Seedlings, Horse Manure, and Setting Things on Fire.

Have I got your attention? I hope so.  I was going to start a new series of posts, but I can't think of a catchy title. Agrology Corner? Horticulture Hulk? Horticulture Horsesh*t?  None of them really capture what I'd like to accomplish.  Which is:

Cutting through horticulture myths, so you spend less time on solutions that don't work, and spend more time ENJOYING your plants.

Hopefully I can do that, while simultaneously not being offensive.  In real life I have a bit of a potty mouth, but it's not professional.  I get kinda fiesty on my personal Facebook, but I don't want to send you running for the hills.  Mom would be disappointed.  As a 100%, membership dues paying, Professional Agrologist, I promise to refrain from swearing wherever possible.  Unless you sneak up on me.  I'm easily startled.

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Let's get started, shall we?

First things, I love spring.  Searching through the garden, looking for those green sprouts.  Sore arms, because I haven't done anything more physical than lift a coffee cup all winter.  We all want to get the jump on spring.  That's why I end up actually enjoying doing things like shoveling horse manure.

Of course, starting seed is way more fun but the dirty work of adding some compost to your growing spaces is a fantastic way to improve your soil health and resiliency.  In a nutshell: the better your soil health, the better your plants will be.  Checking that soil test and amending accordingly gets you a gold star from me.  A healthy plant means less work for you, because it doesn't quit on you when conditions are a bit stressful.  Investing the time in healthy soil and healthy transplants is a strategy that will pay you back in spades.  

Other time investments aren't necessarily worth it.  Sometimes they are fun, sometimes they are nostalgic (all good things), but sometimes they are just not a great idea.

Setting things on fire is a spring tradition.  It happens every year, especially in rural areas.  I'm risking making myself unpopular here:

STOP SETTING YOUR GRASS ON FIRE.

There, I said it.  I'm not giving you a gold star for setting your lawn on fire.  Let's examine some of the reasons why people burn their lawn:

Do you want the TL;DR (Too long, didn't read) version? Here it is: burning your lawn is an extra practice you DON'T NEED if you practice other basic lawn care guidelines (see link below). TWO: Burning is dangerous to you, your neighbours, and the environment with all that crunchy dead material around.  Add some wind, and suddenly Department of Natural Resources is involved and calling out all the local fire departments.  Don't be that person.  It could be embarrassing and expensive.

  • Does it help your lawn grow better? -  Sure, grass is more resistant to flames than annual weed seedlings because it's growing point is lower and more protected, but burning your grass will still damage living tissue.  This means it will still damage your grass.
  • Does it control weeds? - Flame weeding is an agricultural technique, that when carefully controlled can be effective against certain annual weeds in a seedling stage.  It's not particularly effective against perennial weeds or established annuals - the amount of heat required to kill those plants will damage your grass.  
  • Will my lawn be greener?  Honestly, I'm pretty sure that it SEEMS greener, because there is less dead plant material and green contrasts well against dark brown.
  • Do I need to get rid of dead vegetation?  It depends (I'm sorry, you'll hear that a lot).  If you have a really thick thatch layer, your lawn won't be as healthy, but you don't need to use fire to get rid of it!  Why add extra work, when using good lawn care practices will minimize thatch anyways?

Here's a couple other points:

  • Burning restrictions are in place for a reason.  They aren't made up to inconvenience you.
  • Yes, there is such a thing as prescribed burning of grasslands.  If you live in Nova Scotia, you aren't living on a prairie.  Leave that stuff for the experts and save your energy for campfires and s'mores.
  • If you drive by our place, you know that I'm not hugely invested in a manicured lawn.  I could, if I wanted, but I've chosen to let most of it run wild.  I'm not judging one way or the other.  Invest your time in your property where you see fit.  All I want is for you not spend your valuable time on things that don't actually help you reach your goal.

But what are best lawncare practices?

Here is the best place to start.  This factsheet from OMAFRA (Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs).  A basic combination of appropriate mowing and fertilizing will go a long way to give you a beautiful lawn.

Tell me, what are your burning (ha, see what I did there?) farm or garden questions? I bet I can help you find an answer!