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About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

Number of Entries : 1023
  • john immink

    Hey! Congrats on the joy of a new baby. Hint: enjoy it all now because in a few years they develop an attitude, move out and then move back in again…. :)

    Puzzling situation here. I have a scenario whereby a large lawn area is healthy, mowed properly, irrigated properly and fertilized in accordance with season and climate zone (Vancouver Island) Lawn area is on pure sand as a substrate. The client has added seasoil, good topsoil, even peatmoss to retain moisture however, certain large patches invariably show stress and die-off by mid-summer.
    Obviously, the sand base means outstanding drainage yet this is not a watering issue, it seems more of a nutrient deficiency issue. If so, why only in specific areas – since all areas get the same nutrients?
    It’s almost as if there is something in the substrate but that too was checked and verified – all sand is the same (about a 1 acre lawn area)

    Any ideas?

    We apply dolomite (no moss in such patches) twice yearly, no lack of calcium. We apply a balanced low N fall fertilizer but do not over-apply. Grass does not need dethatching and certainly does not need aeration. I am somewhat stumped.

    Hmmm.

    john in Victoria BC Canaduh

    • Paul Tukey

      These kinds of things are tough to diagnose, that’s for sure. It doesn’t make sense, but I would have to try to determine the history of the landscape. Were trees removed, even several years ago, for example? Any chance of an underground contamination? I know you said you checked it, but what did you check for? I would continue to baby the areas that dry out easily. Are you familiar with hydretain? I know people who swear by it.

  • Lorna

    Ask right here?

    For three years I’ve had lacebug on an azalea (yes, it’s in full sun). How can I reduce/control the population without using an imidacloprid soil drench?

    • Paul Tukey

      Lace bug on azalea is rarely fatal, but it does make the plants unsightly. Their presence is generally a sign of overall stress of the plant. Perhaps it is too sunny. Perhaps the soil pH is too high. It is difficult to determine without more information. A water blast can dislodge and disorient the lace bugs and often do well. Neem oil is the organic control of choice and this product can be found in numerous products. Best of luck.

  • John Close

    Here’s a few to get things rolling….

    1. Most customers want their weed ridden lawn dealt with NOW and Organically. What’s the most satisfactory response apart from all the cliches involving true health takes time etc. Does an organic roundup exist? Most people want clover gone, even when I explain its not the imposter they think…

    2. What advice would you give to a busines planning to offer a monthly compost tea service? Is there a system that exists or person you recommend talking to that could help with getting set up, finding a system that works, etc.

    3. How do you recommend you install a lawn on the lot of a new home construction? The soil the contractor left is minimal and mostly clay and rock. Would you rototill or aerate the existing soil?

    Thanks.

    • john immink

      Not sure, are we supposed to reply individually or…

      anyway
      I have 68 regular customers on a maintenance gardening basis, some let me do whatever I think is best, when ever I feel like it, etc. while others have specific wants, needs and requests. I try to explain that clover is good (fixes N, it’s green, it’s better than moss) since diversity is good and that by regular mowing, flowering clover and resulting stinging insects are unlikely. Still, a few want me to ‘do something about it’.

      Clover expands by stolons, so it’s not a matter of picking them out by hand. This becomes problematic. I do not use any organochlors of any kind and stating that over-seeding grass in fall will result in a thicker lawn that out-competes clover makes such people look at me as if I was some charlatan. Too many people still have that air-brushed better homes and gardens cover photo mindset. Monocultural lawns are inherently un-natural and become an on-going battlefield unless the mindset is altered.

      So I brung them a 1 gallon jug of pickling vinegar (7%) and told them to spray in full sun. THAT should keep them busy for a while..

      In other words, it’s clover. I tell them to get over it and be happy that they are not looking at creeping buttercup.
      :)
      john up in canna duh

    • john immink

      3. How do you recommend you install a lawn on the lot of a new home construction? The soil the contractor left is minimal and mostly clay and rock. Would you rototill or aerate the existing soil?

      Is it embellished with construction debris? I once rototilled up a cracked bathroom sink, neatly dug under about 10 inches.
      My opinion? If it contains rocks, no need to aerate. ample air pockets in there.
      In my checkered and marginally legal/moral past, I have tilled such sites to approx. level sloping slightly away from the structure, (not too deep unless you know where the drainage system is)then spread a truckload of topsoil, then raked the stuff level again, then passed over the bed with dolomite lime, then put on 3 passes of grass seed, then rolled it down, then sprinkled the whole sorry mess.
      After a week of driving by and watering, the place had that spring-green sprouty look. After 3 weeks, there was a lawn.
      But hey, that’s probably the hard way to do it. :)

      john i

  • simsan

    Hi, Paul and other Landscsaping Gurus,
    I am in North NJ and presently have plenty of crabgrass on the front lawn. Copule of years ago, I had applied Corn Gluten meal in late fall and did not have any good effect.
    So gave up on that and now I do not know how to get rid of this weed + others I see around. It sems the good grass is just little and most is weeds.
    What is the best solution for the same? Any advice is deeply appreciated.
    Also, do you folks have a yearly schedule of — when to fertilize, in ehich seeason, and when to lime or apply weed killers, etc? that would be a rather amazing help.
    Love your site and forum. Much thanks for your work here.
    best -
    simsan

    • john immink

      What John C. sez, Simsan.
      Corn gluten, to my own experience, does not work well in a wet climate/environment and especially not out on the West Coast where we grunt gardening in a rainforest climate. It may work in Joisee but then, who knows what exactly works in NJ…..

      More than that, I dunno about yall but I for one have noticed that the climate is changing, rapidly. Or perhaps I should cut down on the Single Malt. We have had a super-dry summer out here, we are looking at an El Nino winter: weeds will go nuts. I used to slam down tools by late November, now I mow until a few days before Xmas.
      Crabgrass is not so much an issue here – I just mow it. :)
      And as a last resort, I rototill the living beejeebis out of it, then re-seed after liming. By March, I drive by to take a look, shrug and blame Climate Change.

      A lot of weeds (you HAVE to admire them) are survivors. Weed seeds can remain dormant up to 60+ years, all they need is moisture, ambient temperature over 40F. and light. Nature abhors a vacuum so if space is available, anything will grow to fill bare soil space. Ergo, overseed and let desirable grass out-compete undesirable grass. The, wait 10 years. :)

      john I. in Hick Toria westcoat Canna Duh

    • http://www.safelawns.org Paul Tukey

      Simsan,
      Corn gluten meal has been completely oversold as a weed control ever since Iowa State patented it for that purpose in 1991. With the escalation of prices of corn gluten in the last two years, the amount required to achieve any weed control efficacy would cost a small fortune. In the Iowa State data, the application of 40 pounds of gluten is required to achieve 83 percent weed control in just 1,000 square feet.

      So, forget that! I do,however, think corn gluten meal is a fine lawn fertilizer at about one quarter to one half the weed control rate.

      As far as all those weeds and crabgrass, the answers are found in the way you mow your lawn and maintain your soil. I wrote a 275-page book, The Organic Lawn Care Manual, that goes into detail about all these aspects.

      My simple advice is to get a soil test right now and focus in on the calcium-magnesium ration in the soil, which should be 7-1 in favor of the calcium. Also be sure to gather all those crabgrass seeds that will be setting soon on the plants. Next spring, keep the lawn as long as possible from early spring through Labor Day. Every time the soil sees direct sunlight, that creates the opportunity for weed seeds to germinate.

      This fall is a good time to overseed. All that crabgrass will die after the first frost. So get a soil test, make the recommended adjustments to your soil, and get that new seed down there!

  • John Close

    Simsan. Corn Gluten is best applied in the Spring about a week before the weed seeds start to germinate. It does not kill existing weeds, only prevents future ones. The best way to deal with your weeds organically is by creating healthy soil over time by following Paul’s organic lawn principles. I guess they’re not Paul’s…but you know… it’s his blog. :) Unfortunately, apart from elbow grease and vats of vinegar, there is not a quick solution to eliminating weeds NOW.

  • http://www.safelawn.org Tom

    I just recieved a soil test and the yard had a pH of 7.4. What is the organic method of lowering the pH to the desired amount of 6.5-7.0?

    Thanks,
    Tom

    • Paul Tukey

      Typically the addition of compost and compost tea will lower and stabilize the pH. Elemental sulphur, while not great for the soil organisms in the short term, can bring down the pH quite effectively. It should not be overused, however.

  • http://none joel schimke

    Organic fertilizer nitrogen (mostly nonsoluble) requires soil micro-organisms to make it available to grass. How is such micro-organism activity affected by soil temperature? If this activity is lowered, what are the implications for late fall/early spring fertilization? If pesticides or soluble nitrogen fertilizers have been previously used, how long will it take before a sufficient micro-organism population is established to process an organic fertilizer application?

    • Paul Tukey

      Joel, Great question. Warm temperatures definitely increase the rate and efficiency of microbial activity in the soil. Late fall and early spring applications of fertilizer are applied as food sources for the organisms as they “wake up” from the cold winter.

      In the most strict terms, fields can’t be certified as organic for three years after a chemical application. These are the USDA standards. In the back yard garden, you can restore almost full microbial activity within a year if you get involved with liquid organic fertilizers, granular organic fertilizers and application of compost teas.

  • Maria Bartlett

    If you have grubs, do you have to put down nematodes ahead of overseeding to give the nematodes a chance to kill the grubs? If yes, how long a time do you have to give the nematodes before overseeding?

    I have grubs and my organic lawn care guy put down nematodes the same day he slice seeded grass seed and fertilized. Some areas have not germinated…or were they eaten by grubs before the nematodes got them?

    • Paul Tukey

      Grubs won’t eat the seeds, so I wouldn’t see a cause-and-effect relationship going on here. Dig down into the soil and see if you still have grubs foraging, however. You may need to reapply . . . both the nematodes and the seeds.

  • Nate

    Just heard someone on NPR. Good information. Any recommendations on an aggressive shade growing grass? I’m in California, the east bay, which has a long, dry summer (typically no rain from May thru Sept.), and I’ve got a couple areas that do not get a lot of sun. Been resulting in thin growth, and some moss.

    I know there’s a lot of clay in the soil, but otherwise, I’ve never done a soil test.

    • Paul Tukey

      Well, do the soil test. Absolutely. For the best chance of getting good grass cover in shady areas, purchase seed that contains chewings red fescue as the predominant species in the bag.

  • suzanne williams

    Many of my friends and I live on one of the several rivers in Savannah, GA. Many are becoming more conscience of the damage/pollution to the marshes and surface waters caused by the storm water run-off of developed and developing uplands. Would this be a problem with organic fertilizers?

    Many of these friends are avid gardeners who are beginning to re-think the need for expansive lawns but what they have should be lush!

    As a member of the Garden Club of America I am doubly interested in what you are doing and I applaud you for your efforts!

    • Paul Tukey

      Organic fertilizers are far less likely to leach into waterways. Much of the nitrogen and phosphorus in synthetic fertilizer is water soluble, but in organic fertilizers the nitrogen and phosphorus have bonds with other elements so they don’t readily dissolve in water. Ultimately, organic fertilizers become part of the soil. Having said that, it’s still not a great idea to apply too much organic fertilizer near the water’s edge.

  • Carolyn Spector Gillis

    Great news here in Portland Maine.
    They will not be using any more Pesticides at our condo complex!!!
    13 acres for Mother Earth.
    Zero for crusty old ideas.

    I used everything I could find including threats to contact the newspapers.
    They are sick of dealing with me.
    I have no friends here but I don’t care.
    Thanks to all for your support.
    Carolyn

    • Paul Tukey

      Good for you, Carolyn. Great job.

  • http://www.safelawn.org Tom

    I was wondering what your thoughts are on the lawn tonic recipe in this article. Specifically, is this against any of the organic lawn care methods or just a way to support them?

    http://www.wisebread.com/secret-lawn-tonic-recipe-from-golf-course-groundskeeper

    Tom

    • Paul Tukey

      Variations on this recipe have been around for years. I remember trying it 25 years ago at my first house when I didn’t have a clue about how to make a lawn grow. I found out the hard way that you can actually burn the hell out of your lawn quite easily with this recipe if you apply too much of it, or apply it too often. Many universities specifically denounce the idea of applying soap to the soil, and it’s not really clear to me what the soda does, except to apply a sugar food source, but I suspect molasses would be both more effective and cheaper.

      I have not problem with folks experimenting with things like this, but I’m not sure all organic purists would agree.

  • Joan Kopietz

    I have a B&B in Michigan and try to stay organic. I have been using corn glutten on the lawn and raised the lawn mower, which has made for a nicer lawn. My big problem is Creeping Charlie . I have used weed be gone and it works but I want to stay away from chemicals. I also have pulled,cut and dug it out but it seems to multiply itself. How do I attact this weed ?

  • Paul Tukey

    Creeping Charlie, perennial, Glenchoma hederacea

    Appearance: Low-growing aggressive creeping plant has thumbnail size scalloped leaves that look like tiny geraniums. In spring an abundance of tiny, lavender flowers appear on two- or three-inch spikes. The stems are square, with roots that dive into the soil at nodes. Minty scent
    Reproduces: Seed, stolons

    Creeping Charlie, with a range from the Northeastern U.S. to northern Florida, is one of the most pesky weeds in the lawn in much of the country. Proper diligence can get it out of the lawn, however.

    Here is what the widespread presence of creeping Charlie generally says about the soil: Low nitrogen, high calcium, iron and sulfur, poor drainage, low bacteria. To create better soil condition, increase the overall fertility by adding compost and compost tea, as well as a liquid nitrogen fertilizer made from fish emulsion.

    You can try to remove the plant with a mechanical dethatcher or bamboo rake and then overseed immediately so that the new grass seed outcompetes the creeping Charlie.

    Some people just give up, however, with the rationale that this is an ideal lawn plant unless you’re trying to roll a golf ball. It’s low-growing and evergreen, and it’s even edible.

    Many people apply boric acid (Borax from the laundry aisle) and this will slow the progression of the creeping Charlie, but you shouldn’t apply this to the soil more than once every couple of years. Here is the recipe from the University of Minnesota Cooperative Extension:

    Dissolve 10 oz. Twenty Mule Team Borax in 4 oz. (½ cup) warm water.
    Dilute in 2.5 gallons of water.

    This will cover 1,000 square feet. If you have a smaller area to treat, cut the “recipe” accordingly.

    • Erin Hynes

      I have tried the University of Minnesota’s recipe, with poor results. I also tried raking and pulling it out, but it outpaced my efforts. Your assessment of the soil conditions sounds spot on, especially the calcium (the upper midwestern soils being limestone-y). I’ll give it a try.

  • Pingback: How do I Deal with Creeping Charlie? | Safelawns Daily Post and Q&A Blog

  • Brian

    Rake or not to rake in the spring. I do not have enough room in my yard for a compost and I do not have a garden. What should I do with that dead grass.

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  • Barbara Thomas

    What can I use to deal with voles/moles destroying my lawn and perennial gardens over the winter. When the snow disappeared this spring our lawn was covered with tunnels and we found we had lost some bushes and others were slow to recover from root damage. Before winter even hit they have been eating on the roots of our 2 yr. old red maple and it looked like it was dying before fall hit. We have fields and woods around our house but we keep the fields mowed down all summer. What to do – don’t want to have to use traps.

    • Paul Tukey

      Barbara,
      Moles are carnivores that eat grubs and earth worms. Voles are field mice that eat roots. Neither critter likes ammonia, so used kitty litter in and around the tunnels is a good repellent. Havahart traps are also available. Cats are the best. Here is a retail-ready repellent that works: http://www.critter-repellent.com/vole/vole-control.php.

      Finally, barriers like wire wraps work very well.

  • Tom M

    I’ve recently begun a lawn renovation at a home in Northern VA that was empty for over a year. The lawn was in rough shape when I moved in this summer.

    This fall, I dethatched and aerated and then added about a half inch of LeafGro compost with the overseeding. I’m wondering if I should be looking to add organic fertilizer, lime, etc to the lawn before the winter hits or if I should be doing this or corn gluten in the spring.

    My lawn pH is 6.8 and the tall fescue (Black Beauty) I overseeded with is coming up fairly well in most places. However, there are still some bare spots.

    BTW, thanks for the great site and book!

    • Paul Tukey

      Tom,
      The 6.8 would indicate initially that lime is not necessary. Does the test give a ratio of calcium to magnesium. This ratio should be 7 to 1 in favor of calcium, so some high calcium limestone may still be necessary. Seeding a lawn can be tricky. The bare spots could simply be areas where the seed dried out and didn’t germinate.

  • Scott Morgan

    Hi Paul,

    I overseeded a few areas of my lawn about a month ago and kept everything wet for about three weeks, but after I stopped the daily waterings it turned rainy and cold. Most areas look fine and we’re expecting a warm up early next week, but one area is beginning to grow patches of moss. It’s never done that before (lived here three years and last year it POURED for a week after I overseeded) although it is a bit shady. I looked up things to try and found three suggestions: fertilize (I had just done so), Core aerate (Also just did), add Lime to raise pH (A soil test this year showed a pH of 7.6, so that doesn’t seem like a good idea). I’ve never dealt with moss, so I’m not sure if I sure pull it or just leave it until we get some sun, or something else. It doesn’t bother me to leave it for awhile (even until spring), but I wouldn’t want it to take over that area if there’s something I can do about it now.

    Thanks!

    P.S. Will the cold hurt the grass seed I just put down about a week ago in another area?

