Keeping Curious Cats Out of the Garden

David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images

David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images

If you are a cat owner, then you already know that the vegetable garden and flowerbeds are a favorite hangout for frolicsome felines! Whether it’s trampling, digging, or leaving a not-so-special surprise (when will they learn that the rose bushes and strawberry patch are NOT outdoor litter boxes?), cats can cause some serious damage to your outdoor landscaping and gardens. Unless your cat is already very well trained and knows which areas in the yard are strictly off-limits, here are a few simple and humane tricks to keep those curious kitties in check:

– Create a physical barrier. If you want to protect your vegetables or flowers from your cat, try sticking toothpicks into the surrounding soil to create a physical barrier (pokey toothpicks will surely be avoided by paws!). Another option is investing in the Cat Scat, which is a prickly plastic mat designed to deter cats without physically harming them. If you have an especially stubborn cat, you may want to try draping chicken wire or deer fence material in order to really block off restricted areas.

– What’s that smell? Cats have a strong sense of smell, so deterring them with scents that aren’t so pleasant to them can often work wonders. Try sprinkling coffee grinds, citrus peels, lavender, or even a bit of cayenne pepper directly onto soil and around garden beds (easy on the cayenne pepper, though— overdoing it could cause some painful stinging and burning of your cat’s nose and eyes). Natural essential oils like eucalyptus, citronella, and peppermint, may also do the trick. The goal here is to deeply offend your cat’s nose, so to really ensure that the scent spreads you can mix any of these natural household items with water and spritz liberally around the garden. However, if you are feeling really desperate and are in a pinch, there are always organic cat repellant formulas that you can buy online or at pet or home & garden stores.

– Loud noises and scary sprinklers! Cats generally hate water, and they also despise disturbing sounds. If you’ve already tried and failed with threatening your cat with a spray bottle, and/or furiously clapping while yelling profanities, then we suggest something a bit more conspicuous and effective: installing motion-activated sprinklers or an ultrasonic device. The motion-activated sprinklers speak for themselves; your cat unknowingly tiptoes through the tulips, and then on go the sprinklers— genius! If you are trying to save money on your water bill, then we suggest trying an ultrasonic device. Also motion-activated (much like an electric dog fence), the device will emit an ultrasonic sound that is undetectable for humans yet unbearable for cats. These options are definitely not the cheapest, but if your cat is destroying your garden and still not getting it, then they may be worth looking into!

It’s Spring! What Should I Do To Prep My Lawn?

Everyone loves the feeling of grass between their toes, and now that spring has sprung, the sun is shining, and the flowers are blooming left and right it’s time to start getting your lawn healthy and looking beautiful! Here are our spring lawn care tips for achieving a green lawn 100% naturally and safely this season‑‑ No pesticides, no way!

-Clean up! Make sure all leaves and debris that collected on your lawn over the fall and winter are picked up and moved out of the way. You can either save whatever garden and lawn debris you have and use it for composting or making your own mulch, or you can have it hauled away to a green waste facility. Starting with a “clean canvas” is necessary before you give your turf its spring makeover, so we recommend grabbing the rake and getting to work as soon as winter ends!

-Aerate! Aeration is integral to organic lawn care and is key to ensuring your grass can grow deep and thriving roots. The deeper and stronger the roots, the more nutrients your grass can access and uptake from the soil. Greater access and uptake of nutrients means thicker, greener, lusher grass and a lawn that is sturdy and sustainable. At ecoLogical Lawn & Tree Care, we are big fans of aeration and the incredible results it yields!

