Monday, August 31, 2015

September Soybean Meal

I had time today, so I already dropped the September soybean meal at 15 pounds per thousand square feet.  Sure, it's a hair early, but even if it rained right now I'd only have jumped the gun by a bit over 12 hours.

It doesn't look as though this will water in until later this week.

The August feeding darkened the lawn noticeably, but the lack of rain has taken a slight toll.  I need to take photos of the lawn.  All things considered, it looks pretty good.

After this, there's one more organic feeding on October 1st or so, followed by a synthetic feeding for winterization when the grass ceases growth but is still green.  That's usually around Thanksgiving.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

A Few Good Questions

Dear Reader questions recently include:

How long does Milorganite take to work?  --I've answered this before, but it bears repeating.  It's about three weeks to full effect, assuming decent rainfall and tolerably good soil.  Milorganite does contain some fast nitrogen, so you may certainly notice some impact on your lawn or gardens much faster than that.

However, Milorganite does not generally work quickly, and several applications may be necessary to build the biology and protein levels to a point where sustained, good effects are apparent.

Can you combine Milorganite and blood meal?  --Yes, but be a bit careful.  Milorganite has 40% or so fast nitrogen, which can burn plants when combined with blood meal's very high and very strong levels of fast nitrogen.  I'd probably separate applications of the two, or use the blood meal at very low levels.

What's the comparison of lime vs. Milorganite?  --There's actually no comparison.  Lime is either dolomitic (magnesium plus calcium) or calcitic (calcium only with very little or no magnesium).  Lime raises calcium (and magnesium in the case of dolomite) levels in the soil, usually raising the pH of the soil.

Milorganite is a feeding, although it does contain about 1% calcium as well.  Overall, any pH change of the soil should be minimal to slightly acidic, and it won't appreciably raise calcium levels at normal usage.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Soybean Meal Down

The first "fall" (really, late summer) feeding is down on the lawn--15 pounds per thousand square feet of soybean meal.  I actually did it last week, I just neglected to blog about it.

It takes about three weeks to decay in, so it should be available to the lawn around August 21st or so, given normal rainfall.  At the moment, the soil is somewhat dry, so decay won't be quite that speedy.

The next feeding will be around September 1st, and the last organic feeding for the year on October 1st.  Post that, I'll winterize with a high nitrogen synthetic when the grass stops growing, which will be around Thanksgiving.  However, that date varies very widely depending on the year.

Happy Solar Fall!

Actually, it began on August 5th, but I neglected to blog about it.

Solar fall is the twelve weeks a year of greatest downward change in day lengths.  So for the Northern Hemisphere, it began August 5th and continues through November 5th when we start solar winter (the period of lowest light for 12 weeks).

It's not that the gardens and lawn aren't still in summer mode--they are--it's just that the highest light period for the year has ended.  With proper care, gardens look great into October in this area, and lawns can flourish ten to twelve months a year.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Early August Photos

Traditionally, this is the worst time of year for lawns, but gardens are generally doing well.  This year, rainfall has been common and heavy enough (more than heavy enough) that the lawn is also doing very well.  There are, however, a few minor brown patch infections in it, currently being held at bay but not improving.  I may end up having to treat those with a fungicide, little though I like to do that.

First, the standard lawn shot.  As always, click to embiggen.  Color is characteristically not as dark this time of year as the sun is very high and bright, and that's holding true so far.
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The comparison shot has attained some popularity.  Although not as green as May or September, it's still doing better than most other lawns.  The darker area is in the shade of a pear tree.
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The gardens are doing fantastically well this year, to the point that plants are competing with each other.  Some have had to be removed as they were choked out by others, but there really aren't too many holes.
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Here's another face of the back garden.  The Color Spectacle dahlia isn't in bloom yet as the entire plant broke in an early July thunderstorm, but should be along shortly.
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The Blue Boy dahlia didn't break completely.  So although smaller than average right now, they're starting to bloom.
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Monday, June 29, 2015

Late June Photos

These aren't the official July Fourth photos just yet, when I traditionally photograph the end of the early season flower and lawn development.  These are just extras for fun, and due to the fact that we've had so few days without rain that I'll snag any excuse to slip outside for a bit into the sun.

As always, click on any photo to embiggen it.