    • Paul Tukey

      Scott,
      It sounds like the excess moisture probably caused the moss, but to be safe you should probably remove it. It pulls up easily. Where do you live and how cold is cold?

      • Scott Morgan

        The temps got down into the 20s for a few nights, but it warmed up again and the grass rose a few days later than some other I had planted a couple weeks before. And the moss has cleared up quite a bit…just never had much of it before so wasn’t sure if it would be a problem.

        Thanks for the help!

  • Donald Gray

    Worm composting questions:
    1. Do you make compost tea with worm castings the same way as you do with traditional compost?
    2. Are the residential size worm composting bins large enough to create enough fertilizer to adequately feed a 20,000 sq. ft. landscape so I can do away with purchasing other fertilizers?
    3. Are there any residential bins that you know work well or don’t work well?
    Thanks and keep up the great work.

  • http://www.lubedealer.com/saveonoil Scott Scholl

    You will get much better results with any fertilizer if you bring your PH down to 7. High alkaline soil needs compost or Sulfur. My soil is alkaline and I get good result with a liquid product. It is easy to apply with a hose end sprayer and is in expensive.

  • http://www.lubedealer.com/saveonoil Scott Scholl

    Get your basic worm bin started. You can get them to multiply by giving them what they need. water, bedding, food, soil and nutrients. Mix your ingredients together and put a layer of paper on top. They congregate in this top level and reproduce. And before you know it you will have too many.
    Make new bins out of some wooden vegetable crates and stack them on top of each other to save space. Take some extra worms and the egg sacks to these new bins. Water them from above. Worms are like cattle, you give them room to roam, provide their basic needs and they will provide all the fertilizer you need.

  • GCS

    What chemicals did you use with your company? What synthetic fertilizers did you use? Did you have a valid Commercial Master Applicator’s License? Did you wear proper PPE when applying these products? Do you understand the difference between organic fertilizers and synthetic fertilizers? Organic fertilizers come from a carbon source and due to their complex molecular chains, must be broken down by microbes in the soil into a form (in-organic) of nitrogen that the plant can actually take up such as NH4+ or NO3-. Synthetics are just simple molecular chains such as salt, NaCl. When mixed with water they break down very easily. Hence, synthetics are more easily taken up and immediately available to the plant. This does not make them bad. It is the improper applications that give synthetics a bad name. People that buy stuff at Home Depot and dump it on their lawns at 3 times the recommended label rate without knowing what they are doing. I think your mission is misdirected and should focus on proper applications – not going strictly organic.

    • Paul Tukey

      Toby,
      Thanks for the question. When I was a professional landscaper (1988-1998), I held a valid pesticide applicator’s license for much of that time. I certainly understand the difference between organics and chemicals and consult with universities, municipalities and professional landscapers about the differences. Because the synthetic fertilizers are simple compounds that break down easily, they also wash into the watershed more easily — so I believe that in many cases it does make them bad.

      We agree about the people who don’t follow directions. Absolutely. But we don’t agree on synthetic chemical fertilizers. The simple fact that it takes copious amounts of fossil fuel to manufacture chemical fertilizers makes them problematic and unsustainable.

  • Pingback: Synthetics Vs. Organics | Safelawns Daily Post and Q&A Blog

  • http://lubedealer.com/saveonoil Scott Scholl

    GCS

    Actually Liquid Organic products break down just as easy as the synthetic products with the added advantage of good nutrition for plants and soil. Microbes, Trace Minerals etc.. Not found in petroleum based not healthy synthetics. Our farm land has lost minerals over the years and they need to be replaced.

    Quality liquid organic products are more easily absorbed by plants because the particles are smaller and they are combined with micribes. All of the product is used by the plants primarily throught the leaves. The remainder of the product stays in the soil and will not wash away if applied after rainfall.

    A Lot of the chemical fertilizers applied to our midwest farm lands end up in the Gulf of Mexico.

  • Brad

    Hi Paul,

    I live in MA and was unable to give my yard a good cleanup before the first freeze / snow hit. Should I take advantage of the occasional thaw like today to clean up some leaves or will I be doing more damage than good? Thanks for your input.

    Brad D.

    • Paul Tukey

      As long as you get out there with a rake and you’re not sinking into the ground too much with your feet, I’d clean up the leaves if I were you.

  • http://www.greenacresorganics.com Andrew Boshears

    Dear Safe Lawns,

    My name is Andrew Boshears and I have recently opened and Organic Lawn and Garden Treatment Service called Green Acres Organics in Southwest Broward County, Florida. Unfortunately though, I have run into a few legal issues that are holding me back from my contribution to a healthier environment. I know that I don’t I have to explain to you the devastating effects that chemical fertilizers are causing to Florida’s waterways, ecosystems, and inhabitants. These effects are why I have decided not to continue my enlistment in the Coast Guard to start a business that can educate and offer consumers a better alternative to chemical products on the market. Our product is completely organic and only comes only from renewable resources. We have worked very hard to ensure that this product is an all-in-one proprietary formula that consumers can use with the same efficiency of their current chemical products without the pollutive effects.

    Now, originally I wanted be able to advertise (or at least tell people) that our product as a lawn pest deterrent, because one of the ingredients of our product is a horticultural oil, which is knows for its pest deterring properties. The EPA does recognize horticultural oils as a “pesticidal ingredient,” but they label it as “inert” and “minimum risk,” and therefore exempt it from Federal Registration Requirements, under FIFRA Section 25 (b). However, unfortunately, Florida still requires them to be registered as pesticide.

    Now, I for one completely understand the reasoning for Florida’s environmental laws to be stricter than the Federal standards. The problem is, in my case, where I am only trying to help minimize non-point source pollution, this is a barrier to our progress. As you may already know, in order to register and apply a product as pesticide in Florida you must have a Certified Pesticide Applicators license, and the prerequisites for this are quite extensive. An individual may become certified by first qualifying and then passing a state examination. Qualifying to take the examination may be met by documenting proof of having (3) years pest control experience or having advanced training (24+ college credit hours) plus one year of pest control experience in the State of Florida. (So in other words I have to contribute to the problem before I can fix it?) (That is not what I want to do!) I do not have the above competencies, but I do have the desire to create a healthier environment one acre at a time. However, I can not legally tell people that our product safely deters certain herbivorous insects, until I obtain or complete the above. So, it almost appears now, that the only ones that benefit and are protected by these laws are the pesticide applicators and industries themselves.

    I have contacted several officials from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Bureau of Entomology and Pest Control about this issue, but have only reached dead end roads due to the legislation in place. The majority of them have even empathized with my situation and some have even encouraged me to contact Florida Legislators, but I am unfamiliar with this process.

    Do you think that there is something we can do to help me and the innovative others in the future that are trying to developing “greener” and more environmentally conscious solutions our current ways of life, but are bound by the legacy laws in place?

    Thank you very much for you time and I look forward to your response,

    Sincerely,
    Andrew Boshears
    Green Acres Organics, LLC
    Southwest Broward County Franchise Owner
    1-888-312-GREEN
    greenacresorganics@gmail.com

    • Paul Tukey

      Andrew,
      Thanks for the email and best of luck with your business.

      Quite frrankly, regulators are confounded by the seachange that is happening with organics and they don’t know left from right. The people they are hearing from the loudest are on the chemical side of the issue, who don’t want any legislation to change. So, two bits of advice:

      1) Partner with someone who has a license already who needs the work. Lots of pesticide applicators are looking for jobs and set up a contract relationship with them.
      2) Apply the safe, effective products, but bill them out as “soil drench” or “foliar spray” without making any claims on the bill. You can tell the customer why you’re doing it, when you’re face to face with them. Just don’t put that on the bill and you’ll never have a problem.

      We all know, for example, that rosemary oil helps control cinch bugs, even though rosemary oil isn’t registered as a pesticide. On the bill for the application of rosemary oil, you can call it a soil amendment or herbal supplement, just not an insecticide.

      I should note, too, that you need to be sure to take proper precautions, even with safer, organic methods of pest control.

      Best of luck.

      • http://www.greenacresorganics.com Andrew Boshears

        Thanks for the reply Paul and I didn’t expect to much to happen over night either. As for your advice I’m pretty much already doing exactly what you said in number two, but I just can’t afford number one just yet, but maybe in the future as business improves and budgeting permits. As for the precautions, may I ask you to elaborate a bit more. What hazards should I be aware of when applying horticultural oils.

        • Paul Tukey

          With these oils, the primary precautions to take are eye protection and, in some cases, your lungs. Excess oils in your lungs can be an irritant.

          • http://www.greenacresorganics.com Andrew Boshears

            Okay, yeah. I’ll be careful with that. Thanks again Paul!

        • BD

          Paul,

          Just watched your how to video on compost tea. I’d be using a back pack sprayer or the like. You say to let city water sit for a day or so before adding the tea. But what ratio of water to tea should I use when I mix them before spraying? Thank you. I plan on using compost tea for the first time this year.

          • Paul Tukey

            If you have a backpack sprayer, you can use straight tea at the rate of one quart per thousand square feet every couple of weeks, or a gallon of tea per square foot every 6-8 weeks. I tend to like to do it more often the first year. The good news is that you really can’t overapply it.

  • Carol Braham

    Paul,
    I read that Safelawns.org has a new sponsor, Fire Belly Organics. How does their system fit into your organic lawn care regimen? Can they be followed concurrently? What do you recommend?
    Thank you,
    Carol Braham
    Los Gatos, CA

    • Paul Tukey

      Fire Belly has its own proprietary program that we have vetted. It’s a self-contained program. If you have specific questions, let me know.

  • Tom

    I am trying to get more earthworms into my soil in the yard. What is the best method for doing so? 1) Buying earthworm egss or 2) buying adult earthworms?

    Tom

    • Paul Tukey

      It’s the old Field of Dreams motto: Build it and they will come. If you tend your lawn with organic materials such as composts, the earth worms will find their way there. Guaranteed.

  • http://www.envirofriendlylawncare.com Marty Shults

    When do you have plans to release A Chemical Reaction everywhere? And are you going to premiere it in Colorado? I received the DVD and would love to show it to a wider audience then just my friends, how do I get permission to do so?

    • Paul Tukey

      Marty,
      You could show the movie in Colorado anytime. You do need to pay a copyright fee, which is standard practice for the release of any movie. Our base fee is $150 for one-time use, but it can vary depending on audience size and whether or not tickets are sold. Thanks for your interest.

      • http://www.greenacresorganics.com Andrew Boshears

        How do we buy a copy of the DVD and how much is it?

  • Carolina

    Paul, as you said before in your posts and the studies have shown, fertilizers that contain Phosphorus are a sensitive issue here in South Florida. But what about natural organic fertilizers, such as fish oil, that contain phosphorus? Do they pose the same risks to the environment?

    • Paul Tukey

      Carolina,
      Any products, if overapplied, could be risky near water. However, naturally occurring phosphorus in organic fertilizers is bound differently than synthetic phosphorus and is not likely to leach through the soil.

  • Steve

    Hey Paul,

    I’ve been mildly impressed with your passion and stance against chemical applications. I stumbled across your site one day while looking at organic treatments for my lawn, and your site happens to be one of the only ones on the whole internet with detailed videos walking you through the program.

    I currently work at an organics company called A1 Organics. They’re a big outfit in Colorado along the front range, and actually was voted 2007 Composter of the Year.

    As such, I have the availability of several different types of compost, each with subtle differing characteristics.

    I was wondering if you could lead me to some information about some specifics I should be looking for in choosing compost. I’m staring right now at several data sheets displaying PH, % organic matter, trace minerals and so forth. There are a couple compost varieties with a PH above 8, which seems a little high to me, but I’m still a novice I would assume.

    I did go through a whole season organically last season, and I’m very eager for the spring to hit again. Thank you so much for what you do!

    ~Steve A.

    • Paul Tukey

      Steve A.,
      The most important characteristic of compost is the microbial activity, which can be a difficult thing for a lay person to ascertain. A full test known as a bioassay on the compost would reveal the numbers of bacteria, fungal matter, protozoa and nematodes — the latter three being the “higher level” predators tat indicated a really well-balanced compost. The pH number is important, too. If you have low pH soil, then adding a compost with a slightly elevated pH would counterbalance that.

      In your case, you may have access to the bioassays. Does your company take these?

      If not, I say just run a simple test at your house. Divide your lawn into quadrants with each one utilizing a different compost. Monitor the results carefully.

      If you purchase Jeff Lowenfel’s book, it will give you a great primer on soil biology.

  • Christine

    Hi Paul,

    I live in MA and was wondering if I could overseed in the Spring and if so, when should I attempt it? What should the soil temperature be? Also, my soil pH ranges from 5.8 – 6.7 so I don’t think I need lime. My Calcium/Magnesium ratios are 5/1, 11/1, 7/1. I know I need to do something for the 5/1 and 11/1 areas but can I overseed first?

    I do not have a thick lawn and weeds are starting to take over.

    Thank you!
    Christine

    • Paul Tukey

      Christine,
      What does your soil test say about your percentage of organic matter? You should shoot for something in the 4-5 percent range. Adding compost in bulk would help stabilize that pH.

      Yes, you can overseed in the spring. Scratch the soil with a bamboo rake or some other tool designed for the job and apply the seed to any thin or bare areas. Cover the seed with a thin layer of compost to help keep the seed moist. Water the newly planted seed daily if we don’t get rain until it germinates. You can put the seed down now and it will begin to germinate; just don’t let the seed thoroughly dry out. It will germinate faster overall if you wait a month, but you can put it down now.

      • Christine

        I don’t see anything listed on the report about organic matter (from UMASS). Are you familiar with their report information and point me in the correct direction.

        If I scratch the soil won’t I stir up the crabgrass seeds? And what if I only use peat moss. I forget what your thoughts are on that. I just don’t see myself being able to spread the compost and too costly to have done, it’s a lot of land for me.

        My guess is I should wait a bit since there are so many sticks, branches, and pine cones. So April it is.

        -Christine

        • Paul Tukey

          Christine,
          I haven’t looked at a UMass report in a while, but most of the standard soil test do list organic matter (OG) as a percentage.

          You’re right that scratching the soil will stir up weed seeds, that’s why you want to put down grass seed right away. Peat moss will work, but I don’t like it nearly as well as compost. Peat moss will blow away if it dries out and can even repel water when dry.

          Waiting ’til April is OK!

  • Jackie Harte

    What can you do for grubs?

  • Christine

    Paul –

    I have another issue I just noticed yesterday. When I walk over my lawn I will find areas that I can make a deep depression about the size of my foot and about 2″-6″ deep. These depressions are scattered about. Would this be a drainage issue? We had a ton of rain last week and we are still recovering from the effects.

    I was thinking of tamping the soil down and shoveling compost in the holes before I overseed the lawn in a month. Sound right?

    • Paul Tukey

      Christine,
      It’s not uncommon to have undulations in a lawn after winter and I’d wait until all frost is out of the soil before taking any action. You want to avoid walking on a soggy lawn until it dries and thaws out a bit. If the dips are still there in a month you can fill in the holes with a soil/compost blend, or just soil, and overseed. I wouldn’t use 100 percent compost to fill the holes, because the compost will settle and leave you with a dip again later.

  • Dwayne

    I am looking for a lawn care provider that uses safe products for humans and pets in Naperville,IL

    • Paul Tukey

      Dwayne, Check with The Safer Pest Control Project to see who they recommend. They’re out in your area. BTW, stop in and see us. We’ll be in Chicago next week for two screenings of the film.

  • Scott Morgan

    Hi Paul,

    I had a soil test last year and the results showed I had a pH of 7.6 with high levels of Magnesium (765 lbs per acre) and Calcium (8930 lbs. per acre). The recommendations suggested adding 2 lbs. of elemental sulfur per 1,000 sq. ft. in spring and fall. So, I’m about to attempt this for the first time but most of the information I can find on pH around here (Western NY) refers to raising it, not lowering it. And any brands of “elemental sulfur” refer to use in gardens not lawns. Is there a product (or general type) you can lead me towards as well as any suggestions for application? There really doesn’t seem to be much out there because most people I talk to just add calcium as a matter of course without a soil test.

    Thank you,
    Scott Morgan
    Fairport, NY

    • http://www.safelawns.org Paul Tukey

      Scott,
      I am sorry to have overlooked this question for so long. Adding elemental sulfur to soil is the standard recommendation for lowering the pH, but I’ve been rebuffed by a few folks in the organic world for making that recommendation. The sulfur is bad for soil biology. In areas of high pH, liberal applications of humates and compost will stabilize the pH. For a quick fix, a broadcasting of coffee grounds can work for a small area (unless you have a lot of coffee grounds). Dr. Elaine Ingham also recommends staying away from the sulfur.

  • http://www.connsoil.com Cynthia

    Can anyone tell me how much lawn chemical is being used in the US? Is it known how much of it gets into groundwater?

    • Paul Tukey

      Cynthia,
      The estimate is the 80 million tons of synthetic fertilizer is applied to lawns each year in the U.S. Based on conservative estimates, one third of that is taken up by the plant. The remainder vaporizes, washes off into surface water, or leaches into the soil and groundwater. I’m not sure what the overall estimate of fertilizer is that makes it into groundwater; it would depend on soil type in a region. But I’m sure the number is significant. I’ll send out some feelers to see who might have an estimate.