-Slit Seed! Slit seeding is another process we recommend doing in the spring (it is usually done at the same time as aeration). Slit seeding, or also known as overseeding, will “fill in the cracks” and help repair any turf damage/cover up bare spots. Slit seeding also ensures that your grass continues to grow broad and dense–the thicker your turf, the more naturally pest-resistant and resilient it will be.
A healthy soil and turf system is the foundation for organic and sustainable lawn care, but it does take some time to get there. Now is a great time to get started, and clearing out old yard debris, aerating, and seeding (and soon, applying organic compost/bio-fertility treatments) will enable you to break the expensive and very dangerous cycle of synthetic chemical dependence (i.e. constantly needing to apply and reapply weed killer, like Roundup, and other lawn care chemicals and pesticides). A natural lawn that does not require synthetic chemicals is truly worth it; a lawn free of synthetics is extremely economical, environmentally friendly, and is the safest lawn possible for your kids and pets to play on this summer.

Happy Spring!

Why Organic Lawn Care?

(Check out ecoLogical’s infographic on organic lawn care!)

As spring approaches, now is the time to really start thinking about how you are going to care for your backyard this season. There are many different options out there, and the demand for organic lawn care has never been greater. But why choose organic? Here’s why organic is truly your best bet:

– Your lawn will be healthier. If you’ve been using synthetic chemicals and pesticides on your lawn to keep it green and weed-free, then your soil’s and turf’s health is seriously suffering. When we use synthetics on our lawns, our grass becomes dependent on these toxic chemicals to survive, resulting in a never-ending cycle of constantly buying and applying synthetics. Because chemically treated grass has roots that are too shallow and too weak to defend against pests, drought, and weeds, your turf is not healthy enough to thrive on its own naturally, thus necessitating more and more synthetics. Synthetic lawn care chemicals also wreak havoc on your soil, depleting it of all its nutrients and optimal conditions that are necessary for it to sustain life and to fortify grass so that it is strong, lush, and deep-rooted (deep roots means that your grass can effectively soak up all the nutrients and nitrogen found in healthy soil). In the end, lawn care pesticides and synthetics do not have any long-term benefits; they destroy the health of your lawn and soil and are just a big recipe for disaster. Natural, organic lawn care is the best and most sustainable choice available, and it will make your lawn healthier, stronger, and more resilient– the way nature intended it to be!

Beyond Pesticides

Beyond Pesticides

– You, your family, your pets, and the environment will be healthier. Lawn care pesticides are also broad-spectrum biocides, which means that they are effective against a large variety of living organisms. These synthetic chemicals are engineered to kill weeds, pests, and insects, but the truth is that pesticides are also extremely poisonous to wildlife; pets (dogs and cats); garden plants, flowers, and crops; your neighbors; children and babies; and lastly, YOU. All pesticides are deadly and are linked to severe diseases and a variety of health problems such as cancer, endocrine disorders, neurological disorders, autism, and birth defects. Lawn care pesticides and chemicals, such as Roundup, endanger everyone and every living thing in our ecosystem, and those who use them at home in the backyard are the most at risk.

Lawn care synthetics are scary and toxic. Organic lawn care eliminates the need for synthetics and keeps our homes, communities, and loved ones safe and toxic-free. You, your family, your pets, and the environment will all be healthier if you choose to take care of your lawn naturally and organically.

To learn more about the risks and dangers of lawn care pesticides and synthetics, visit Beyond Pesticides.

– Choosing organic lawn care will help you save more money over time. It might be tempting to just go out and buy some chemical lawn quick-fix in a bottle, but most people don’t realize exactly what they are buying into when they reach for the easy way out. The industry of lawn care synthetics is designed to make your lawn completely reliant on and addicted to these toxic chemicals so that you will have to keep coming back to buy and use more and more. This endless cycle is an expensive trap. Switching to an organic lawn care regimen may seem a bit daunting at first, but once the health of your soil and turf are restored, maintenance will be almost effortless (you’ll even need to water less!). All it takes is some time and some good TLC– when your grass grows strong, deep roots and your soil health is at its best, your turf will be its own natural barrier against weeds, drought, and pests, and you can relax and enjoy a beautiful lawn that is also healthy, sustainable, safe, and 100% nontoxic. If you choose organic, you’ll end up saving a lot of money and eradicate your lawn’s chemical dependency.

The Organic Turf Company

The Organic Turf Company

For more information on organic lawn care, visit ecoLogical Lawn & Tree Care’s webpage.

