Green gardening: Earth-friendly ways to plant

April 11, 2012

The main tasks are:

1. Fertilize (the plants are waking up quickly, so they need the nutrient "building blocks" to put their parts together)

a. Lawns - use Espoma brand Lawn Fertilizer, organically based for a slow-release, long term feed - a 20 lb bag for $34.99 covers 5,000sq. ft.

b. Bulbs - as they finish blooming, it is time for the leaves to re-charge the bulbs for next year - they need fertilizer - Dr. Earth Bulb Food (4# bag for $12.99) is organically based from fish bones, so it is very high in calcium and lasts 2 months per application or Espoma Bulb Food (4# bag for $10.99) also organically based and lasts 1 month per application.

c. Trees & Shrubs need fertilizer to build all the leaves, roots and woody branches. The soil in Chicago is very alkaline, so helping to lower the pH really benefits them. Use Espoma Holly-Tone (4# bag for $8.99, 8# bag for $12.99 and 20# bag for $24.99)with 5% sulfur to lower the pH and provide organically based major and minor nutrients. Once in the early spring and once in the late fall is all they need.

d. Hold off on roses! Don't push tender new growth NOW. WAIT until the first of May. Only give them Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) now. Magnesium is the main element in chlorophyll (the green part of the leaves).

2. Get rid of weeds (in the lawns and the planting beds)- the earth-friendly way is to spot spray or pull the weeds:

a. Bayer Advanced Lawn Weed & Crabgrass Killer, $9.99 for a 24 ounce spray bottle

b. Bonide Weed Beater Ultra, better in cooler temperatures, $11.99 for a 32 ounce spray bottle

c. Whitney Farms Lawn Weed Killer, iron based active, $12.99 for a 32 ounce spray bottle

3. Protect the "baby leaves" from the disease spores that woke up early when the temperatures soared and then are staying fresh with these cold temperatures (like being in a refrigerator).

a. Espoma 3n1 Disease Control - sulfur based with organic Pyrethrin, $9.99 for a 24 ounce spray bottle.

b. Bonide Orchard Spray, $33.99 for a 32 ounce tree sprayer will spray 25 feet to cover fruit trees. Also Sulfur based with Pyrethrin

c. Bonide Copper Soap, $10.99 for a 32 ounce spray bottle, controls both fungus and bacteria, uses 80% less copper than standard copper fungicides (Look for the Neudorff label for "Earth-Friendly Natural").

4. Critter control to protect the plants -

a. Plantskydd Repellent- Liquid Spray bottle, $24.99 for 32 ounces or Granular shaker bottle $19.99/ 1 lb / 600 linear feet, lasts 6 -8 weeks even in rain

b. Bonide Repels-All - Liquid Spray bottle $19.99 / 32 ounces, Granular $34.99 / 3 lbs, both last 2 months / application

5. Plants that are safe to plant now (not at risk from cold weather snaps) -

Perennials - Heuchera (Coral Bells), Iberis (Candytuft), Viola (Johnny Jump Up), Hellebore (Lenten Rose)
Cool Season Annuals - Pansy, Stock, Sweet Allysum, Primrose, Oseospermum

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