  • Marina

    Hi, I’m a new at landscaping, bought the house about a year ago. I live in Houston, Tx. I didn’t know anything about lawns, the only thing I did was to mow my lawn. I need some advice please.
    Last year, I notices some yellow patches in front and back yard. Thought it was the extreme hot weather last year, so I just watered the grass every day for 15-30 min. Yellow patches in the front went away but back yard yellow spots got bigger. This year after it started getting warmer, unlike everywhere else including my front yard, the back yard grass didn’t show any signs of improvement. The grass came up very easy, as if the roots were eaten, we figured out it was chinch bug that ate the whole back yard. Yep, here is a picture.

    I have removed all dried-up, dead grass. Somewhat raked the “soil”, it looks like some kind of industrial clay instead of nutrient full soil.

    Now I have bought 500 patches of St. Augustine. What kind of soil should I lay underneath, before I lay down the grass? Do I need to put some fertilizer on soil or afterward on top of the grass, if so what kind?

    All help is greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

    • Paul Tukey

      Marina,
      You should send a soil sample to the state university to see what nutrients you have in your soil. Re-adjust your watering so that you’re watering, at most, two days a week as deeply as possible. You should water daily until the grass is established, however. If you have cinch bugs, you can treat them naturally with rosemary oil. If you need more help, we do have a SafeLawns Approved contractor, SoilsAlive: http://www.soilsalive.com.

  • Peter

    I am a first time home-with grass yard-owner. I know NOTHING about growing and taking care of grass. Can anyone recommend the best place to start learning about how to start growing (because I have large area where it mossy with no grass) and to maintain existing grass? Again, I need to start from lesson 1.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Paul Tukey

      Peter,
      Watch our how-to videos. Those will give you a great start. Check out our book, The Organic Lawn Care Manual. You can also let us know what questions you have and we’ll be happy to help.

  • Jerry

    Paul,

    I just read a post that said now is a good time to seed before the weeds get going. My question is would it be better to put down organic fertilizer now (and if so which kind-corn gluten or fertilizer) or would it be better to seed first. If I seed first what kind of fertilizer should I use,
    My lawn is a mess in many areas. This would be my third year using organic products. Also I have a good section of lawn with a lot of moss. What can I do in those areas.

    Thanks,
    Jerry

    • Scott Morgan

      Hi Jerry,

      I was waiting for Paul to answer your question since I’m still learning like you, but I do believe that you aren’t supposed to use corn gluten when planting. The corn gluten keeps weeds from germinating and will do the same with the grass seed. (If I have that wrong, please let Jerry and I know!) If you use a more traditional organic fertilizer, it should come with planting instructions when you can add it to the soil directly. I use Bradfield Organics and know that they have such info on their bags.

      Best,
      Scott

    • Paul Tukey

      Jerry,
      Thanks for the question and I apologize about the tardy response. Too much time on the road right now. Scott is right about not applying corn gluten and seed at the same time. You should leave a six-week window of time between the application of seed and corn gluten.

      Have you taken a soil test?When you say your lawn is a mess in many areas, I’d like to know what’s going on in the soil.

      Moss can be an indicator of many things: shade, acid soil, excess moisture, compaction, low fertility or lack of air movement. Which of those conditions do you have?

      • Jerry

        Hi Paul!

        Thanks for your response and I apologize for my late response.

        I was asking if I should put down corn gluten now and wait several weeks before I seed or if you thought it best to seed and don’t use corn gluten. I just read your post about corn gluten, so I may add it to the better areas of my lawn and not use it where I plan to seed.

        I am going to take 3 soil samples and send them off to UMass for analysis. My front lawn had a lot of weeds last year and looks awful this spring. I have an area on the side under a couple of oak trees that I can never get grass to grow (not many weeds there either). In the back I have an area with a lot of moss. It tends to be a bit shady, but it does get some sunshine. I will get a sample from there as well.

        I just received your book and have begun reading it so hopefully that will help as well. I was looking at the possibility of ordering the Fire Belly program rather than trying to order bags of fertilizer. I’m trying to figure out the best was to go at this point.

        Also, I Lawn-Pro come to my house and someone told me about NaturaLawn. One says they use natural based fertilizers and the other organic based. I believe I read somewhere here last year that I should stay clear of them because they aren’t truly organic. The two companies that you recommended for Massachusetts don’t serve the South Shore area. Drats!

        Thanks for your consideration.

        Jerry

        • Paul Tukey

          You do have to be wary of “organic-based” or “natural-based.” I’ve never seen those phrases on products that were, in fact, 100 percent organic. I’m going my first application of Fire Belly this weekend. I’ve looked at all the products and they are 100 percent organic. And they’re ridiculously easy to apply.

  • Carol Braham

    Paul,
    I have a question about aerating. I am renovating a lawn in Northern California and want to aerate as well as dethatch before applying soil amendments and overseeding. Should I dethatch, aerate, apply fertilizer and maybe a little compost to fill some of the holes, then wait awhile for the plugs to disintegrate before I overseed and put my compost over the seed? It seems like it would be difficult to overseed and place compost over the seed with those plugs sticking up everywhere. What do you recommend?
    Thanks,
    Carol

    • Paul Tukey

      Those plugs will probably break down quickly, especially if you get any rain. You can aerate and dethatch and apply compost before seeding. Unless you do a really vigorous aeration, 10 or more holes per square foot, I wouldn’t worry about the plugs.

  • Scott Morgan

    Hey Paul,

    Above I asked a question about using sulfur back on the 13th…would really appreciate some advice when you have a moment.

    Thanks,
    Scott

  • John

    Hey Paul. To till or not to till….I’ve heard it damages soil structure affecting the soil ecosystem and ultimately the health of the lawn. Obviously tilling is essential in establishing a lawn from scratch but what about rennovating an existing lawn? How would you treat a lawn that was planted on 2 inches of poor soil with a gravel bottom? Topdress with compost for the next 10 years or till, bring in 6inches of topsoil/compost mix and start over?

  • Thomas E

    Well I decided to go organic last year due in part to my new puppy. She seemed to get sick right after fertilizing the yard even after keep[ing her off the yard for 3 days…. So got into more orgainic stuff even made a compost tea brewer. As I went and reread Paul’s book I am even off milorganite. Well not everything is great yet as you can imagine. Not a big gardener but here south of Chicago my lawn has been mowed 2 times already (first was just a few spots) and is ready again more and more of the better grass is growing in. I have even found a local source of Bradfield Organics, Dr. Earth, and Ringer lawn fertilizers so I am set!!! Just looked at me STRANGE when I was looking for stuff for Compost tea, Oh well.

    Well I just got home from work about 5:15 and guess what I saw for the first time??? A nice bird in the yard eating an earthworm out of MY GRASS!!! Was happy and sad. Not sure I have enough to give away but I must be doing something right!!!!

    Paul, Thank you for you inspiration and guidance in my transition to natural lawn care. Not the prettiest yard due to old tree stumps and other crappy soil situations with a limited budget and so on, resulting in a very bumpy lawn but it is green and apparently healthy. MA NATURE seems to have approved.

    I am so proud but with my limited population as yet of earthworms maybe I should be hunting little birdies…. Just Kidding!!! I am grinnin’ from ear to ear.

    Without getting into soil testing and thus target applications of stuff is the above listed lawn fertilizers a good start for the NOOB?

  • Ryan

    I live an hour northwest of Madison, WI. I have about a 1/3 acre yard. I have not applied chemical fertilizers or weed killers for at least four years, my boys and dog spend far too much time in the yard. My wife bought me your book for Father’s Day a few years ago. I have a few questions.
    1. To apply nitrogen I have been applying corn gluten, but when I purchased last year I almost choked when I heard the cost. At times, including today, I’ve applied Milorganite. I read in your book that you don’t agree with applying biosolids. Why?
    2. I wanted to aerate and overseed last September, but we had a mild drought that made that option impossible. I would like to do so this spring, but I am unsure what the soil temperature and air temperature should be. What are your recommendations?
    3. We started composting last spring and I would like to start brewing compost tea this year. The brewers that I have seen on the internet are pretty expensive. I would be willing to make my own, could you point me in an affordable direction?

    • Paul Tukey

      Ryan,
      1) I don’t have a problem specifically with Milorganite. I toured the plant last year and believe the Milwaukee facility does everything humanly possible to ensure its product is safe. I don’t have the same confidence in all biosolids, however. Many contain toxic heavy metals and other contaminants.
      2) You should be OK to overseed in your area by mid April.
      3) You can make your own with a 5-gallon drywall bucket and an aquarium motor; that’s really all you need. A good compact version can be found here: http://www.simplici-tea.com/5gallonbrewer.htm.

  • Lauren Riley

    Hi Paul, I just found this site and love it! We are building a house and are putting down sod. What are your recommendations for a good organic foundation for sod? Do I put down compost over the whole lawn first? If so, do you have to till it in? Thank you!

    • Paul Tukey

      Lauren,
      Here are a few things to think about: 1) How deep is the soil? 2) Get a soil test from the Cooperative Extension service; 3) Make any soil adjustments necessary; 4) Make sure you have a good source of bulk compost and, if it’s good . . . 5) Buy as much as you can afford, till it in; 5) roll the lawn and 6) put down the appropriate grass seed for the light conditions.

      • Lauren Riley

        So you prefer grass seed over sod, then?

        • Paul Tukey

          Lauren,
          I have no problem with sod, per se. It is more expensive than seed and is often grown as one species. Shop around and see if you can find sod that contains a blend of bluegrass, fescue and rye.

  • Christine

    Hi Paul,

    Are the product produced by Green Light safe? I’m particularly interested in the YardSafe Insect Repellent Granules. I’m trying to avoid the ants coming into the house this Spring and so I’d like to spread it around my foundation. I did it last year and it was amazing how well it worked but I’m taking a step back this year and I want to make sure it is OK to use.

    Thank you!
    Christine

    • Paul Tukey

      Christine,

      Any pesticide products must be used with caution and according to directions, but the Green Light product you mention is a natural product and one I would recommend. It does work quite well based on my experience.

  • Lauren R

    What do you think of Ortho Ecosense lawn weed killer? I need an effective spot weeder. I’ve tried regular vinegar in the sun and it has little effect on my weeds. I want something safe for my kids so I don’t have to worry about keeping them off the lawn…any opinions of Ecosense or suggestions for a spot weeder…preferably something I can buy at Home Depot or Earl May?

    • Paul Tukey

      Lauren,
      Ortho Ecosense is the new selective herbicide made from a naturally occurring chelated iron product. It was developed by Neudorff and announced here when it was released. Ortho is the only American licensee at this time. I’ve heard from quite a few people that the product does work well and I plan to try it myself this coming week, so I’ll have more to say about it. Like any product, it needs to be used according to label directions.

  • Jerry

    Paul,

    I am planning on working on my lawn this weekend. My Fire Belly fertilizer arrived yesterday and I have a load of compost coming Friday. I am looking to overseed my lawn. Is it okay to do all three of these things at the same time and if so what is the best order. Before doing any of this I will dethatch and mow the lawn. I am thinking that I should fertilize, seed and then compost.
    My lawn has been off chemical fertilizers for three years now and it doesn’t look great in several spots. I am hoping to get it off to a great start this year and have a great looking lawn this summer. I will use a combination of grasses. I am hoping the layer of compost will help with weed control. I believe I read in a post here or in your book that weeds like sunlight to grow and a good layer of compost will provide a good block.

    Thanks,
    Jerry

    • Paul Tukey

      I think you have it just right, Jerry. Be sure to keep that seed moist until it’s fully germinated and at least an inch tall.

      Best of luck.

  • Tim

    Hi Paul,

    I have a home in Franklin County Maine and right now my “yard” is just dirt. I thought of creating a lawn, but I’m really not keen on maintaining it. Is it practical to simply plant the entire area with clover instead? The total area is about 2,500 square feet and a mix of sun and shade. I’d just not rather have to mow every week yet I want something there for erosion control. I’ve heard of people simply planting a “clover lawn” and it sounded like a good idea to me. If this would work, do you have any recommendations of which type of clover to plant and where you can purchase clover seed?

    • Paul Tukey

      Tim,
      An all-clover yard is the American lawn of old. In Maine, you can get clover seed from Allen, Sterling & Lothrop in Falmouth at 781-4142. Here’s their web site: http://www.allensterlinglothrop.com.

      • Tim

        Fantastic, thank you very much!

  • http://n/a Gillian

    Hi Paul, i came across you website on face book, im campaighning to my local council regarding pesticide exposure in our local village.Both my son and i were both sprayed with these chemicals and have suffered really bad symptoms. Could i please buy your dvd to show in my local council, let them see what they are doing to folks health, there are a high rate of cancers here in my area .
    Kind regards
    Gillian

  • Philipp

    Hello,

    Anyone have any recommendations on how I can ban pest/herbicides in my town?

    • http://www.organiclandcare.net Sarah

      Hi Phillipp,

      A great place to start, especially if you live in the U.S., is Grassroots Environmental Education’s website, http://www.grassrootsinfo.org

      Also, their How Green is My Town program. In particular, check out their page on turf pesticides:
      http://www.howgreenismytown.org/mylocalgovt/lgpesticides.html

      You can also download a Municipal Pesticide Reduction Resource Guide, a step-by-step manual to help concerned citizens, cities and towns reduce pesticides at
      http://www.turi.org/content/view/full/2743

      It was written in 2002 for Massachusetts, but most of it is relevant anywhere in the U.S. It includes a step-by-step outline for municipal pesticide use reduction.

      In most states it is not currently possible for a town to ban pesticides on private land, but it is possible for them to ban pesticides on their own land, which is often extensive, and to set an example for its citizens.

  • Mike

    Hi Paul,

    Are there any compost bins you recommend? I live in suburbs and don’t have much room or appeal for an open wooden one. My family gets rid of a lot of food scraps and I’d like to be using them in a good way. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  • http://bedbugsbegone.co.cc Kelly Wheeler

    Could somebody teach me the main differences between the different types of bedbugs?

  • Scott Morgan

    Hey Paul,

    I’m trying to figure out a way to keep track of where my property line is when I mow. I have a very nice older neighbor who can’t mow in a straight line and my inability to draw a straight line with a ruler is well documented! I swear I once saw these target/bullseyes you could sink into the ground along a line to mark for mowing, but for the life of me I can’t find them again. I figured if anyone would know it would be you, so any help on that front or other ways of keeping my mower straight would be appreciated!

    Thanks as always,
    Scott Morgan

  • John Carey

    I’d like to know how to question our lawn spray applicator guy who recently told me he will call to explain what he sprays on the lawn.
    I know I should ask if he uses atrazine. Which he probably does. What else should I be looking for? His service is described as “fertilizer and weed control treatment”. I have three little nieces that come and visit here at my parents house. I really want this guy to get the important message. Thanks for your help.

    • Paul Tukey

      Ask to see the MSDS sheets (Material Safety Data Sheets) of everything he’s applying to your property. The risks are usually spelled out on those. You can also type in the chemical compound into the database at http://www.panna.org to see what their scientific review has to say.

  • Monica Belyea

    We just removed a large section of asphalt from our city yard. I had planned to seed it with a mix of grasses including clover. I have no need for pristine blue grass but the kids need a place to kick a ball around. I’m now rethinking because it’s such a muddy mess out there, there’s nowhere to go except through it. I’m also feeling impatient to have a yard after 3 years of asphalt.

    Is there anyone in the Northeast that grows environmentally friendly sod? I’m in Connecticut. And is sod worth the cost if I’m going to let clover and dandelions grow in it?

    Thanks much!
    -Monica

    • http://www.organiclandcare.net Sarah

      Hi Monica,

      It’s hard to start a lawn in the spring in the Northeast because of the competition from annual weeds; it’s much easier in the fall. A useful solution is to plant annual ryegrass now, which germinates very quickly and grows fast, and then in late August or early September overseed with a perennial grass seed mix and a bit of white clover seed.

      http://www.ryegrasses.com/

      http://www.johnnyseeds.com/p-7967-new-zealand-white-clover.aspx

      There aren’t any organic sod farms in the Northeast yet, and sod is very expensive and requires a fair bit of maintenance to keep alive until it is established.

  • diane rodgers

    I have creeping charlie taking over my lawn. How can I get rid of it safely without using chemicals?

  • Jerry

    Paul,

    Have you or any of your readers experienced or heard of problems with the new Scotts grass seed that have the covering over them for imporoved water retention? I used some last year in dirt patch areas and nothgin grew. I planted some a little over three weeks ago and still nothing. They have been watered every day between me and the rain.
    This stuff is expensive and it is distrubing that nothing has come up yet. I have a co worker that has a similar experience. I have used Scotts grass seed in the past with no problems. The best results I have had in the past was with Lesco. I wish I used them again this spring and may reseed this weekend with it.
    I can’t believe that Scotts is pretty much replacing their other seeds with this one if it didn’t work well so I’m thinking I didn’t do something right. I used Fire Belly Spring Activator after I seeded. The existing grass is growing great. Being all organic I can’t imagine I shouldn’t have used it with grass seed.

    Thanks,
    Jerry

  • Alex

    Hi Paul,

    I live in Saint Petersburg, FL and have been trying to find a green fertilizing company with no success. Do you know of any or anyone that you could recommend in this area?. We haven’t sprayed our lawn since our son was born 19 months ago and it is looking pretty bad.
    Any information is appreciated- Thanks for all the information you have on your website!!!

    Alex

  • Craig

    Hi Paul,

    I was wondering if you had hear of this new product called Sarritor? It is produced in Montreal, Canada and is supposed to be a naturally occuring fungus that is used as a selective herbicide that targets broadleaf weeds. The manufacturer claims it to be safe for humans and pets as well.