Ice Melting Products: What You Need to Know

freehdw.com

freehdw.com

Ice melting products that are for sale at home improvement and hardware stores may seem like a convenient option at first glance. But in reality, these products can hurt you, your kids, and your pets and can permanently damage your grass, landscape, and garden. In fact, these products usually contain a label that warns against direct contact with the salts (wearing goggles and rubber gloves are recommended) and forbids exposure to pets and children.

Most ice melting products contain a blend of calcium chloride and sodium chloride, essentially forming a strong rock salt. For dogs and cats, these salt-based ice melters are really a health hazard. Inevitably, the crystals become stuck and embedded in their fur and paws, leading to discomfort, irritation, skin ulcers, and can even cause bacterial infections. Furthermore, the ingestion of ice melting products (due to the licking of fur and paws) can cause horrendous intestinal problems, making a trip to the vet not so uncommon.

nextadventure.net

nextadventure.net

As for ice melting products and kids, please also take caution. When children come in contact with the crystals, usually while playing in the snow out in the backyard, the salt gets everywhere; it sticks to clothing and can easily sting eyes. And we mean really sting— it is not fun! Aside from eye irritation, salt-based ice melting products also hurt and burn the skin, often causing redness, blisters, and dermatitis if your child is sensitive— Ouch! Accidental ingestion is also not so safe; it can cause kidney damage and lots of stomach problems.

Lastly, ice melting products can ruin your whole lawn. The salt burns and kills grass and plants, leading to a dead garden and large, dry brown spots all over the lawn once the snow finally melts away. Salt also erodes soil and destroys soil health, displacing minerals and making it very difficult for your grass to grow back in the spring. Furthermore, salt residue can cause permanent damage to decks and concrete, tile and flagstone, asphalt, wood, floors, rugs— you name it. These rock salts are engineered to be extra strong, and are a huge no-no when it comes to caring for your lawn and landscape in the wintertime. As for its environmental effects, rock salt and ice melting products poisons birds and contaminates ground water and streams, ultimately harming local aquatic life.

weblogs.baltimoresun.com

weblogs.baltimoresun.com

Try to resist the temptation to speed things up this winter by dumping salt all over your property. Taking drastic measures to melt snow will NOT make the spring come any faster. Instead, we recommend just using an old fashioned shovel or a snowblower to clear a safe walking path. If you must use something on your sidewalk, use Safe Paw. But the best way to make sure your yard is prepared for snowfall is to take a defensive approach: remember to prune, rake your lawn before a big snow storm, make sure your plants are hydrated (snow and ice on dry plants or branches will cause them to snap off), and apply lots of mulch to your garden beds. Please also keep in mind that ice damage is better than salt damage, and is also much easier to reverse come spring.

drakezeke.com

drakezeke.com

Bundle up and stay warm out there!

Pruning your trees and shrubs in winter

When it’s wintertime and very cold out, we know it can be difficult at times to find the motivation to work outside in the garden. But despite the chilly and uninviting weather, there are some things on your winter gardening to-do list that really should be done before spring comes. Pruning your trees and shrubs especially take priority in the winter months, as the absence of leaves and foliage make it much easier to see where to make the right cuts and trims. In fact, there are many types of trees and shrubs that require pruning back in the winter while they are dormant, such as wisteria.

Below is an easy step-by-step guide from HGTV Gardens for how to prune deciduous trees (meaning they shed their leaves annually) effectively:

From: HGTV Gardens 

Step 1: Look for Awkward Stems

Pruning in Winter

When the leaves of a deciduous tree have fallen, take a look at its overall shape. Look for stems that are badly placed, or those growing too far down the trunk. This tree has an awkward stem growing from the base that must be removed. First, remove any dead and damaged wood. Then use a pruning saw to make a straight cut through any branches growing from the base of the tree.

Step 2: Thin Stems

Thin Stems

Prune thin stems with loppers or pruners, taking them back to 1⁄2 in (2 cm) from the ring of slight swelling where the stem and trunk meet, known as the branch collar.

