Converting To Organics From Chemicals:

      I converted my lawn from chemicals to organics by making it go “cold turkey”. I stopped applying pesticides and fertilizers  and  kept my fingers crossed. Anyone who has tried this knows exactly what happened, the lawn deteriorated steadily over a year and by the following spring I had a terrific lawn of crab and onion grass. It took me another full year to get it looking better and two years to have something my wife was proud of.

    The lawn, like any garden space, has to be fed, and weeds dealt with. Presumably if the root system is strong in any plant from tree to sod, than insect infestations will be minimal and manageable without pesticides, but going cold turkey simply weakens the plants and invites disease , weeds and insects. Whether it be a lawn or a perennial bed, the conversion from chemical care to organic means there will be a decline of some kind, but you can limit and shorten this decline by taking action.

    Chemical fertilizers  aside from having a huge carbon footprint, kill topsoil and the microbes that help topsoil, or humus, convert organic material into a form that plant root systems can absorb. Therefore the first action to take (besides stopping chemical feeding) is to restore organic content and begin to establish microbial activity. The most effective way to do this is with active compost of course, but let’s face it, if you have been chemically feeding your garden, you probably don’t have any compost.

There are a number of active products on the market that can help jump start your soil culture. Many folks recommend compost tea, this is tea made form live compost. It is also used for controlling some diseases in the garden, though there is much debate on the effectiveness of compost teas for this purpose.   Though some may question compost tea as a means of controlling disease, there is no doubt that saturating your soil with compost tea will help re-introduce active microbes into your soil.

 Another good product is plant healthcares bio-pack which also re-introduces live organisms into the soil. Basically, you will want to work with products that contain active Mycorrhizae

What are Mychorizae? 
Mycorrhizae are symbiotic associations that form between the roots of most plant species and fungi. This symbiotic relationship is characterized by the equitable movement of sugars to the fungus and inorganic nutrients fixed by the fungi move into the plant, thereby providing a critical linkage between the plant root and soil. The fungal hyphae take up nutrients from soil solution and transport them to the root. By this mechanism, mycorrhizae increase the effective absorptive surface area of the plant. In nutrient-poor or moisture-deficient soils, nutrients taken up by the extramatrical hyphae (hyphea existing within soil matrix) can lead to improved plant growth and reproduction. As a result, mycorrhizal plants are often more competitive and better able to tolerate environmental stresses than nonmycorrhizal plants.

Remember also to incorporate organic material into your soil. Orgnisms like mycorrhizae need organic material. Bagged compost, though sterilized, is rich in organic content. Products like peat moss however, tend to be acid based and should be used in limited quantities. Many environmentalists argue that peat moss is harvested much faster than it can produce and therefore is not a sustainable source for organic material. Also look for organic fertilizers. The kind of fertilizer you should use really depends so much on what type of soil you have. A great site for working out additives is the  extremely green gardening company site: http://www.extremelygreen.com/fertilizerguide.cfm.

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