    Here is the link to their website: http://www.sarritor.ca/ I would love to hear what your thoughts are on this product.

    Thanks.

  • Hank Lipson

    Looking for recommendations for a general post-emergent weed control. I am in southern NJ and used corn gluten as a pre-emergent.

    Thanks…

  • Jen

    Hi,
    I’d like to write a short letter to our YMCA Executive Director about pesticide use on their lawn. I just noticed that it was treated on May 16, and have never seen this before in all the years I’ve been taking my kids there. During the summer, young children attending daycare and camps are brought to the lawn for activities. Obviously, I want to see this halted. Looking for tips and phrases to construct my letter.
    Thanks,
    Jen

  • Tom

    Paul,

    I just had a discussion with my local compost supplier and his distributor regarding the amount of garbage pieces I have found on my lawn from spreading his product. Apparently, commercial composting takes the organic wastes from municipalities and create their large piles. After the composting processing is complete it gets screened and becomes certified organic from certain inspectors. My question to these people today was, what are the acceptable standards for the level of garbage that can remain in a certified compost medium and still carry the certification? I was told there isn’t any, but no garbage is the hope, but there is no control over what people throw into their leaf piles before dropping it off at the dump. I have collected about 1 pint of bits and pieces of plastic bags, wrappers, electrical wire, crab claws, seashells, styrofoam, glass, bic pen casing, etc. in about 4 yards of compost (not done yet). Would you please comment on your experience with this? Should I not be concerned with burying other peoples trash on my lawn? Because I am and I’d rather keep my property free of trash. Thank you.

    • Paul Tukey

      Tom,
      Most commercial composting sites will take the time to filter out debris and trash that doesn’t biodegrade, but the regulations are all over the map on this point. Municipal sites are also all over the map on accepting grass clippings that may be tainted with herbicides and other pesticides. You’ll do well to have a conversation with your supplier; don’t just accept whatever they produce. It doesn’t cost that much to filter the compost as an extra step.

  • John

    Hey Paul. I had a question about Organic/Friendly weed killers. From all my research, the 3 best that I’ve found is Green Guardian, Avenger and the new Fiesta. Out of these 3, the Green Guardian seems to be the most friendly and effective. I’m actually buying all 3 and about to experiment on my neigbors weed ridden lawn so I’ll know if gut is correct. Anyways, I was just wondering what you have used and could recommend. Thanks!

  • JM

    Hi Paul,
    I am also a fervent supporter of organic lawn and organic gardening. My lawn (and garden) and very rich on clay; I am in the process of having my lawn analysed, but was wondering if there is anyhtig I can do to make the lawn (and garden) more fertile. I have receive in multiple instances teh suggestion that I should replace my soil on 12 to 18 inches with better soil… What do you think?
    Cheers,

  • http://www.biogreen.com Scott Trevisan

    Hello Paul,

    We have alot of brown patch and other fungus here in the charlotte nc area. What kind of fungus control do you use?

    Best regards,
    Scott

    • Paul Tukey

      Scott,
      A lot of people report success with compost tea treatments. Folks in Texas (see http://www.dirtdoctor.com) swear by corn meal as a great fungal control.

  • Bruce Hendler

    Paul:

    I don’t recall seeing this product addressed in Safelawns’ blogs, but lately, there has been a good deal of p.r. in Landscape Architectural and Architectural “Green Products” newsletters about Rubber Mulch (see
    http://products.construction.com/Manufacturer/LTR-PRODUCTS-NST152006/products/Pinnacle-Rubber-Mulch-NST43240-P).

    Understandably, the p.r. touts the positive characteristics of the product: for example, no splinters for kids, nor harboring pests, no need to replenish as frequently as wood-based mulches, etc., plus it does recycle old tires – helping mitigate a major waste-stream issue.

    However, the evaluations regarding rubber crumb with which I’m familiar — especially as it relates to its use as an “anchor” for artificial turf — is that the tire compounds contain lead and other toxins, and over time, the bad stuff leaches out into the soil. Kids play in it, too. This is not good. I have an excellent older power-point in my files from the Mt. Sinai Hospital School of Medicine/Children’s Environmental Health Center that deals comprehensively with the issue, and I can pass it along to you if you want it. Just let me know.

    Also, the rubber crumb anchoring material, generally black in color, holds heat. About a year-and-a-half ago, one of my colleagues told me of an NPR report that noted that “… mystery hot spots… recorded in an aerial GPS study of the Bronx were not black roofs, but playing fields covered in artificial turf. The air temperature just above the plastic strands measured in excess of 160 degrees F.”

    It seems logical that rubber mulch would have characteristics that are similar to or identical with rubber crumb.

    Has this been your experience?

    Is it a matter of concern that you’d want to address?

    Thanks.
    - Bruce.

    • http://www.organiclandcare.net sarah

      A sweeping report on issues with rubber crumb can be found at the Environment and Human Health website:
      http://www.ehhi.org/reports/turf/

      Sarah

  • Kim LaFrance

    Hi Paul,

    Thank you for being open to accepting emails to help people like me! I got your name from the Prince Edward Island government; from Don Reeves to be exact. He told me that you had just been here a few weeks ago.

    I had an old dock removed from the shore which is about 20 feet from my minihome in Charlottetown. It had been built about 15 years ago out of old palette wood. When I purchased my home 10 years ago, the dock was still in pretty good condition, but over the years, it has become a palace for carpenter ants! Last week, I had the dock removed by Bulldog Demolition. I asked them to be on the look out for a carpenter ant nest. They told me that there were a lot of ants in an old picnic table which they took away from the site.

    I thought that was the main nest, but unfortunately I recently found another nest in a bank of earth that was under the old wood. I have been treating it with Raid Ant Bait which is a syrup containing Boric Acid. I am contemplating having Orkin remove the nest, but the queen could escape. Don told me that you recommended cornmeal for black ants. Do you think cornmeal will work for carpenter ants and if not do you have any other ideas.

    Patiently waiting,
    Kim LaFrance from PEI

  • Dawn

    Are the safelawn approved dealers on the resource page all 100% organic options. I have read a lot of “organic” dealers are not so organic.

    • Paul Tukey

      Yes, Dawn,
      They all take a pledge to be 100 percent organic. If we were to find out anything different about their practices, we would remove them from the list.

  • Brett

    Does anyone know if the Ortho EcoSense Weed Killer with chelated iron is completely safe to use if you are under an organic lawn care program? The other product I see is the Iron X one on gardensalive.com. Is one safer than the other to use? Thanks

    • Paul Tukey

      Brett, These are the same product with different names. Follow the label like you should with anything.

  • Jerry

    Paul,

    I have a 12 year old golden retriever who has muscle loss in his hind legs so he doesn’t get around as much as he used. We just let him out the door and he would go and do his business but it was usually in the side yard where there are trees and bushes. Lately he just goes on the front lawn and its creating brown spots on my lawn. Fortunately he tends to go in the same three spots but those spots are growing too.
    What can I do to revive those spots. I had heard in the past that putting some tomato juice in his water would make his urine less acidic but he won’t drink that. Is there something I can treat those areas with?

    Thanks,
    Jerry

  • Paul Stankus

    Hi Paul –

    I’m wondering if you can offer any advice on organic post-emergent control for crabgrass; and I’m guessing that I’m not the only reader with this question right now.

    I was really moved by reading your book on organic lawn care, and have been trying to follow best practices for the last year or two. On the whole it’s been a success and I’m very grateful. But this summer we’re really being done in by crabgrass and I don’t have any good idea for what to do. We’ve followed the basic advice of (i) using organic pre-emergent (in our case corn gluten) in the spring and (ii) trying to keep the lawn healthy overall. But the crabgrass still springs up right in the middle of thriving turf and continues to spread.

    Details: we live on Long Island, and have had record high temperatures and low rainfall here through June and July. We’ve tried to keep the grass thriving with deep waterings ~2/week, mowing high, and some core aeration, but the crabgrass is still winning the competition. I’ve tried pulling the stuff out by hand, but I can’t possibly stay ahead of it (plus, as a pasty office wonk I can’t really take working in the sun and 100-deg heat with high humidity for more than a few minutes).

    We will certainly follow the program of composting and overseeding in the fall and hope for the best next year, but I’d really like to be able to do something more effective right now. Are there any safe topical treatments against crab grass that you can recommend? or more specific mowing/watering advice?

    Thanks; we appreciate it!

    Paul Stankus

  • http://na Sharon Muczynski

    Hi Paul,
    Kudos to you because you are doing wonderful work! My school of Ecology at University of Georgia has a Eco-Film Festival in the fall. What is the possibility of showing your film? I am not in charge of this festival, but I know who is, and I would like to see films about the causes of CCD. Incidentally we have an organically maintained lawn in Georgia, and proudly post signs to advertise the fact. It is a plus that our lawn IS the most beautiful lawn in the neighborhood and a testament to organics. We use corn gluten, mow high, and use good-old-fashioned weed pulling for the infrequent weed. Kids from around the block come over to roll in the lawn. We ONLY have a lawn because it is required in the subdivision covenants.
    Thank you for all you do!
    Sharon Muczynski

    • Paul Tukey

      Sharon,
      I’d love to show A Chemical Reaction in Georgia. The film has not premiered there. If you let me know the proper contact, I’ll send along a copy. Thanks!

  • Rachael Egan

    Dear Paul;
    I am a member of a new group (2 months old) in Montclair- Safe Lawns Montclair. You have inspired us. Is there any way at all that we might be able to meet with you one day, via skype? We meet on the first and third Mondays every month, at 7.30pm- but can be very flexible, should you have time at all. I can promise that we will have a concise list of questions, and be organized and mindful of your time.

    I am leading the group this August, and my greatest fear, is that we waste time re-inventing the wheel. You have already covered so much ground, and it would be a shame to waste valuable resources and time. Our immediate goal is to rid Montclair NJ of toxic lawn chemicals. We hope to get to the rest of New Jersey after that. (;

    We have plans underway, but a meeting with you would be very helpful. In the long term, a visit from you to our town would be powerful. This is a very progressive place in many ways, but we have a lot of people here too, with huge HUGE lawns, using huge lawn companies, that spray ALL the time. It’s not just a Spring and Fall thing here. I can smell the chemicals in the air when I drive in off the freeway. It’s a really bad thing, when the freeway smells fresher, than a leafy suburb.

    Many thanks for all of your amazing work,
    Rachael Egan

    • Paul Tukey

      Rachel,
      We are in the process of setting up state chapters of SafeLawns run by folks who want to disseminate information in their areas. I’ll be in touch.

  • Dawn

    Paul,

    I am a new mom who is too busy to find the time for lawn care. I want a 100% organic lawn, and have found a dealer called Safe-Earth Lawn Care http://www.safe-earth.biz/comments.htm. They say they are 100% organic and use the following:

    Pre-emergent Weed Control Corn Gluten

    Natural organic product to control annual weeds. 60% corn protein material containing 10% nitrogen by weight. Effective for control of crabgrass, dandelions and other weeds propagated by seeds. Applied early spring and late summer. Corn gluten is a licensed product that was developed by inventors at Iowa State University.

    Organic Compost

    Dehydrated, sterilized manure that restores the natural balance of the soil and builds humus. Our compost benefits flowers, gardens, trees and shrubbery, while continuing to work in the soil for three to five years. Organic Compost reduces the need for watering and is a chemical-free product that is universally recognized by lawn and garden experts as one of the best fertilizer available.

    Nature’s Feed
    Nature’s Feed is a protein by-product extracted from the sugar beet. This product works as a pre and post-emergent broadleaf weed control. Results have shown a 70% success rate when product is used for pre-emergent weed control.

    This is a very sticky, fibrous liquid that fertilizes and builds soil organic matter. It will require three treatments to control most emerged weeds

    Does this seem legitimate? I am really wanting to be 100% pesticide free.

    Thanks!

    Dawn

  • Paul Tukey

    Dawn,
    I’m not familiar with the company, but it does sound like it’s legitimately organic from the information you provided.

    • Dawn

      Thanks Paul,

      Do you know if the corn glutten and nitrogen is still safe?

      Dawn

  • Paul Tukey

    Corn gluten is safe enough to eat.

    • Dawn

      Thanks Paul!!!

  • Erik Keller

    More a comment. Just saw your movie and really liked it though there are some holes that your “enemies” could easily grab upon. The first is that there is no study you cite showing that people are more healthy because they are not using chemicals on their lawns. Hudson should be a great proof point given the amount of time it has been pesticide free. Especially if blood samples are taken of babies vs older siblings.

    You also dont talk economics and dependency on chemicals: if you go organic in the right way with a lawn it will cost you a lot less in the long run.

    The next is your approach, which is very stick rather than carrot. You cite all the bad things but none of the good things about going organic (at least in the movie). I have never used pesticides or herbicides in my gardens for over 30 years and they look great. We have snakes, frogs, newts, salamanders, etc. all over the place. But they did not arrive overnight as the prior owner used a lawn service.

    I recently had to redo my lawn because of a new septic that needed to be put in and seeded the new lawn with a combination of 5 fescue cultivars and clover. I went a bit overboard on the clover but it worked out really well and looks great. I have never owned a gas power mower and have gotten some neighbor kids to mow my grass in “Tom Sawyer” like moments. Mowing with a manual mower has so many pleasures. One of the most unexpected (when you start) is that fact that lots of things are living in the grass that have a chance to get out of the way (or for you to stop and check them out.)

    So keep up the good work but try to be a bit more positive. I have written about this type of stuff on my blog GroHappy (http://grohappy.typepad.com/) as I am embarking on my fourth career as a horticultural therapist.

  • Paul Stankus

    Umm, crabgrass? (see above from Jul 21) We could sure use some help out here….

    Thanks,

    Paul Stankus

  • http://www.ecoapp.net solar panels

    Hi Paul, i came across you website on face book, im campaighning to my local council regarding pesticide exposure in our local village.Both my son and i were both sprayed with these chemicals and have suffered really bad symptoms. have a good time.i like your telling…
    this my homepage.
    http://www.ecoapp.net
    http://www.meinmanga.com

  • Patti Mallett

    Last summer during the drought period my front lawn (the part I would like to look best) came down with Cinch Bugs, which apparently show up when everything is bone dry. Right? It’s an area that gets full sun and has needed numerous re-seedings. I swore I would not allow that to happen again so am watering this summer. (The rest of my lawn is better soil so makes it through w/out the extra watering and only needs little touch-ups.) Is there a simple way to feed that soil? (I’m not up for making my own compost tea, so please consider that in your answer.) Also, when can we order the “Kiss My Grass” signs? A big reason to keep my lawn looking good is that I am hoping to eventually convince others in my neighborhood to stop spraying and go this route, as I did a few years back. Thanks!

  • Jim Clark

    Paul, I have planted “Morning Glory” seeds in hopes of having them most of the growing season here in Maine. I lived in Northern CA and the plant did well and really grow all over the place for a good eight months. I plant it here and am lucky it grows 2 months. When is the best time to plant the seeds and what about the prep.?

    thank you

  • http://www.greenacresorganics.com Andrew Boshears

    Hi Paul, I have heard from a few people now that lawn companies, in specifically the ones that work for the cities, are using a type of plant growth regulators on the landscapes. Do you any insight on these chemicals?

    • Paul Tukey

      Andrew,
      I don’t have a lot of info, but if you send me specific product names, I’m sure I can find out.

      • http://www.greenacresorganics.com Andrew Boshears

        Hi Paul,

        Thank you for your reply. One of the products are made by Sepro and it’s called Legacy – Turf Growth Regulator. It slow turf growth by altering its growth hormone. They claim it’s safe, but it just seems to me that when you start messing with the genetics of plants other organisms may be vulnerable as well. The website is below.

        http://sepro.com/default.php?page=legacy

        Thanks again and hope all is well,

        Best Regards,

        Andrew

      • http://www.greenacresorganics.com Andrew

        Any luck Paul? I haven’t been able to find any solid information.

  • Roz Lynn Dorf

    Paul — You interviewed me for your blog in April around Earth Day. I live in Boulder, at the HOA right next to where you are coming in September. I just sent my RSVP. I want to be sure to meet you in person. A lot has been happening at Shanahan Ridge 7, where I live.

    • Paul Tukey

      Roz,
      Can’t wait to meet you and to hear more. I’ll see you in Boulder on Sept. 23 at 6 p.m., although I’m not sure where yet!

      • Roz Lynn Dorf

        Paul — Can’t wait to meet you.

        Roz

  • Tom

    When I was looking to add clover to yard to help with the grass, I noticed a new microclover strain. From the literature, it seems that is is designed for yard use and has some benefits over white dutch.

    Does anyone have experience with this strain of clover? It is a little pricey and I would like reviews before I try it.

    Thanks,
    Tom

  • connie

    I see that on the safelawns site there are advertisements for people who sell eco friendly lawn maintenance products. Are there any lawn maintenance SERVICES out there that people can hire who are conscientious about what they put on your lawn? So far I haven’t found any in Richmond, VA. Some have names like Natural Lawn, etc. but they all put the same old chemicals on the lawn.

    • Paul Tukey

      Connie,
      We do have companies who we certify as eco-friendly and organic in the service sector, but thus far none in Virginia. We are in the process of recruiting them, however. Please check back often.

  • http://www.ourlittlebeehive.com Felicity

    Hi Paul,

    We bought a house in Arlington, VA with a “lawn” that is 99% weeds. We’d really like to grow grass instead of vines and weed and are wondering how to go about getting rid of the weeds and encouraging new grass to grow.

