. Putting these little guys to work for us not only dramatically improves the health of our soil and thereby the health of our plants, it is also 100% organic so we don't have to worry about polluting our streams or exposing our children and pets to disease causing pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers. Let's make the decision to work with nature and have the knowledge that what we are doing is good for each other and for our planet.
As your soil improves and the proper amendments are added, an ecological balance is reached and the amount of inputs needed to sustain a healthy microbial population decreases, thus your need for fertilizers and other inputs decreases. This means you spend less time and money for a beautiful, healthy lawn.