Have soil tested by a lab that gives organic recommendations, to learn the total and available levels of organic matter, nitrogen, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, phosphate, potassium, sodium, chloride, boron, iron, manganese, copper, and zinc. Check for life by counting the earthworms in a square foot of soil - should be at least ten.
Prepare new planting beds by scraping away existing grass and weeds, adding 4-6" of compost and tilling the mix 3" into native soil. Good additional ingredients include rock powders such as granite sand, greensand, lava sand, zeolite or colloidal phosphate at 40-80 lbs/1,000 sq. ft. and organic fertilizer at 20 lbs/1,000 sq. ft. Do not use pine bark, peat moss, concrete sand or artificial fertilizers.
Apply 100% natural organic fertilizer to all turf and planting areas in early spring at 10-20 lbs/1,000 sq. ft. Repeat every 60 to 90 days during the growing season if greater response is needed. Three applications per year is normal. Apply rock powder annually at about 40-80 lbs/1,000 sq. ft. The best choices include lava sand, granite dust, zeolite and other volcanic materials. Add bat guano, fish meal, kelp meal or earthworm castings at 10-20 lbs/1,000 sq. ft. to annuals an perennials in the spring and every 60-90 days if needed during the growing season. Add a small handful of earthworm castings or colloidal phosphate to each hole when planting bulbs or small transplants. Mist or soak bulbs or seeds before planting in a 1% solution of seaweed or some other biostimulant.
Foliar feed all plants with a liquid mixture of fish emulsion, seaweed, natural apple cider vinegar and blackstrap molasses each at 1 tablespoon per gallon of water. Add commercial biostimulant for greater response. For iron deficiency, ad chelate iron an Epsom salts at 1 tablespoon per gallon. Spray during the cool part of the day.
Nature doesn't allow bare soil and neither should we. For shrubs, trees, and ground covers use at least 1" of compost and 3" of shredded native wood chips or shredded hardwood bark. Mulch vegetable gardens with 8" of wheat straw, or better still, alfalfa hay. Partially completed compost is also an excellent topdressing material. Mulch preserves moisture, eliminates weeds and keeps the soil surface cooler which benefits earthworms, microorganisms and root growth.
Mow higher than the organiphobes recommend. Start the season at no lower than 2" and rais that to at least 3" by mid summer. Mow weekly or more often if necessary, leaving clippings on the lawn. Put occassional excess clippings in the compost pile. Do not send bagged clippings to the dump. Do not use weed eaters around trees. Do not scalp the lawn in the spring. Scalping is hard on equipment, exposes the soil to sunlight and weed germination, and wastes organic matter.
Adjust schedule seasonally to allow for deep, infrequent waterings in order to maintain an even moisture level. About 1" of water per week in the summer is a good starting point. When possible add 1 tablespoon of natural apple cider vinegar* per gallon of water. Use siphon attachment and include a light application of fish and seaweed when possible also. *Not for use with acidic water or soil.
Hand-pull large weeds, mulch all bare soil and work on soil health for overall control. AVOID CHEMICAL HERBICIDES, especially pre-emergent types and those that contain 2,4-D. Use 10% (100 grain) vinegar at full strength or soap herbicides as effective organic herbicides on hot days. Be sure to clean vinegar thoroughly out of metal spray parts, it is very corrosive.
Remove dead, diseased and conflicting limbs. Don't overprune. Don't make flush cuts and don't paint cuts. Pruning paint slows the healing process and harbours pathogens. Iff you must paint cuts to be able to sleep nights use natural shellac or better still, Lac Balsam.
Aphids and other small insects: build soil health, release ladybugs, green lacewings and trichogramma wasps. Spray garlic tea as a preventative. Spray garlic/pepper tea if needed. Spider Mites: Spray liquid seaweed and garlic/pepper tea regularly and release green lacewings. Spray horticultural oil for heavy infestations. Caterpillars and bagworms: Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), Bti 'Israelensis' for mosquitoes. Slugs, snails, fleas, ticks, cinch bugs, roaches, crickets: diatomaceous earth/pyrethrum. Whiteflies: a mix of liquid seaweed and garlic/pepper tea. Fire Ants: Logic or Award fire ant baits for large areas, pyrethrum/diatomaceous earth powder or drench on individual mounds. Soapy water is also effective. Bushwhacker is an effective all natural control. Grubworms: Beneficial nematodes are effective, but maintaining healthy soil biology is the primary control. Squash bugs, stink bugs and other hard-to-kill pests: sabadilla dust. Roaches: create bait stations using 50% Arm & Hammer detergent and 50% sugar. Dust with mixture of 40% DE, 40% boric acid, 10% pyrethrum. Black spot, brown patch, powdery mildew: Best control is prevention through soil improvement and avoidance of high nitrogen fertilizers. Baking soda and liquid copper sprays are effective. Natural apple cider vinegar at 3 tbs/gallon of water is also effective.
A compost pile can be started at any time of the year. Good ingredients include leaves, hay, grass clippings, tree trimmings, non-greasy food scraps, bark, sawdust, rice hulls, weeds, nut hulls and animal manure. Mix the ingredients together in a container of wood, hay bales, hog wire, concrete blocks or simply pile the material on the ground. The best mixture is 75-80% vegetative matter and 20-25% animal waste, although any mix will compost. The ingredients should be a mix of course and fine textured material. Avoid having all the pieces of matrial the same size since variety of sizes will help air to move through the pile. Oxygen is a critical ingredient. Turn pile at least once a month; more often speeds up the process. Keep the pile moist, roughly the moisture of a squeezed-out sponge, to help the living microorganisms thrive andd work their magic. Compost is ready to use when the ingredients are no longer identifiable. The color should be dark brown, the texture soft and crumbly and the aroma that of a forest floor. Use the compost in all bed preparation and as a high quality mulch around annuals and perennials.
To make garlic.pepper tea, liquify two bulbs of garlic and 2 hot peppers in a blender 1/2 to 2/3 full of water. Strain the solids and add enough water to the garlic/pepper jiuce to make 1 gallon of concentrate. Use 1/4 cup of concentrate per gallon of spray. For added strength, add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil or horticultural oil to each gallon of water in the sprayer. To make garlic tea, simply omit the pepper and add another bulb of garlic.
Mix 4 teaspoons (about 1 rounded tablespoon) of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of liquid soap or vegetable oil into one gallon of water. Spray lightly on foliage of plants afflicted with black spot, powdery mildew, brown patch and other fungal diseases. Avoid over-using or pouring on the soil.
Mix 3 tablespoons of natural apple cider vinegar in one gallon of water. Spray during the cool part of the day for black spot on roses and other fungal diseases.
Last Update: 02 Dec 95