    This morning my husband tried to rake the weeds in an attempt to rough up the soil for grass seed. This resulted in ALL the covering being removed. It was easier to just shovel off the top inch! We stopped because we’re not sure how to dispose of the removed material and would love a suggestion of how to go about creating a lawn with less waste to be removed. Shall we aerate the lawn and re-seed? Dig it up? Rent a tiller? Please help.

    Thanks so much,
    Felicity & Steve

  • David Dias

    I know fall is a great time to apply organic fertilizers, but I had a question regarding alfalfa meal pellets. Should I wait until later in the season to put them down? I’m concerned about attracting field mice or rats. What are your thoughts?

    • Paul Tukey

      David,
      The alfalfa pellets will break down quickly after a rain; if no rain is predicted, go ahead and water them in. This is a good time of year to do it.

  • Jan

    Paul:

    I just finished you book and am practicing the knowledge outside, with some progress already but I guess time will tell. It is my first lawn and the first year, thus I am a complete beginner. I think the book is great and provides all the info to beginners like me, with one single exception: acorns. We have many oak trees and now in the fall (my first fall taking care of my lawn) it is covered with acorns. I can rake up a lot of them but not all. My question is, is it safe to leave them there? Are they going to decompose quickly, becoming a fertilizer? Or are they going to suffocate the grass?

    Thank you!

    • Paul Tukey

      Jan,
      Acorns won’t hurt anything, per se, other than being uncomfortable to walk on in bare feet. The biggest issue may be the ones that germinate, but these die quickly after being mowed once. So don’t stress about the acorns. Just rake up the ones you can reasonably get to.

  • http://www.sbmgarden.com Susan

    Hi Paul,
    I’ve been organic in my lawn and gardens for at least 3 years. I’ve been using the Organica program for the lawn for the last 4 seasons. I’m careful to put the first step (corn gluten) down after 3 consecutive days of 50 degree weather and I hand dig the many dandelion’s that crop up each year. My question is twofold. First, even with the corn gluten application, I always have a lot of crab grass in July/August. I apply lime & overseed in August, and the grass looks great come September. I read in your book (and from other sources) that after 3/4 seasons of organic care, that the crabgrass would diminish, but I haven’t seen this to be the case (nor have th dandelion’s by the way). I did a soil test and everything was balanced so… Any ideas?

    • Paul Tukey

      Susan,
      Do you always keep the mower blade at 3 inches or higher from the spring into late autumn? Mowing too low allows crabgrass seeds to germinate.

  • Gillian Kozicki

    Hi from NSW, Australia. Could you let me know if you have a biological/sustainable answer to getting rid of bindii. Last year I did nothing so this year they came out in full force so what do I do so that over the next couple of years so I can reduce their impact and gradually get rid of them as the seeds are now lying in the grass everywhere? We can eventually get rid of the grass as its on our farm outside the house.
    Thank you for any help you can give,

    Gillian

    • Paul Tukey

      Gillian,
      Here is a response from yesterday’s guest blogger, Craig Dick:

      Bindii/lawnweed, (Soliva sessilis) is one of up to nine species of the genus Soliva, is a low-growing herbaceous annual plant. Its common names include lawnweed, common soliva, Onehunga weed, and field burrweed. It is one of several plants known as bindi weed, or bindi-eye. Botanical synonyms include Soliva daucifolia Nutt. and Soliva pterosperma (Juss.)

      As a winter annual, lawnweed dies back in the summer, leaving large dead spots during times of the heaviest use. It also produces the sharp seeds, or burs, during the summer which penetrate skin and tires. These seeds are then dispersed by attaching themselves to anyone using these high traffic areas.

      Native to South America this species was first described in Chile in 1794. Lawnweed was naturalized in California by 1836. It may have traveled from Chile in hide shipments (Ray 1987). Lawnweed is well established in California. Lawnweed is commonly found throughout Texas, the southwest, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Missouri, and South Carolina with increasing infestations in southern coastal plains. It also occurs in New Zealand and Australia.

      Lawnweed is found in managed perennial grass areas usually associated with heavy foot traffic (read compaction). In Weeds and Why They Grow we find that Bindii likes very low calcium, low phosphorus, copper, humus, and biological activity soils.

      The usual method of irradiation is chemical herbicides. Though this does nothing to correct the soil problems that cause it to flourish, in fact herbicides can actually worsen the soil. A herbicidal soap mixture should be very effective at killing bindii. Just be sure to avoid spraying the grass with this mixture!

      Spaying with soap should be followed by applications of gypsum (HydroSave), calcium phosphate (avoid chemically made phosphorus as this will lower biological activity), copper sulfate, humates (HumaCal would be great for this situation) and compost tea. Rates should be based off of a soil test.

      Herbicidal Soap:
      1 gallon of 10% vinegar
      Add 1 ounce orange oil or d-limonene
      1 teaspoon liquid soap or other surfactant
      Do not add water

  • Tina Ramsey

    I just wanted to tell you how much I am enjoying your People, Places & Plants disc set. Television really doesn’t have many good garden shows anymore so I ordered these from Netflix and am enjoying them. Being from the Brunswick area of Maine I am also enjoying seeing a bit of home and the accents of course. Well, thanks and keep up the good work. I’m not sure many know of your series outside of New England but I will try to publicize it on my blog soon because I feel so strongly about your quality shows and think others will enjoy them during this very white winter. Tina

    Note: People, Places & Plants was a television show starring Roger Swain and SafeLawns founder Paul Tukey that aired on HGTV from 2004-2007.

  • Brenda

    Your talk yesterday at the Houston Organic Fair was extraordinary. The standing ovation was testament to your ability and, honestly, they should have let you talk for twice as long. You may not remember our conversation in the hallway, but, if so, what was the name of that fungicide from Houston that you mentioned?
    Brenda in Houston

    • Paul Tukey

      Brenda,
      Actinovate is manufactured by Natural Industries of Houston. It works on dollar spot, take all patch, brown spot and other fungal diseases. I spent some time with the owner of the company during my trip out there and he said tests are also underway on snow mould.
      Paul T.

  • Brian

    Paul,

    I have a 3,000 sq ft front yard and much larger backyard that backs up to a canal of the Detroit river.

    I want to go organic, but inherited a lawn with many weeds, dead spots etc. last year.

    Any advice what I should do for this upcoming year? Should I kill it all and start new or perhaps slowly get it up to snuff via over-seeding?

    My soil test indicated a mineral based soil with little organic material and a clay base. The front yard get some sun but the backyard is mostly shade.

    I’d appreciate any pointers on where and how to start making a healthy and stellar lawn..especially on the cheap!

  • Brian

    Paul,

    I have access to canal water from the Detroit River. This canal is navigable and opens to the river on both sides, so it should get ample circulation.

    Would I be better to use this canal water via a pump or use city water via my faucet? Would it matter if I was just watering the lawn verses using water for spreading compost tea?

    • Paul Tukey

      Brian,
      Check with the city to see if the water is treated. If it is, then I would go with the Canal water — provided it is not overly polluted.

      • Brian

        Thanks Paul!

        As a follow-up, how do you determine if the water is polluted or not? The Detroit River connects Lake Huron and Lake Erie (via Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River).

        Obviously, the Great Lakes could be considered a less polluted water source, but I am unsure if excess nutrients from Agricultural and turf run-off is in this water.

        Could I be unintentionally putting excess or synthetic nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus on my lawn and in my garden via canal water?

        • Paul Tukey

          Brian,
          It’s highly unlikely that the nitrogen and phosphorus levels would be that high in the river that they would impact your lawn, whereas the levels of chlorine or fluoride in the city water could impact the soil biology. It wouldn’t be a bad idea, though, to have the water tested. Or at least talk to local farmers who may be using the river water for irrigation to see if they have encountered any problems.

          PT

  • Michele

    I have a question regarding the safety of eating food that might be contaminated by chemical lawn fertilizer and herbicide. My husband asked Trugreen to come out and apply organic/natural fertilizer (Chicken poop) and spot spray the weeds in the front and sides of our yard only. Unfortunately they didn’t do what he asked. They sprayed the entire yard with urea and chemical herbicides. I have garlic and herbs planted near the patio, downhill and very close to where they sprayed. They also sprayed (directly) areas where I was going to plant other herbs and vegetables. We have a garden in the back which is uphill and supposedly they don’t spray close to gardens. My questions are: Do you think it’s safe to eat the garlic and herbs (if they don’t die) and would it be safe to eat food planted in the areas which were sprayed? Should the soil be tested for safety? Can it be flushed out of the soil or amended? I’m so disappointed (and angry) about the whole thing and I’m not sure what to do. Any guidance would be appreciated.

    • Paul Tukey

      Michelle,
      There are many ways to answer this. First off, the majority of the world’s food is sprayed with chemical herbicides and many would argue that it is safe. The only way to avoid this is to buy certified organic food. To be certified, the crops must be grown on land that has been free of synthetic chemical fertilizers and herbicides for at least three years. Depending on what herbicides were used and what soil types you have, those products can persist in the soil from several weeks to several years.

      If it were my home I wouldn’t grow food in those areas that you know were sprayed. You might want to consider growing in raised beds in the meantime with new soil from a pure source.
      PT

  • Brian

    Paul,

    I am unsure if my Soil test recommendations are accurate. Can you tell me if I need to do anything different from what it says, like perhaps add more calcium and magnesium?

    I used a mulching lawn mower last year, but did little else. My plan was to aerate this spring and add compost, compost tea, and some natural nitrogen and potassium fertilizer.

    My soil test last year showed the following:

    Soil Mineral
    soil ph 7.8
    Phosphorus 50 ppm
    Potassium 99 ppm
    Magnesium 168 ppm
    Calcium 2831 ppm

    they recommend:

    nitrogen 3-5 lb /1000sq.ft.
    potassium 0.8 lb/1000 sq.ft
    or 32-0-10

    Additionally they said not to apply limestone

    • Paul Tukey

      Brian,
      You soil pH is high. Too high. I would spend as much money as you can on good compost for your lawn, which will add biological activity and moderate your pH. I’ll have additional recommendations as time allows.

      • Brian

        Paul,

        Do you have any more recommendations for my lawn (you mentioned you have more as time allows)?

        I found a source of good quality compost, but am waiting for the rain to to stop so the compost drys enough to be transported to my house.

        I though I’d de-thatch, aerate, apply the compost top dressing, and then mix some compost and my grass seed together with a broadcast spreader to overseed my thin lawn.

        In the mean time, I have been manually pulling out the dandelions.

        Any advice? Perhaps more calcium?

  • Brian

    Paul,

    did you ever test Eco-Lawn and the High Country Gardens No Mow selections side by side this year in a cost/performance comparison?

    Brian

    • Brian

      Paul,

      Are yo still answering the ask-a-questions?

      Best,

      Brian

    • Paul Tukey

      Brian,
      We will be conducting side-by-side tests this year, but they have not yet been completed on Eco-Lawn etc.
      PT

  • Diane M Olson Schmidt

    Is there any Corn Gluten that is certified Organic or is labled as non-GMO corn? Please e mail me at lacewing@nase.org. Now that Espoma has joined safelawns network, I have noticed that the Espoma Corn Gluten is labeled as ‘Organic’, but is it non-GMO Corn or labeled as non-GMO corn?
    I saw no organic certification nor the label on the package. I also noticed that the Espoma brand of Corn Gluten tends to be more powderly and not as granulated, which I did not like.

    • Paul Tukey

      Diane,
      I am not aware of any organically certified corn gluten because of the GMO issue, but I will check with Espoma to be sure.
      PT

  • Janice Walden

    On Friday 18 Feb, my son developed hives for the second time in his life while kneeling and playing in school uniform pants on his school sports field. It was a bright, sunny day, around 1pm. The hives developed all over his upper body and started to subside after coming inside and using cold compression. I had to take him home.

    The very next Friday, 25 Feb, at the same time under the same activity conditions, he developed hives again. Again, I had to pick him up, bring him home, give him Claritin.

    After a couple of weeks of slow response from the school, I finally received an answer from the school’s lawn care contractor: “Good morning Janice. The last application of materials we put on the sports field was on Oct 20, 2010 which included some 21-0-0 fertilizer and some Award Insecticide for fire ants control. Please let me know if you need anything else.”

    The contractor wouldn’t identify his chemicals by name because, according to him, it was provided by the wholesaler in big batches.

    I am wondering if there is any connection between my son’s hives and a chemical treatment 4 months earlier? We have had a dry, warm winter in Houston and less than 4 inches of rain this year.

    Any insight and/or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • Paul Tukey

      I would take him to a dermatologist and bring the clothes he was wearing and grab a sample of turf and soil from the field and see what answers you get in that direction. There may well have been a treatment that you’re just not being told about.
      PT

    • Michele

      I’ve talked to other parents who’ve had the same concerns. I wish the schools, especially elementary, would just leave the lawns natural if they can’t afford organics.

  • sdy

    What is the safest choice pesticide instead of Roundup for home use like lawn/landscaping weeding? Southern CA

  • http://healthyhappylawns.com John

    I have been treating lawns with organics for over 35 years. I presently take care of 800 residentallawns plus private schools, parks etc. In all those years, I never had to core aerate, de-thatch or applied compost to my lawns. I’ve used many organic soil builders etc and my lawns are A-Plus. My customer loss rate is 2%.

  • http://healthyhappylawns.com John

    To SDY, You can use instead of Round-up, Burn-out, Natural avenger or weed pharm. also all of these contain vinegar/clove oil. They work excellent!

  • Phyllis Dozier

    I saw your slideshow on DailyGreen.com and wanted to comment but after many tries, gave up. Guess there was an error. Your information is just awesome and more people need to read this. Been there. Done that with the organic lawn and with awesome benefits. It acted as an air conditioner in the summer and helped to keep the air cleaner during the worst wildfire to hit San Diego. It also was rewarding to have a text-book lawn with many comments from lots of people. I learned quickly not to let anyone else mow my lawn and that they need to mow it at the right length at the right times of the year and as often as it should be, lest there be an opening for weeds to enter the picture. I am anxious to get your book. I live in the mountains now and unwanted grass is everywhere on the property along with weeds including mustard. Native plants are a hole different thought process and if the virgin soil is left undisturbed, there is no unwanted grass, weeds or erosion. People up here use riding mowers and weed whackers and the soil gets compacted. Thank you for being the right kind of guy and sharing things that make this a better place to live and I shall pass this information on to others including the information about your book.
    Phyllis Dozier

  • Duane

    Is mushroom soil an ok replacement for compost. I can’t find bulk compost in my area. I want put in on my yard and then overseed

    • Paul Tukey

      Duane,
      Absolutely, mushroom compost is fine.
      PT

  • cyndy

    I’m so sorry to post here, but I cannot tell where to ask a question. My question is as follows: I’ve been working here in a Chicago suburb to have our school board stop the use of pesticides on school properties. I’m frustrated, though, because what I really want is what Maine and Connecticut and other states seem to have: a statewide ban on the use of harmful pesticides on school properties.

    My question is, how do I start something statewide? Who would I contact? Is this something that needs to be done through a politician? I really want to make a bigger impact and get the whole state to stop this deadly practice. But I don’t have any idea where to begin.

    Any comments would be welcome,

    Thanks, Cyndy

    • DONELLE

      CYNDY, IM CERTAINLY NO AUTHORITY BUT ONE OF MANY, LIKE YOU,VALUE OUR CHILDREN AND THIER WELLBEING. I AM A GARDENER FOR A SCHOOL IN PENNSYLVANIA. I have been so impressed at how welcome my suggestions for organic campus maintenance as well as thier approval to apply methods on a results oriented manner. From teachers to administraters, all stop to ask.My greatest joy is thier interest in applying organics at home. I have had to present yearly budget proposals along with pros and cons listing every little detail as possible. Example: Milky spore cost is more than your average chemical yet the 10 yr protection(once established in lawn,2-3 yrs.)will save them the cost of applied chemicals for the next ten or so years. My suggestion for you to get started is perhaps ,start with one school. Gain interest.You then have a solid example to present your argument in a language they understand, Budget. And proof that it can work. If you try to appeal to thier concerns while maintaining your own integrity I have found rewards beyond my expectations.Another arguement can be made for the use of native plants on campus’ lower costs of upkeep. Benefits! Finally, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, you will find many friends in the teachers, administration and government as I have. People are not against organic they just need informed. I want to be clear that money is not thier only concern yet they too are bound by a job.

  • matt

    How well are your products working in your very own hometown of Cumberland Maine? What kind of response are you getting from your customers. Most importantly, how well does it work on Cumberland’s athletic fields?

  • Carol F.

    How long will I need to wait after using corn gluten before I can topdress and overseed my lawn? We are in our second year of renovating the lawn.

    • Paul Tukey

      Carol,
      Wait four to six weeks before seeding after applying corn gluten meal to your lawn.
      PT

  • Miguel Velazquez

    Any published timeline to start a chemical-free lawn. The articles here are great but I always seem to be scratching my head as to when to do what.

    Also Paul, who would you recommend in the Yarmouth, ME area for a consultation? I know you are just next door but I assume that you have your hands full spreading the message.

    Miguel

    • Paul Tukey

      Miguel,
      Call Pete Bottomley at Casco Bay SafeLawns. His contact info can be found under our Approved Contractors list under Resources.

      You can start anytime and now, spring, is the best time. We do have a month-by-month calendar of what to do in the book, The Organic Lawn Care Manual and also the How-To videos have that information.

      PT

  • Brian

    Paul,

    Is there a real difference the seed one picks for lawn overseeding?