The first shot, as always, is the traditional lawn photograph.  Again this time, I took it before mowing the north face but after mowing the back.  You can see that the lack of sunlight is taking its toll on the grass quality a bit, although the back has already improved since yesterday.  Quality is tolerable, color is only OK due to the iron binding in the wet soil.
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The general garden shot.  The gardens are doing fairly well, but would bloom more heavily in more sunlight.
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Another face of the garden.  This one features plenty of dahlia and celosia.  I probably won't be growing the celosia again next year as development is not impressive until very late.
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The red Figaro dahlia are doing very well and will be making an encore appearance next year.  This is a closeup of some of the blossoms on one single plant.  A quick count shows 16 fresh blooms on this one plant, with dozens of developing buds.
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Harlequin dahlia are something I use as an accent.  They don't bloom nearly as copiously, but the color contrast is more than enough to make this an impressive plant in the garden.  This plant isn't in as good a location and only features two or three blooms at once.  Other Harlequin in better conditions will have a dozen simultaneous blossoms.
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Here's a Fireworks dahlia.  While an impressively copious bloomer, the blossoms themselves have too little impact from a distance.  Unfortunately, these probably won't make the cut for next year.
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The large dahlia are just beginning to bloom, with the first buds developing now.  Blossom on this Sun Lady dahlia will be this week.  These larger dahlia are more of a late-season flower, featuring two dozen blooms per bush from July through October.  Flower sizes range from 4" (the Sun Lady and Blue Boy) to 8" (the Color Spectacle).  I tend to avoid larger flowering dahlia as they require staking.
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I have some baby swifts this year in a nest over the front door.  While annoying--and dirty--I didn't catch the nest until the eggs were already in it, at which point I wouldn't dream of removing them.  Once the babies are out of the nest, I'll remove it.  Look closely here and you'll see four young swifts, getting large enough that they'll fly soon!
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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Pouring Rain

Two weeks ago, we were just beginning to exit a month long drought.  Now, we've caught up. Although the official numbers show that we've received all of June's normal rainfall already (and a bit more), the numbers on my deck are somewhat more inflated due to the very local nature of the thunderstorms that have hit.

We received nearly four inches of rain yesterday evening alone, plus another quarter inch today, on top of the heavy rainfall we've received for the last two weeks.  It finally cleared out, but more rain is projected for Thursday and again this weekend as the remnants of tropical storm Bill come through.

Soils are sodden, but that won't be a problem over the short term.  There's really no way to do anything about this, so when it happens the only choice is to ride it out and wait for drier weather.

On the up side, plant growth in the gardens has been incredibly fast, and the grass has fully recovered from the shock it received from a very dry May.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Early June Photos

I've been rather remiss in showing off photos of the lawn and gardens.  For the most part, the lawn has been nothing spectacular this year.  The gardens have been fairly impressive.

The first image is the standard lawn shot, taken intentionally just as I'd finished the back zone mowing but not yet done the north face.  Where it's grown in, the color and quality are excellent.  Post-cutting, the limited damage from the month-long dry spell we had shows.  This damage is reversing slowly as June so far features a large amount of rain.

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The general north face garden photo also shows the grass in both zones.  However, at least the generally hot weather has moved the gardens along much faster this year, with plant sizes more like July 4th than June 10th.

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The larger dahlia are fairly well-developed, although two of these have been nibbled at by the rabbits.  The Tabasco sauce spray has stopped that and they're growing in nicely now.  And yes, I need to add mulch here!

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The smaller Figaro red dahlia are doing well so far!

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The red zinnia always do well, although they usually haven't divided stems this yearly.  This year, they have.

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And the ageratum.  Most people report having some trouble with these.  My only problem is keeping them constrained into their designed areas every year.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Feeding The Gardens...Again

The rain let up after two days (no complaints, we needed it desperately) and I fed the gardens this evening.  It's a few days late, but I had delayed until after the rainfall as I wasn't sure if we would get minor flooding.

This month, just like last month, the application was 9 pounds of Milorganite and 12.5 pounds of soybean meal per thousand square feet, for a total of 21.5 pounds of organics and around 1.3 pounds of nitrogen.

That's a high level of feeding, but the gardens are fairly tightly packed and I demand almost constant blossoms.

Applying Milorganite Every 30 Days

Or, can you apply Milorganite Monthly?

This is another Dear Reader question from my search results.

And yes, you can apply Milorganite every month to your lawn and gardens if you want to.  Personally, I'd recommend skipping July on northern lawns as the grass isn't interested in feeding that month, and any very cold month is also best skipped as the Milorganite can't decay.  Use in July in the gardens is fine, however, and I do this every year.