Step 3: Cut Thick Branches

Thick Cut Branches

Thick branches, and those that are likely to tear, are cut in stages. First, cut under the stem, a short distance from the trunk. Cut about a quarter of the way through the underside of the branch.

Step 4: Make a Second Cut

Second Cut

Make a second cut above the lower one, and aim to join the two. Be sure your tools are sharp to prevent snagging.

Step 5: Branches May Snap

Broken Branches

Even if you have taken great care, a heavy branch may still snap off, but it doesn’t matter at this point, since this is not the final cut. Don’t worry if the cut snags as it falls away.

Step 6: Remove Stub

Remove Stub

Remove the stub by using the technique outlined in steps 3 and 4. Make your final cut just slightly away from the branch collar.

Source: http://www.hgtvgardens.com/garden-basics/pruning-trees-in-the-winter

Ice and the lawn

From: Sprinkler Juice

It’s January! Time to adjust to the New Year and embrace winter weather: lots of snow and cold temperatures are going to be settling around most of the U.S. for a while. This impacts us in many ways, including the look and state of our lawns.

It’s no fun having ice on the lawn, unless you want your lawn to be a skating rink. In addition to being slippery and unsightly, ice can be damaging to your yard.

It’s not just the grass. Ice can also be damaging to plants. If ice crystals form in the crown of the plants, plant cells can rupture, eventually killing the plant.

Sheets of ice on grass and gardens can cause problems, especially when the ice melts then re-freezes. It’s important to be aware of what can cause ice problems besides, you know, the actual ice.

Lawns with poor drainage are particularly susceptible to ice buildup and damage. The combination of standing water and cold temperatures can be problematic. You can try and remove and break up some of the ice with an ice chipper. You can also wait until spring and warmer weather to assess damage and make repairs. The grass may rebound by itself or it may need some help, such as re-seeding, topdressing, and watering bare spots to generate new, healthy grass.

Source: Sprinkler Juice

How to Recycle Your Christmas Tree

From: Organic Gardening

When you take down your tree after the holidays are over, where will it go? Did you know that you can recycle your Christmas tree and keep it from going to overflowing landfills? Get prepared ahead of time for how to dispose your tree in an eco-friendly way– when the holiday hubbub is over, you’ll thank yourself! Here’s what to do:

christmas trees

Make mulch
Cut off the boughs and place them on the ground like a blanket to protect plants that are susceptible to windburn, plants that are marginally hardy in your area, and plants that might come up early and be nipped by a late spring frost, such as fall-planted pansies or early emerging perennials. (Keep reading for ideas on what to do with the trunk!)

Give it to the birds
Move the tree in its stand outdoors for the winter, where it can provide food and shelter for wild birds. Even better, put the tree near a bird feeder or hang bird treats from the tree—like a small piece of wood or thick cardboard smeared with a mix of birdseed and peanut butter—and it will not only attract birds but feed them, too!

Give it to the fish
Sink your tree in a nearby pond (with permission, of course!). In deep water, old trees become habitats for fish and aquatic insects. In shallow wetlands, trees can act as barriers to sand and soil erosion—though currently only the State of Louisiana has a tree-based restoration project in place. For more information, go to savelawetlands.org.

Compost or chip it
Call your municipality’s administrative office to find out if your town has a special day for picking up Christmas trees or a place where you can take them after the holidays where they will be ground into wood chips and/or composted. Often you can go to the municipal compost site in spring and get free compost and/or wood chip mulch for your garden. Of course, you won’t recognize the chips/compost from your tree, but you can feel good knowing that it’s helping other gardeners have healthier landscapes and you have kept perfectly good organic matter from clogging a landfill.

Turn it into a trellis
Move the tree to a corner of your yard and in the spring set it up in your garden as a trellis for peas or beans.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Warmest Wishes!

Real-Fake-Christmas-Tree-300

Source: Organic Gardening