    Could you gives some other reputable seed companies besides High Country, Eco-lawn and Pear’s Premium?

    Is there any good quality stuff at the big box stores? These seeds seem to be much cheaper than the three you have mentioned on this site.

    Thanks,

    Brian

    • Paul Tukey

      Brian,
      There are absolutely tremendous differences in lawn seed. Species (Bluegrass vs. Fescue) vary widely, as do cultivars within the species.

      When factoring the cost of anything, you need to examine the full equation. By going organic on your lawn care, you’re saving money on less mowing and watering, so even if the inputs cost a bit more, you’re typically saving a lot of money (and time).

      With these grass seeds, the cost per pound may be higher than the seed in the big box stores, but you’ll be mowing and watering less. So the rationale is that you’re saving a lot of money in the long run.

      In general, the slow-growing fescues featured in these earth-friendly mixes are more expensive than the bluegrass or other seeds found in the general mixes. Certainly there are other quality seeds available from companies like Jonathan Green or Pennington, but you should never shop on price alone.

      PT

      • Brian

        Thanks Paul.

        Since there is so much “green-washing” going on these days with retail products, I thought I’d check to see if there were any less costly products that are very similar in scope to High Country, Eco-lawn and Pear’s Premium, but without the added price.

        Good to know that Jonathan Green or Pennington measure up as well.

        • Paul Tukey

          Brian,
          I just got off the phone with Jackson Madnick, the founder of Pearls Premium seed. During our conversation I asked him to explain again how his seed functions to grow more slowly with deeper roots than other seed that might otherwise appear similar. What he found through years of experimentation is that the percentage of the species of grass in the blend ends up being very important. A symbiotic relationship occurs between the grasses and the soil that helps the overall lawn achieve the goals of slow, low growth, deep roots and drought tolerance.
          Hope that helps.
          PT

  • Brian

    Paul have you tried Gardens Alive’s All-Ways Greener Brand Grass Seed Mix?

    • Paul Tukey

      Brian, I have not tried this mix. GardensAlive is a good vendor, however.

  • Brian

    Paul,

    Are de-thatching blades for traditional rotatory lawnmowers just as good as de-thatcher machines (power rakes)?

    More importantly, do they do too much damage to a lawn?

  • Linda H.

    My current lawn is a mess – a combination of moss in the shaded areas under pines (acidic soil), crab grass and many other weeds, grubs, and large areas of dirt, plus a very uneven surface due to the felling of a few trees. I’d like to start over and already care for my very large perennial garden organically. I have watched the videos on Pearl’s premium and am sold on their product. I am unsure if I need to scrape off the entire surface and throw it in a compost pile and then spread screened loam/compost OR loosen the surface and rototil it and cover with screened loam/compost OR just cover the existing surface with several inches of screened loam/compost. I’m just not sure how to get started. I’m worried about the crabgrass and weeds emerging and the forsythias have already bloomed so I’ve missed the deadline for corn gluten (not to mention I don’t want to wait 6 weeks to lay seed). Any advice would be helpful. I started ripping up the side yard with a metal rake and it was difficult work and I don’t want to find out later I didn’t need to do that. Thanks for any help!

  • Dawn

    So, I live in Iowa and am looking for a safe lawn care provider. Any suggestions on where to find someone?

  • kim

    I have your organic lawn book and love it. Last year we had a really bad outbreak of grubs and moles!! We used beneficial nematodes in the early summer and fall and they worked wonders~ I would have not know about them except for your book! Thanks so much! Way better than milky spore.
    We have seen no grubs so far upon digging some holes. Our lawn is about an acre and now looks like a disaster ~bare spots, minimal clumping grass, dead weeds, thatch. Its not a lawn anymore!
    We are not sure where to start. All the grass (was only 5 years old to begin with) is now falling out of the lawn as I rake. There are old weeds that are being dethatched with rakes. I am guessing the grass was heavily damaged by grubs prior to us finding them.
    What is the best way for us to fix the mess

    1. Should we rake up and dethatch then seed and fertilize (we used organic fertilizer before)?
    2. Or should we compost over some (it’s a big area and we eventually want it all grass for the kids but might be too expensive to do at one time)?
    3. Do you think its okay to work in areas and stages or does the whole lawn need to be done at once? Will the weeds migrate over?
    4. Since its already almost may and we finally have no snow should we skip the corn gluten? Is that okay to apply in the fall?

  • http://inthegarden.marthastewart.com tony bielaczyc

    Hi there,

    My name is Tony Bielaczyc and I am a garden editor at Martha Stewart Living. I am also the host of our garden radio show on SIRIUS,Homegrown. I wanted to know if Paul was available to be a guest on the show next Tuesday, May 3rd. The show airs on Tuesdays at 9:00 am and Paul would be on for 2 20 minute segments talking all things turf grass with me and answering listener questions. Is this something he would be interested in? He can contact by my email address listed above.

    THANKS!

    Tony

  • Carol F.

    Paul,

    I have just read your information on NEEM for grub control. I was planning to use nematodes for a more immediate response to my grub problem as my milky spore powder application from last year has not yet controlled the situation. How would you compare Neem vs. nematodes?

    Thank you,
    Carol

    • Paul Tukey

      Carol F.,
      I have always had great response with beneficial nematodes for grubs provided I get the application timing correct, which is just before they emerge from the soil in the spring and then in the fall after the beetles lay their eggs (the best time of all). The water-soluble neem is a systemic treatment that is taken up by the roots of the grass. It acts as a repellent, an anti-feedent and also stops the insects from continuing their lifecycle. We began our first personal trial with this product last fall and will have more reports back, but the university trials have been positive thus far for NEEM and it is less expensive per square foot than the nematodes.
      PT

      • Carol F.

        Paul,
        Okay, thank you for the insight. I think NEEM sounds like a good approach for when we have more of a lawn system established—the grubs have eaten all of our grass, though! I was planning to put an application of nematodes down with the rain that is expected here these next couple of days, but now I’m hesitant in case I am too early with the timing. I just don’t want those pests eating up all of the new grass that I want to plant over the next couple of weeks. Do you have any ideas on this?
        Thank you for your time!

        • Carol F.

          P.S.

          I’ve discovered a container of “Bon-Neem” insecticidal soap concentrate in my garden supplies that I have not used yet. The active ingredient is not Azadirachtin as in the NEEM product you have recommended, but states “Potassium salts of fatty acids* /*derived from Neem seed oil.” It says nothing about being effective against grubs on the label.
          Any comments that you may have about this product would be much appreciated. Thank you!

          Carol

  • BD

    I’m planning for the first time to give my lawn a thin top dressing of compost. I had the compost delivered and it’s still a bit chunky. It doesn’t smell bad and isn’t steaming but I’m concerned that chunky compost might not be appropriate for a top dressing. Any advice? Thanks!

    • Paul Tukey

      Try as best you can to break up the chunks with a metal rake. Otherwise, in general, the chunks won’t hurt anything. They’ll break down quickly with rain and foot traffic etc.
      PT

  • Mary Ann

    Hi,

    My lawn needs a lot of help, but one particular problem I have is ANTS! A local lawn company suggested spraying with a chemical that kills ants, spiders, ticks, etc., but I want to find an organic solution. Any thoughts?

    Mary Ann

    • Wendy

      We too are experiencing a problem with ants this year. What started as a minor infestation several years ago only in certain dry sandy areas has now expanding into the main lawn itself. I plan on applying nematodes in another week or so when the nighttime temperatures are a little warmer and will probably use both Hb (for grubs) and Sc varieties. Will this address the ant problem? What other solutions are out there?

  • Mary

    Do we need to make sure lawn products are OMRI/USDA certified? I am looking at Firebelly’s lawncare in a box and wondering if it is truly organic and safe. If so, it sure seems simple.

    • Paul Tukey

      Mary,
      USDA or OMRI certification is never a bad thing, but absence of that approval doesn’t necessarily mean something isn’t organic. The approval process is time consuming and expensive, which is prohibitive for start-up companies. Sometimes the products are fundamentally safe, like corn gluten meal, but not allowed by OMRI because the corn may contain GMO material.
      PT

      • Mary

        Do you believe all of the components of the Firebelly product are safe?

        • Paul Tukey

          Mary,
          I no longer have first-hand knowledge of all the FireBelly products, but I’m certainly inclined to believe they are.
          PT

  • Carol Braham

    I am going to try Pearl’s premium low maintenance grass seed which I learned about from the safelawns.org website. They also sell a product called the Organic Water Wizard which is supposed to help keep your lawn hydrated. Do you know anything about this product? I apply compost tea and do not want to in any way jeopardize the tea’s benefits by adding a questionable product. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you!!

  • Eric Aranow

    I remember at the screening of A Chemical Reaction hearing that many of these pesticides and weedkillers do not break down in the composting process. But a friend found this on an Agricultural Extension site:

    http://compost.css.cornell.edu/faq.html#pesticide residues

    “Will composting break down pesticide residues?

    “Yes — the microbial decomposition that occurs during composting breaks down the types of pesticides currently on the market, and composting is sometimes used to degrade pesticide residues commercially. (Non-biodegradable pesticides such as DDT and chlordane are no longer allowed to be sold in the U.S.).”

    Can you recommend a definitive and respected reference to the contrary?

  • Brian

    Paul,

    Could Top sodding work for restoring a lawn–killing the weeds and replanting grass seed?

    This could be a lot easier than using herbicides to kill the weeds (strip the bank), raking up all the debris, and then seeding…..

    • Paul Tukey

      Brian,
      Absolutely, if you have enough top-soil and compost to cover over the newspaper.
      PT

  • Emilio Ernst

    Recently I was at an event supported by Project Evergreen. Your group and theirs seem to have common goals of beautifying and protecting the planet. When I asked them if they work with SafeLawns, they didn’t seem to know about you. But in case you don’t know of them, I think it could be a good alliance.
    Emilo Ernst

    • Paul Tukey

      Emilio,
      Project Evergreen is a classic “green-washing” organization that exists solely to make sure schools, the military etc. all have a favorable opinion of lawn chemicals. If you look at the Board of Directors of the organization (http://www.projectevergreen.com/about-project-evergreen/board-of-directors/), you’ll find a Who’s Who of executives who lobby at the state and federal level to the advancement of products like weed ‘n feed and Roundup, the very substances that we denounce. We would, however, love to have their bank account. Project Evergreen is funded by millions of dollars in donations from the likes of Scotts Miracle-Gro, Dow Chemical and many others.
      PT

  • Jerry

    Paul,

    I haven’t been able to find any organic lawn care companies in my area. The ones listed for Massachusetts on your site don’t service my town.
    Today I received an ad for Simply Safer Premium Lawn Care (Saferlawns.com) They state that they have both a organic based program and a fully organic program. They are in Rhode Island and massachusetts and serve my town. I read through their fully organic program and it looks good and looks to be truly organic. They also use nematodes for grub control and composting for top dressing.
    I’m on year four of organic lawn maintenance (5 years without chemicals). We were getting frustrated with the awful looking lawn. I used corn gluten this spring which didn’t eliminate the weeds however the lawn is dark green and the grass for a good amount of the lawn is really thick. Other areas are thin and weedy and the rest fell victim to grubs last year. But I am encouraged. I would really like to find a company that can take care of my lawn on a more consistent basis and do what really needs to be done.
    I had soil samples analyzed by UMass and went to a couple of garden centers in the area and they weren’t really able to help me determine what I needed.
    Have you heard of these people and does it look a company I should contact. What questions should I ask that would help me determine if i should use them or not?
    Thank you,
    Jerry

    • Paul Tukey

      Jerry,
      Where are you in Massachusetts?

  • Scott Morgan

    Hi Paul,

    The last two years I have had a weed that has given me fits, but I think I finally identified it: annual bluegrass. It’s just started to come up this year and did so last year as well when I had a heck of a time mowing with my reel mower. I got stuck because of not only the seed heads which cloged up the mower, but it also wouldn’t always cut the very thick stalks. I wondered for a bit if it was poa trivialis, but I think it is annua. Both of my neighbors have large white patches of the stuff that go right up to the property line, but mine seem more spread out and haven’t gone to seed in most cases. I’m guessing there is no way to control it other than overseeding, but in terms of mowing should I try to get the heads before they put out seed? If I do, should I try to collect them and get rid of them or can I just mow high and leave the clippings on the lawn as usual? I’d appreciate any help you can offer…I was in tears a couple times last year with how hard it was to mow!

    Best regards,
    Scott Morgan
    Fairport, NY

    • Paul Tukey

      Poa annua doesn’t really have thick stalks; it’s probably a barnyard grass. Either way, the grassy “weeds” are the most difficult. Digging or spraying with natural weed controls and then overseeding with your desired grass is about the only way to manage other grass species in your lawn.
      PT

  • john

    contacted a organic lawn care company that uses cool power and horse power, what are your thoughts on these products

  • Angela

    Paul,

    I am in the planning stage of my backyard and front lawn, which means eliminating the weeds. Is there a particular thickness of pond liner that works best? And what do you recommend after putting the pond liner down for a week or two to make sure the weeds don’t come back?

    • Paul Tukey

      Angela,
      I use 45 mil epdm pond liner; it’s the most readily available. Put down grass seed or seed or plugs for whatever plants you want in that area as soon as the weeds are dead.
      PT

  • Kipp Sullivan

    Just had an emergency broadcast on my cable tonight.. Holbrook, MA. A Hydroseeding company was hooked up to a Fire hydrant, and something happened and all the chemicals backed up into the hydrant and into the water supply.. And of course now our water is unsafe to drink cook with, brush our teeth, etc. Yeah, these chemicals are safe… yeah right. Paul your book has completely changed my life, I bought the documentary, and it too was inspiring. I am chemical free in the yard, and looking to apply that organic state of mind to all aspects of my life. Thank you for all you do. Would love to get more people around here to think the same way.

  • Paul K

    Hey Paul,

    Or anyone else, too.

    Any recommendations on a battery operated mower? We have 6000 sq. feet of grass to mow.

    Great site, thanks.

  • Cat

    Hi-
    I wonder if you know of any laws in Massachusetts governing the application of pesticides on lawns abutting protected wetlands? Also, do I have any rights (like prior notification) when my neighbors (on both sides!) use Chem Lawn?

    Thanks,

    Cat

    • Paul Tukey

      Cat,
      Unfortunately, no on the wetlands. Massachusetts does not require prior notification, except on school grounds. I do not believe Massachusetts has a pesticide registry, but I will check on this.
      PT

      • Cat

        Thanks so much- I’ve been trying to get those answers from the online EPA. I have been waiting four months for their answers.

        Keep up the good (and important work)

        Cat

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  • Paul Stankus

    Hi Paul –

    Thanks so much for your work. We’ve been following your program
    for the last three years and the results have generally been great!
    except for one problem: crabgrass. We live on Long Island, NY, and
    the main lawn gets full sun all day on our southern and western
    exposures. The turf is rich and springy, and we mow high in the
    summer, water attentively and did a core aeration by hand (or foot).
    So the lawn grass is in as good shape as you could ask for. And yet
    crabgrass keeps springing up, even in the middle of the densest
    parts of the lawn! I’d like to avoid using herbicides and have been
    trying to pull the stuff up by hand, but it seems like an endless job.
    So here’s the perennial question: do you have any organic advice
    for post-emergent crabgrass control? especially in the hot weather
    season. Thanks, it would really be appreciated.

    • Paul Tukey

      Paul,

      This product is probably worth a try. I don’t have a lot of trial data for grasses in this climate, but plan to order some in myself to do some tests up here in the Northeast: http://www.sanjacorganic.com/Horticultural/WeedControl/herbi.htm#agra.

      • Paul Stankus

        Paul — Thanks! very much for the recommendation for the crabgrass control product. I will try it and let you know how it works.

        I’ll mention that the crabgrass killer seems kind of expensive at $20/200 sqft, but I hope that better control this year will lead to less of a problem next year. Interestingly, the San Jacinto link describes the product as “Agralawn is a combination of cinnamon, cumin, baking soda and yellow flower”. If it works, then perhaps you can devise a do-it-yourself recipe?

  • Brian

    Paul,

    Is there a concrete driveway/patio cleaner that isn’t harmful to grass or plants? Will vinegar work well?

    Additionally, despite some natural remedies, I am still having problems with carpenter ants in my house…Is there something you recommend for taking these buggers out so they don’t invade my house?

    • Paul Tukey

      Brian, Second question first . . . ECOSMART has a safe, effective insect control that works well against carpenter ants. I’m not as familiar with patio cleaners, but let me do some digging around.

      Sorry for the delay in answering. Your question slipped through the proverbial cracks.

  • Li

    My HOA board has agreed to having the community landscaper place large signage prior to pesticide application in the community so families can take precautions to protect themselves.
    However, they are still not on board with going organic citing cost as a reason. They stated that the NaturaLawns in our areas says the going organic will cost about 50% more, for our community, $50,000 and that there is only a 10% savings in cost after 10 years. What can I go back to them with? I’m thinking of asking from them to leave certain areas of the lawn natural, especially where kids play. But what other solutions can I bring them? Any ideas would be helpful. Thanks!

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  • http://www.sprinklersystemstore.com Sprinkler Buff

    I am having some issues with Sand Burrs; are you familiar? I have bermuda grass in my front and back yards. These evil stickers have been sprouting up. I’ve heard of a product called MSMA that is supposed to kill them. I’m worried about my dog, however because MSMA may be harmful. Do have any other advice?
    Also, I’d be interested in doing a guest blog post for you some time. I have a blog of my own. http://www.sprinklerjuice.com. Have a look and let me know!
    -Thanks!