When It Rains...

In this case, it didn't pour, it kind of deluged.  We've received nearly three inches of rain in the last forty eight hours.

Sections of lawn I thought were dormant turned out to be badly shocked and are rapidly recovering.  At the moment, there's perhaps fifty square feet that will require consistent rainfall to fully recover while the rest will be back by the end of the week.  The forecast for the next ten days includes very consistent and rather heavy rainfall, so that shouldn't be a problem.

Rainfall contains an average of around 3 parts per million of nitrogen, which sounds like absolutely nothing until you begin calculating the weights.  Each inch of rainfall, per square foot, is approximately 0.6 gallons, or 600 gallons per thousand square feet.  Water weighs 8.8 pounds per gallon, for 5,280 pounds per thousand square feet.  At 3 parts per million, that's 0.016 pounds of nitrogen per inch of rain.  In our case, with 2.8" of rain (and a little more, but close enough), we also received 0.045 pounds of nitrogen total.

While hardly extreme, that also helps the grass to gently, slowly recover.

The gardens have also responded to the wetter weather by growing extremely fast.  Unfortunately, the weeds also responded by sprouting at incredible speed, so I'll be weeding those out shortly.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Dahlia Getting Eaten

Again this year, the rabbits seem to be rather hungry.  Fortunately, I'm having far less of a problem with them than I did in 2014.

This year, the favored snack seems to be my Blue Boy dahlia.  Which is a bit odd as rabbits aren't supposed to care for dahlia when there are other, more preferable plants around.  But there it is.  They're even ignoring the Sun Lady dahlia between the three that are being eaten, and the Color Spectacle not far away.

I sprayed with 1 tsp Tabasco sauce in water (plus a few drops of soap and Elmer's glue), plus sprinkled a tiny amount of dried blood around the plants as a temporary scent deterrent.  That should take care of the problem, but if not I'll step up the amount of Tabasco sauce used in the solution until the rabbits go away.

How Long for Milorganite To Work?

Yet another Dear Reader question from my search results.  I can't remember if I covered this before, but it bears repeating anyway.

Milorganite has some water-soluble nitrogen, and definitely has a lot of water-soluble iron, so you might notice some change in 72 to 96 hours after irrigation or rainfall.

However, the organic nitrogen and biological effects won't be seen for at least three weeks.  Even then, they're not the sudden green-up of synthetic fertilizers.  Slowly, over time and with continued use, the lawn will continue to look better.

Organics are not a fast cure, which is actually good.  We don't want them to be.  Fast cures tend to also peter out quickly, whereas the organic fertilizers you're using will be slowly improving your lawn and gardens for years to come.

Can Milorganite Be Overapplied?

Here's a Dear Reader question that showed up in my search results, probably not coincidentally with the question being asked on a forum where I post.

And yes, Milorganite can certainly be overapplied.  Milo contains a maximum of 40% water-soluble nitrogen of the nitrogen in the product, or a grand total of a maximum of 2% of the product weight in total.  As such, fifty pounds per thousand square feet would be the absolute maximum application rate allowable under most circumstances, and I wouldn't go that high for other reasons.

A localized spill of Milorganite will definitely exceed the fifty pound per thousand square foot rate.

If this should happen to you, scoop up what you can.  Then rake the rest as widely as possible, then follow up by scratching into the grass with your fingers, spreading the spill as far as you can.

Post that, if you can irrigate with at least an inch of water in that area, it will help to dilute and disperse the free nitrogen into the soil.

If a burned area results, treat it as you would any other burn.  Water well, and reseed that area in late summer if required.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Still No Rain

We're officially at 0.22" at the local airport for the month of May so far (4.10" being far more normal).  On my back deck, the recorded amount is 0.18".

The gardens are holding because I'm watering them, and they're actually flourishing in the heat and sun.  At this point, they're as far along as they would be by the middle of June, although I had a highly unusual loss of six plants (out of 650) this year.

The grass is blasting and dropping toward dormancy, with about 150 square feet nearly dormant at this point and the rest highly stressed.

On the up side, we're forecast for nearly an inch of rain over the weekend.  Now to see if we get it.

What can you do if this happens to you?  Not much, except water.  In my case, it's simply pointless to try to hold the lawn, so I let it slide.  The gardens, of course, will be maintained through the season.