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  • Cat

    Hi-
    It is always so nice to read questions/comments on this site- it is proof that there are other people who care about a healthy world :)

    We live in eastern Mass. and have a lawn that has been organic for 6 years now. We have had problems with grubs in the past and have used nematodes to address active grubs. We have also put down milky spore three years in a row. This year we did not use nematodes (I usually put them down near the end of July) but we saw no signs of grubs and because I thought the milky spore would have had time to “set-up”. Now it seems that we have grubs again– the grass is easily pulled up over an area of about 200 sq. ft. Is it too late to use the nematodes? What would you recommend for us?

    Thank you,

    Cat

  • angela

    Hi Paul,

    I am planning to replace my backyard lawn area which is overgrown with creeping and tall weeds with groundcover like blue star creeper or golden creeping speedwell. As I am not very experienced in landscaping, what do you recommend would be best to remove the actual lawn/weedy meadow (sod cutter?) and whats the best steps I need to prepare to plant the groundcover and ensure it prospers. Any tips will be much appreciated.

    Thanks

    Angela

  • eric

    I am trying desperately to not spray my lawn with weed killer anymore, and I was about to buy corn gluten meal when I read the article here saying it is ineffective as weed control…

    Can somebody please give me better alternatives for weed control (pre- and post-emergent) that will keep my lawn safe for my kids to play on? I live in Zone 10, and with all the rain, dollarweed, gooseweed, and crabgrass is running rampant now.

    Also, is a weed control product with only Atrazine still considered unsafe?

  • Brian

    Do you still respond to questions on this site anymore? it’s been about 5 months since we have heard a response from you….

  • Karla

    Hello! Wondering if using an Iron product to green up the lawn initially when switching from a chemical -based system to an all natural system is still okay? My region also has LOTS of moss in the winter spring…wondering what is a good solutiom that is good for the soil for excessive moss? There is normally lots of moss, not just a little bit…….thanks!

    K

  • Deb

    How do I safely get rid of Scale bugs on my tomatoe plants without using pesticides.

  • Brad

    Paul, my town recently treated a local pond with Reward / diquat to control aquatic weeds.  I fish in the pond often (don’t eat the fish) and my kids swim in it from time to time.  Can you tell me about Reward / diquat?  The pond was closed for 3 days during the treatment.  I’m not so comfortable wading into the water now.

  • Madeline Loder

    Suddenly, my beautiful lawn has a few big yellow spots where the grass lost it’s color. At first I thought it was from a gas spill…..I was ready to fire the landscapers, but there was no petroleum smell. Any idea? Please help. Thanks.

  • Ecofriendlymom

    Hi!  I live in Michigan and I’ve had an organic lawn for about 4 or 5 years, just fertilizing and hand-weeding.  For some reason this year with the weather getting warm so early and then the killing frosts, my grass seems to be struggling this year.  The soil is seeming dry and compacted in most areas, weeds thriving and grass struggling despite my adding gypsum twice to loosen the soil.  I seeded late in the season and the new grass came up but its getting sparse and weedy, compared to last years thick tall lawn.  I water almost every day.  I thought maybe grubs but checked 3 locations and only found one.  Should I try nematodes or milky spore?  I have a toddler and a cat and want to do whatever is safest for them…Thanks!

    PS  I have noted in some areas that the soil has some white spiderweb-type substance on it and some has moss…my grass is at 4 inches.

  • Ecofriendlymom

    I know in Michigan I have my daughter on the Pesticide Registry through the Dept of Ag and you have to get your doctor to give you a form that says it aggravates your allergies, sinuses, etc.  Hope that helps.

  • Bob Grove

    We are a small Village in Ohio with fantastic water and I as the water operator would like to keep it that way.  We were runner-up in the 2010 Ohio Rural Water taste test. Do you have any sample ordinances that would ban the use of (1) lawn chemicals and (2) Ag chemicals? ( we have several acres within the Village limits that are farm fields.) 
    Did I mention that our aquifer is right under the Village, with 20-30 feet to water in most places.
    Your help would be appreciated.
    Thanks
    Bob Grove
    Stockport, Ohio

  • Holly

    We have lots of clover in the lawn this year. it typically doesn’t bother us. However, the kids are getting stung by the bees that enjoy the flowers. Is there any way to safely reduce the number of flowers to prevent this from happening to our kids?

  • http://www.facebook.com/martha.b.moore.9 Martha Belden Moore

    are organic fert. acceptable under the new law in new york “The Child Safe Playing Field Act” ?

  • http://www.facebook.com/martha.b.moore.9 Martha Belden Moore

    are organic fert. acceptable under the new law in new york “The Child Safe Playing Field Act” ?

  • Joe

    Paul, we were given 2 hydranges as a gift. Not sure where to plant them, or
    just what to do with them. We were told they are very difficult to deal with. They are in planters, about a foot high 10 to 12 inches wide..We have clay soil and we live in central Ohio about 50 miles west of Columbus. We have lots of trees on 5 acres plus there is a lot of sun if needed! Hope this helps.

    Thank you for your time.
    Love your articles.
    We areslowly turning organic.

    Joe and Paula Reed

    • http://www.safelawns.org/ Paul Tukey

      Joe and Paula, Are these hardy hydrangeas or what one would call florist hydrangeas?

  • Schnedavid

    I am searching for a place to move that has a ban on chemical herbicides and pesticides. Please help me find these places. The web is pretty useless in this regard.

    Thanks! David

  • Schnedavid

    I am searching for a place to move that has a ban on chemical herbicides and pesticides. Please help me find these places. The web is pretty useless in this regard.

    Thanks! David

  • http://www.safelawns.org/ Paul Tukey

    Joe and Paula, Are these hardy hydrangeas or what one would call florist hydrangeas?

  • Faith

    Part of our back yard sits directly down hill from our neighbors who used to have their yard sprayed with pesticides. This year their yard maintenance company spread granulated pesticides on their lawn. Once in the spring and again this past week. Our yard has a wood fence around it and I have done what I thought would help keep their pesticides from spreading to our yard by using large edging rocks and mulch as a barrier. My son has always been very sensitive to pesticides (2-4 D) and this year he is getting rashes on his exposed skin if he plays in grass. Mostly if he “rolls” in it. He also has an allergy to grass, but has never had a topical reaction like this before. Could it be our dry weather and dry grass that is causing him problems this year or do you think our neighbors granulated pesticides could somehow be affecting him? What is the best way to protect your yard from your neighbors pesticide applications?

  • Faith

    Part of our back yard sits directly down hill from our neighbors who used to have their yard sprayed with pesticides. This year their yard maintenance company spread granulated pesticides on their lawn. Once in the spring and again this past week. Our yard has a wood fence around it and I have done what I thought would help keep their pesticides from spreading to our yard by using large edging rocks and mulch as a barrier. My son has always been very sensitive to pesticides (2-4 D) and this year he is getting rashes on his exposed skin if he plays in grass. Mostly if he “rolls” in it. He also has an allergy to grass, but has never had a topical reaction like this before. Could it be our dry weather and dry grass that is causing him problems this year or do you think our neighbors granulated pesticides could somehow be affecting him? What is the best way to protect your yard from your neighbors pesticide applications?

  • Schnedavid

    Is there any place in the US that has laws on the books prohibiting herbicides and /or pesticides? Please help me find these places.

  • April

    I need to reseed my cool season lawn, and I would like to use a hard or chewings fescue blend. I also would like to find a blend without endophytes, but I’m not having any luck, even with they retailers suggested on this site. Has it been determined that endophytes are safe for all animals, soil and water? We live near the woods and I don’t want to harm the wild animals that frequent our yard, nor do I want to introduce new organisms into the soil. Thanks for any information you might have!

  • April

    I need to reseed my cool season lawn, and I would like to use a hard or chewings fescue blend. I also would like to find a blend without endophytes, but I’m not having any luck, even with they retailers suggested on this site. Has it been determined that endophytes are safe for all animals, soil and water? We live near the woods and I don’t want to harm the wild animals that frequent our yard, nor do I want to introduce new organisms into the soil. Thanks for any information you might have!

  • AJ

    I have what i think is creeping buttercup EVERYWHERE! It is spreading to my neighbors yards. It spreads faster than i can pull it. Any ideas out there?

  • AJ

    I have what i think is creeping buttercup EVERYWHERE! It is spreading to my neighbors yards. It spreads faster than i can pull it. Any ideas out there?

  • L’Tanya

    How do you suggest you treat spots on the lawn where a dog urinates? I’ve read about a few products, but none that are safe for the lawn.

  • Michael VanderWall

    How do I convert a large (35×20 feet) garden into Lawn?
    I’m thinking…. Mowing, roto-tilling, raking out weeds and unwanted flowers, then applying RoundUp, letting it set til spring, then planting grass. My wife thinks weeding by hand is the only way to go. That seems arduous and too time consuming. RoundUp seems kind of eco-unfriendly. What are your thoughts? Thanks so much.

    • Be Pono

      I know that it is nine months later but, why would you do something like that? Please tell me this is a joke! Your wife and you should plant up the garden every spring, work outside, don’t use pesticides (especially roundUp), mulch, compost, raise worms, be healthy and happy! I hope this helps! and have a great day

    • StevieCW

      My thoughts are that you are completely daft if you want to use Roundup.

  • Kate in Maryland

    In the spring, how do you sequence grass seeding with the application of corn gluten for pre-emergent weed control? I’m battling a crabgrass infestation this fall (removing it, aerating, top dressing, overseeding large bare patches) and expect more will need to be done in spring. Thanks for your help.

  • John Hall

    I avoid all lawn chemicals and my lawn has been doing fine. I just noticed, however, that 2 yard diameter patch turned brown and died. Then I noticed that the turn just lifted off the ground like a blanket. No roots. I also noticed that some critters (squirrels? woodchuck? not sure) have been digging little holes (2 inch diameter, 1.5 inches deep) in that same area. Is some kind of grub killing the roots? What should I do? I have some organic compost and can replant, but what caused this and what do I do without administering harmful chemicals? Thanks.

  • John Hall

    I avoid all lawn chemicals and my lawn has been doing fine. I just noticed, however, that 2 yard diameter patch turned brown and died. Then I noticed that the turn just lifted off the ground like a blanket. No roots. I also noticed that some critters (squirrels? woodchuck? not sure) have been digging little holes (2 inch diameter, 1.5 inches deep) in that same area. Is some kind of grub killing the roots? What should I do? I have some organic compost and can replant, but what caused this and what do I do without administering harmful chemicals? Thanks.

  • Don Massara

    I would like to build “a better compost bin” for shady backyard. My present bin is extremely slow in breaking down waste material. Are there any examples of “award winning” compost bins that I can use? Thanks for hosting this site.

  • Don Massara

    I would like to build “a better compost bin” for shady backyard. My present bin is extremely slow in breaking down waste material. Are there any examples of “award winning” compost bins that I can use? Thanks for hosting this site.

  • monsantokills

    Please help! I live in an apartment complex and the maintenance crew
    just sprayed weed killer around every sidewalk and building…wherever
    they would normally have to use a weed eater. I cringe every time I look
    at the lawn because so many children, including mine, have to walk
    through and some play in the same grass they have sprayed! How can I
    approach our manager and calmly tell her how dangerous pesticides are
    without making her mad? Do you have any specific articles in mind that I
    could print off and take to her? Also how can I detox my children from
    these chemicals(They have sprayed literally the entire bus stop!)Thank
    you for your help this is really a nightmare.

  • Tracy in Indiana

    I recently moved and would like to start organic lawncare. It’s currently fall. Should I apply anything or wait until spring. Nothing has been put on the lawn since I purchased the house in April. I live in Indiana.

  • TAB Upstate NY

    RE use of a siphon to spray compost teas or liquid fertilizers: I believe in the past you have mentioned that this is best done using well water, and not chlorinated municipal water, at least as far as the tea goes. Would chlorine really degrade the tea given the relatively brief exposure as the city water carries out out through the hose to a sprinkler? And I thought aeration eliminates the chlorine?

    Let us know because most of us are not on well water

    I’d like to set up same rain barrels just to avoid this problem

    • http://www.safelawns.org/ Paul Tukey

      It’s hard to quantify “brief exposure.” Chlorine is definitely not good for compost tea, which is full of living organisms. If you can let the water stand for a day after exposure to chlorine that would be better.

  • Keith

    Why do you have Milorganite as a sponsor? Have they found a way to remove the heavy metals, endocrine disruptors, and pharmaceuticals? If they haven’t, consider abandoning them.

    • http://www.safelawns.org/ Paul Tukey

      I personally toured the Milorganite factory in Milwaukee two years ago and analyzed their processes for which they monitor potential contaminants. I came away enormously impressed that they do everything possible to keep the product clean — and that Milorganite serves as a model for other municipalities. In the past, when contaminant levels have risen, they have self-policed by shutting down the plant and taking product off the market. I think their integrity level is impeccable.

  • Alyssa

    WRT Boulder U of Colorado’s “Green” Campus grounds… Did you find out anything about the initial costs to set up and apply the Compost Tea and to how many acres? Could you find out about this and make mention? Also, are they planting clover and a mix of grasses and are they leaving in some of the plantains and dandelions for aerating? Did they aerate as well?

    • http://www.safelawns.org/ Paul Tukey

      Alyssa,
      As time allows, we will transcribe the long visit with the University of Colorado and use this information as the basis for future posts here. Yes, they aerate frequently and generally find cultural practices (watering, mowing, aeration etc.) to be essential to maintaining a predominantly grass surface on the campus. As for costs, those “Cadillac” compost tea units cost about $4,000 apiece and the plumbing costs varies. The cost of the change-out of the filter heads on the sprinkler system was fairly miniscule.

  • KC

    I was listening to a morning radio show on Sundays that is hosted by the owner of a prestigious garden nursery located on the North Shore of Long Island NY. He was giving advice to a caller asking about lawn care and weeds. He advised, without nary a hesitation, to use the dreaded R product. Yep, Round Up. I was disappointed and angry at the same time. What would be the best approach to educate and inform this center that has been in business and successful for decades.

    Thanks
    Karen

    • http://www.safelawns.org/ Paul Tukey

      Karen,
      If you do a keyword search on the homepage of SafeLawns.org and type in Roundup you’ll find all sorts of articles about the product’s toxicity. Share some of those with that host and ask him how he can defend Roundup in the face of all the science that provides it’s massive toxicity.

  • krsksti

    Is here a scheduled screening in Sacramento, California?

    • http://www.safelawns.org/ Paul Tukey

      Krsksti,
      Not yet! But you’d be welcome to put one together and we’d be happy to help.

      • krsksti

        I would really like to see the movie. Is it available to purchase? I belong to the EcoLandscape association here in town and am currently attending the Green Gardner Training Program. I would love to be an advocate for this movie if it works out. If I can get a copy of the movie that woudl be great.

  • http://www.safelawns.org/ Paul Tukey

    David,
    I’m glad you liked the book. Here’s a link to our post about the hozon sprayer: http://www.safelawns.org/blog/2012/10/the-simplest-way-to-apply-fertilizer/. And I’m not sure that particular compost tea machine is available, but here’s a link to some small machines recommended by Dr. Elaine Ingham: http://www.simplici-tea.com/

  • http://www.facebook.com/kathleen.haisley Kathleen Haisley

    Have you put “AgPhD” on your TIVO list? The Hefty Brothers provide an amazing education on what to spray crops with this week, and the ads show the lexus spraying machines. Its a good education on how farmers with good education and integrity do not have the mission of protecting human health. Their job is to raise food in abundant and sufficient quantities so we can all get enough to eat.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/ORPWDZFSM62U2DGOMKZREDYJ2I Terrie

    Why has Oregon banned the sale of Ringer Lawn Restore fertilizer? I have used it for many years and bought it at my local feed company. They said it was something about having phosphorous in it or something…

  • http://www.facebook.com/elizabeth.feuer.3 Elizabeth Feuer

    I’d like to redo my lawn next year. I have about 15,000 sq. ft. in central New Jersey. The soil is quite sandy and low in organic matter. Currently, the lawn is about 90% weeds, a mix of varieties. In the shady areas it is smart weed, creeping Charlie, and Indian strawberry. The sunny areas are heavily infested with Bermuda grass.

    Ideally, I would like to transition to an organic lawn, but I am not sure there is any way to kill what is there without chemicals. In fact, I understand that getting rid of the Bermuda grass is difficult even with chemicals. I am prepared to spend a few months eliminating weeds next summer, but I am not sure of the best way to do that. Afterwards, I would like to add 3 to 4 inches of compost or a mixture of compost and topsoil before reseeding.

    I would appreciate any advice about how to eliminate the Bermuda grass. Also, I have heard that Roto Tilling can cause unevenness because the tiller reaches the lower level of the soil unevenly. However, I do not see any way to incorporate the compost without using the tiller.

  • Ilene hemingway

    Will peanut grass thrive in a shady area?

  • http://twitter.com/MimseeBorogoves FrumiousBandersnatch

    What is the average amount of pesticides and fertilizer used for lawns by Americans each year?

  • http://www.facebook.com/Scott.Eward.Reynolds Scott Reynolds

    I’m thinking about replacing my lawn with an edible ground cover. I live in NC zone 7 had have red clay soil. Do perennial peanut product a nut, is it different from the Virginia peanut that is grown for food

  • http://www.facebook.com/SuzanneKelly27 Suzanne Kelly

    Dear Mr Turkey, I write from Aberdeen, where a certain New York Tycoon has taken over an environmentally-sensitive area of coastline to create ‘the world’s greatest golf course’. I visited this course twice – part of it had eroded into the sea on my first visit. On my second visit – vast areas of green had been spray-painted blue, but it was clear to me that sand (this course is amid sand dunes) was blowing onto the greens. I am concerned about the chemicals being used to grow turf amid the sand and used to dye it blue-green. Are commonly used dyes safe for people and wildlife? Any thoughts welcome

  • Nora

    What if percentage of worldwide lawns are currently sustainble, low-impact lawns?

  • RA Hendrickson

    My lawn is heavily shaded by hickory trees. I’m worried that growing it long and mulching in the clippings would smother the soft thin grass blades. Should your method be modified for shady lawns?

  • Gerilee Vail

    My employer Western Illinois university does not post chemical usage and right now they are trying to force me to spray even though we are touting sustainability and I have health and community concerns. Please help me fight to keep my convictions, health and job!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005434682495 Facebook User

    I have bahai grass. When we moved into the house we purchased about a year ago – it was overgrown with weeds knee height. I was able to find a solution in killing those weeds with a strong herbicide. But now that my grass is settled it’s starting to have those weeds push back through and I just want to know whats the best way to keep the weeds from coming back and how to kill the ones there right now?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005434682495 Facebook User

    I have bahai grass. When we moved into the house we purchased about a year ago – it was overgrown with weeds knee height. I was able to find a solution in killing those weeds with a strong herbicide. But now that my grass is settled it’s starting to have those weeds push back through and I just want to know whats the best way to keep the weeds from coming back and how to kill the ones there right now?

  • Charlene Pilon

    I just purchased Johnathon Green organic fertilizer with corn gluten to control pre-emergent weeds. The price was very high, having increased $20/50 lb bag since last year. The vendor said it had something to do with tariffs on corn gluten. What’s going on with corn gluten and is it worth the price i.e. does it work? If this question has already been answered elsewhere on this site, please direct me. Thanks.

  • Jwoodman1265@gmail.com

    My lawn in coastal RI is nothing more than 1-3 inches of loam spread over glacial till, which is sand, gravel ands rocks. It won’t hold water, and my roots are only 1-2 inches deep. Can I plug aerate with all those rocks are so close to the surface? Can I just top dress with compost and use compost tea to build a healthy soil on top of what I have now? I appreciate any tips you can offer. Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/tomarthur01 Tom Arthur

    I’m trying to find someone in the Lansing, MI area that can help me with organic lawn care, but I’m having a hard time finding anyone who takes it all the way. They provide organic fertilizer but not organic herbicide. Any suggestions?

  • Becky Schmid

    Does anyone know if “Go Green Lawn Services” is safe for children? We are new homeowners and are about to sign up for their services and I went with them because they claim to be organic. But is this safe for our kids? We have 2 little ones and we are clueless when it comes to lawn care. THanks

  • Carol

    With our long winter, our dog has created lots of tannnish colored spots, no doubt from her urine. Do I need to dig the dead spots out or can I apply something to neutralize the damage?

    • allan of islay

      two table spoons of tomato sauce in dog food every meal, alters ph of urine, no spots and your dog will like it

  • Brandy

    We bought a house with a horrible yard. There are huge bare patches, and in late summer it was overgrown with dandelions. If we put down a pre-emergent weed preventer…. we can’t seed. If we seed… the weeds will take over again this year. So what should do??

  • J Hutcheson

    Hi. We live in New England and are part of a community that contracts for lawn treatment, including the application of herbicides. Some of the lots border wetlands and we recently learned that our state prohibits broadcast application of herbicides within 25 ft. of these areas. As an alternative, would natural products like corn gluten be acceptable?

  • Name

    I live in Tokyo and have a Japanese Sugar Maple. It was originally green….last year it turn beautiful red and then in winter the leaves fell…this year no leaves…it is spring here so what can I do to promote growth? What vitamins are good for it?

  • Dog Nut

    I live in Wells, Me. and have a large fenced-in yard for our 3 dogs. The soil is very sandy (raspberries love it) with mostly full sun, with pines along the edges. Grubs wiped out a good part of what grass was there. What to do? I’m looking for an eco-friendly, low maint. lawn that can stand up to the dogs, and harsh conditions…..is there such a thing? Help!

  • http://www.facebook.com/geoff.kirwan Geoff Kirwan

    Toronto, Ontario. And it’s not working great, my kids play soccer all over dandelion fields.

    • StevieCW

      What a pity there, mate. Kids playing in dandelions….. Tragedy.

  • Elisabeth Cleveland

    I’m working with a lawn care company to aerate, top dress (with topsoil), and overseed my lawn. The company has recommended using Natural Origins Organics 5-4-4 fertilizer when they put down the grass seed. I want the grass seed to grow, but I have 2 small children, and my top priority is keeping lawn chemicals away from them. Is this fertilizer safe to use around them? I don’t trust that it’s safe just because it says it’s organic. Also, I’ve tried to find a reliable source of compost to apply instead of fertilizer, but I can’t find one. Any recommendations would be appreciated.

    • Jeff Stout

      Try to find someone who owns just one or two cows or horses and ask for their manure. The smaller the scale of farm- the better chance that they won’t use expensive chemicals on the hay they feed them.

  • Paula

    A month or so ago I built a raised fruit and vegetable garden in my backyard that is 16ft long and 8ft wide. Recently, my husband went in the garden and sprayed one or two ant hills with Raid Ant Killer. I freaked. I called Raid and they said since the plants around the area where he sprayed are young and have not produced any foods yet it will probably be safe to eat (as long as the fruits/veggies don’t grow for another 4 weeks).

    Then, today, he went and pulled weeds in our yard and sprayed Spectracide (?) in near garden beds to kill the weeds. Some of these beds are close to the vegetable garden and now I’m concerned as to whether or not these fruits and vegetables will even be okay to eat ever.

    I thought about calling Cooperative Extension to see if they could help in any way.

    Help please!

  • jack Nunn

    I need a weed killer that will not harm plants if some of the weed killer would be spayed on. Is there such a product?

  • StevieCW

    Your advice is lame, Peter. Absolutely no pesticides are needed on lawns. No toxic chemicals of any kind are needed…..ever.

  • Tom Arthur

    My local farm supply store has fifty pound bags of corn gluten in plain brown bags with no instructions on them. How many square feet will fifty pound bags cover?

  • ventelations

    Paul- do you think your lawn can be even more taken over by weeds after it being treated? I think my lawn was previously treated with weed killer and not it’s the worse lawn in the neighborhood with weeds?!? Coincidence?

  • Dave

    How do you get rid of ant hills? I have a few in my lawn….

  • Tracey A. Serle

    What is the best way to get rid of Japanese stilt grass? I have spent too much of my life in the last few years trying to pull it up by hand and that is not working. I am considering killing it with black plastic and replanting, killing it with newspaper overlaid with mulch and overplanting, or treating the infestations with whatever will make the soil NOT friendly to it. I just don’t know what that would be (calcium? lime? nitrogen?).

  • LHW

    What steps should we take to get our town to ban harmful lawn chemicals/pesticides?

  • janet austin

    i saw a news report with you an cindy williams about neem (azasol) and i need direction with application to fight japanese beetles.

  • Maureen

    My yard is covered in large oak trees. What can I do to get a lawn or other soft ground cover that grows under it.

  • MikeT

    My lawn is very low in Potassium (~50ppm). What is the safest way to increase it?

  • HonestIsNotEasy

    Should all bare spots be reseeded, even in summer? We got a good lawn started on a scruffy Rhode Island yard this spring, thought some spots remained bare. It didn’t matter so much in May and early June, when the long nearby grass spilled over into it, but after the July sun, the dog, the squirrels, the lawn is looking very patchy now. Should I have been reseeding bare spots all along?

  • Graebeard

    Greetings from Toronto, Ontario. A couple of years ago the province banned Weed n Feed and similar products so we’re overrun with dandelions and crabgrass. To make life more interesting, my next door neighbor cares nothing about his lawn (read that as weed patch) so I need advice on how to deal with my lawn.
    From what I’ve seen on Paul’s videos and other readings, I think I need a Fall and Spring Initiatives.
    For the Fall, am I correct in cutting the lawn short and over-seeding?
    For the Spring, am I correct in top dressing with good topsoil and over-seeding?
    What fertilizer(s) and when should they be used?
    Any assistance or suggestions would be welcome
    Thanks,
    Grae

  • marcia meyers

    how can i safely and sanely manage the edge of my gravel & dirt driveway? it is boardered by a combination of lawn and garden beds. the strips alongside the driveway are overrun with weeds that outcompete the lawn grass and move into the planting beds. i won’t use toxics (unsafe) and weeding by hand is laborious and not very effective (insane). Any suggestions? Rennovate the lawn and hope for the best? or maybe a tough ground cover to outcompete the weeds?

  • Jul Nauman

    What is the safest and best way to get rid of mature weeds?

  • Kara Sherk

    We bought a house with a half acre of lawn that is basically nothing but weeds (Nimble Well, Violets, Dandelions and Clover). I don’t want to use chemicals, but every company that comes out suggests that we spray. Is there anything else that can be done, other than ripping out the existing lawn and re-seeding?

  • Diane Scanzaroli Blackett

    I am wondering how to go about finding out what pesticides a used in my city parks (Denver). I see little flags in the park stating that “pesticides” have been sprayed. I am outraged that a supposed “green” city like Denver would use pesticides in order for our grass to be dandelion free.

  • Linda Gibbs

    how can I screen A Chemical Reation in my home town to influence our city parks to go organic?

  • Nadia

    Hi, can I purchase this film for Australia? your store only give me the option for Canada and USA? I would like to purchase a copy of Chemical reaction, small community screen, 2-50 people, 5 times, $ 300?

  • Denise Haysbrook

    Hi There, We have a new property and I have recently planted a butterfly landscape along the edge of the house. It is mulched and then we have St Augustine Grass against the mulch. The lawn
    needs fertilizer and weed control. Is there a safe product for this on the market. Butterfly friendly?

  • Robin

    Have their been any correlations between pesticide use and brain cancer?

  • http://www.EnviroColor.com Chris Watkins

    Paul, My company is revolutionizing the way we see and maintain beautiful pine straw, hardwood mulch and even turf. We’re 100% chemical free, 100% natural and drastically reducing the amount of natural resources necessary to obtain and maintain envy worthy curb appeal. I’d like to get your feedback on what we are doing. How do I go about doing that? You can reach me a cwatkins@envirocolor.com. Thanks so much and I hope to hear from you soon!

  • Don Webb

    What organic method/products can I use to grow a healthy lawn in clay soil?

  • Kory Love

    This year I decided to use a local company to spray and fertilize my yard. Within 24 hours of the first treatment of weedkiller, my 105lb dog was laying on her side unable to move with heavy drooling and bloodshot eyes. Two hours later she died at the Vet from toxic poisoning. Could this be a result of ingesting the weedkiller. It was the treatment that leaves the green tint on your grass but I’m not sure exactly which brand. Thanks for any input anyone may have.

  • Diba

    Hi
    Im new at gardening cant recognize the pests from the damage they cause. Garden shop not helping properly, just selling products.
    I have some pix of the problems. Pls help.

  • greg

    My company is transitioning from conventional lawn care to organic. I am looking for a recommendation for a granular bio-stimulant that can be applied with a Lesco spreader. I would also like to know what companies sell granular Acelepryn in Connecticut

  • Maria B

    My Flower Mound (Dallas area) lawn has been replaced with annual bluegrass. My yard is small, but 80-90% is the bluegrass. Ive read about the bluegrass and it looks like it will die off over the summer (I’m hoping!), which would leave me with a mostly empty lawn. I would like to use corn gluten meal as a pre-emergent in the fall, and would like to reseed with Habiturf, but am worried about the ability of the Habiturf seed to grow after using the corn gluten. Is this a reasonable plan? Are there other, natural alternatives that might control the bluegrass? And are there any tips for encouraging the success of this plan? Any of the commercial pesticides I’ve read about that can control the annual bluegrass are frightening, so I don’t want to hire a company. I’m also afraid of the homeowners association coming knocking on my door soon, so I would like to have a plan in place with a reasonable degree of success to appease them with. Thanks for your advice!

  • Bware

    I have dethatched and aerated my lawn and am considering useing biosolid compost to overseed . any sugestions ? Lawn is about 4000 Square ft.

  • Sabrina Kemp

    I’m doing some research on the use of Fiesta. This is what a local lawn company in our area uses. Is there somewhere someone could point me to which gives a good explanation of any impacts on the ecosystem?

  • Peter Listino

    I just discovered that the landscape management firm uses Roundup on a property where I spend time a lot of time. What alternatives may I suggest and what would be an effective way to require them to stop using Roundup?

  • Emily Henry

    I work on a property as a gardener and noticed that the new lawn guy just applied acelepryn to the turf. I’ve read what dupont has to say about its toxicity levels, but wondering if there is another side to this story. Will a bird eat a grub and accidentally ingest this insecticide? My client very much wants an organic lawn, and I want to be as informed I can can to help with that! thanks!

  • Johanna Lentz

    How do we organically control Crabgrass in a “no mow, slow grow” fescue lawn in south east Michigan?

  • Vivek Srikrishnan

    I’m looking to renovate the lawn in a house I just bought. The soil is pretty compacted and in rough shape. For cool season grasses (the lawn is partially shaded, so I’m going to go with primarily tall fescues), is there any advantage to aerating and top dressing with compost and lime now if we’re going to seed in the fall (to give the amendments time to break down into the soil), or should everything be done in the fall? We’d probably top dress with most compost in the fall when we seed as well.

  • http://www.wesionline.com henry maclin

    Paul, why are all of the posts on this site so dated. One to two years old are the newest unless I am searching incorrectly.

  • Jim Burgess

    I have been trying to support wildlife in my backyard by planting trees and plants for specific species (honeysuckle, trumpet) installing bird feeders, bird houses, etc.

    And I have stopped using herbicides, pesticides, etc. on my lawns. I have several composting bins.

    What can I do to aid and support honey bees. Are there any specific plants that I can introduce to in my yard ? I have heard that bees like clover and I have a fair amount in my lawns. I was going to purchase clover seed and add it to the seed that I buy locally.

    Any ideas ?

  • james henderson

    I have about 5,000 square feet of lawn I want to replace with a vineyard. I’m in California and need to reduce my water consumption. Currently I have 2 acres of vineyard and use about 3% of the water compared to the lawn. Yes unbelievable isn’t it. Does anyone know of a way to convert to vineyard without the expense of removing the sod? Thanks, Jim

  • Dave Orzechowicz

    Hi, Paul. Just watched (on YouTube) your presentation from a few years ago in Indy, and have ordered your book. I have several questions, but will limit myself to 2. I live in NE Indiana (Fort Wayne). First, my soil analyses (taken in 8/12 and 7/14) are fairly consistent, showing moderate organic matter (~4%), extremely high pH (around 7.8 – 8.0) and Ca/Mg ratios of about 13:1. I am a confessed chemical warfare soldier, but want to transition to the organic side of the force. First question: have you heard of the Outside Pride products, and specifically, “Lazy Man Soil Doctor”? All the words sound good, and I am thinking of incorporating this with an organic fertilizer this fall. Although I did have 8 yards of compost applied to my 6000 square foot lawn 2 years ago, my soil is still pretty much clay. The concept of a biological aerator is especially appealing to me, because of the added complexity of an in-ground irrigation system and invisible dog fence makes the thought of using mechanical aeration a bit scary to me.

    My second question is, what is your take on milky spore as a grub control agent? We do have a pretty bad grub issue here, but even the evil scientist in me doesn’t want to apply something that is going to kill the good guys in my soil along with the bad. But the stuff ain’t cheap, and the recommendation is 3x/year for 2 years; that would be over $200!

  • Maralee Balmes Williams

    poison ivy always a problem around my yard help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Tom Jewett

    “We plan to test Eco-Lawn and the No Mow selections side by side this year in a cost/performance comparison.”
    Is there anything you can report from this planned test?

  • John Close

    Thank John. What kind of business do you run? Landscaping or Lawn Care. I’m just starting up my own Eco Lawn Care business just north of you in Duncan. We should chat..

  • john immink

    A matter of definition. To me, landscaping involves major work, rocks, volumes of materials, lots of overhead and 1 off type projects. Lawns only is just that, guys drive up, trim/mow/blow and bugger off asap.

    My approach is less specific: residential maintenance gardening (used to do stratas, hated the ever-changing politics) either very busy professionals or seniors. Oak Bay, Uplands, Saanich, Gordon Head, Fairfield i.e. a specific area whereby I rarely have to drive more than 5 minutes between sites. Moreover, I cluster meaning that I can park, do 4 or 5 places on the same street, again saving gas, time, money.

    I keep busy 11 months a year by NOT having a focus on a narrow area. I mow trim blow certainly but I also lime, fertilize, re-seed, weed, trim, prune, plant, plan and till new beds, herb gardens and edible gardens, in short: there is always something to do. Grass represents perhaps 40% of my total workload (although I have 4 mowers) and weeding is about 20%. The rest is fall leaves, minor garden design and suchlike.

    Again, the approach is a matter of market study: demographics, target market economic circumstances, that sort of thing. Never did bother to advertise, I seem to get passed around by my existing Client base. :)

    We should take this off-list before we bore people, my email is johnthegardener@shaw.ca

    dokies? :)

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