Attracting Hummingbirds

HummingbirdLast year was the first year that we seen a hummingbird in our yard. He came every afternoon to feed on our tree. You can see little Hum Hum, named by our daughter Emma, flying over the tree in the picture.

This year we decided to be proactive and try to attract him and some of his friends by placing a hummingbird feeder in that same tree. If you are in the north, like us, now is the time to put up your feeders (mid April to mid May). It is best to put up feeders before the hummingbirds are expected to arrive in your area. If you are in southern areas that would be February to mid March. In central US you would want to hang in it in March to early April.

There are a few things to take into consideration when hanging your hummingbird feeder-

  • Hang by shrubbery or trees so hummingbirds have a place to hide if chased by larger birds.
  • Hang away from any seed feeders because the larger birds will scare the hummingbirds away.
  • Hang away from patios, play sets and entrances to home as feeder will also attract bees.
  • Create a good hummingbird habitat by placing near flowing trees, shrubs, vines and herbaceous flowers that are attractive to hummingbirds.
  • Hummingbird feeders can be left up till there is a hard frost.

When choosing a hummingbird feeder, simple is best. Hummingbirds seem to be attracted to less ornate feeders. Also choose feeders or food that are red in color to attract the hummingbirds.

Once you find the perfect place to hang your hummingbird feeder all you need to do is keep it stocked with food. Hummingbird food comes in many choices. We prefer to use the concentrate that just requires water.

Hurry up and get your Hummingbird feeders ready. Hopefully you will start to see Hummingbirds arrive in the next few weeks. Make sure to try to get pictures and share your stories with us on Facebook!

Rejuvenating Your Damaged Lawn

damaged lawn

During last years drought, many lawns took a serious beating. Many home owners neglected to water their lawns due to the cost or environmental concerns. We often heard customers say that opposed to watering they were simply going to let the lawn go dormant. The problem with this approach is that in order for lawn plants to survive dormancy in hot and dry conditions they still need at least 1/4 inch of water per week. Without this water, the grass plants will die. As a consequence, we are finding that despite the vigorous spring rains this year, many lawn are not coming back.

What Can You Do Now?

When the lawn has died off, the best way to bring it back is to aerate the dead areas, top dress with at least a 1/4 inch layer of compost and reseed the lawn. Compost is the best amendment to add to the dead lawn because it will quickly break down and alleviate the layer of dead grass. Compost will also add vital nutrient to the soil as well as beneficial microbes, fungus and organic matter.

How to Prevent Future Damage?

A wise practice to help your lawn through future periods of drought is to water your lawn once a week and water deeply (for a longer period of time). When a lawn is watered frequently (more then once a week) and for a short period of time, its root system develops primarily towards the service layer of the soil instead of growing deeper. The upper layers of soil dry out rapidly during the hot dry months making lawns with root systems in these layers more susceptible to drought. By watering infrequently but for a longer period of time (about 1.5 inches) the lawn develops a deeper root system.

The easiest way to gauge how long you will need to run your sprinklers in order to reach 1.5 inches is to place an empty tuna can on the lawn in the sprinkler spray pattern. When the tuna can is full, mark how long it took to fill it and that is the amount of time you should run your sprinklers each week.

By following these simple steps and making sure that your new grass seed is well watered, you should have a lush and beautiful lawn in no time.

photo by: kevin dooley

Organic vs Organic Based Lawn Care

organic based lawn careThere are many lawn care companies in the world that claim to be safer because they offer a program that is “organic based”. As a consumer you need to be aware that there is a HUGE difference between organic based and an organic program.

An “organic based” program only required for the fertilizer to contain at least 15% organic matter. This leaves the other 85% open to be non-organic. These non-organic substance are usually the exact same chemicals found in a regular chemical program. Often times the organic matter that is mixed with these chemicals is Milorganite, which ultimately is composted human waste.  While this waste is devoid of pathogens, it usually contains some traces of prescription drugs and heavy metals.

A true organic program consists of 100% natural organic matter. Organic fertilizers are made from plant and animal matter such as compost, sea weed, pulverized bone, corn gluten and fish emulsions. Because organic fertilizers are slow release and made from things found in nature it is safer for the environment, for the water and all things that depend on them both.

Ultimately an organic based program still depletes soil microbiology and in the long run weakens your lawn and its ability to fight pests and disease. Where as an organic program boosts your soil microbiology and helps to build organic mass in the soil strengthening your lawn.

Billy Goat Lawn Care only uses 100% organic practices.

photo by: eek the cat

A Safe Solution to Getting Rid of Box Elder Bugs

Safe pest controlLooking for a safe way to get rid of those pesky Box Elder bugs? Every spring when the weather starts to warm we find that the south side of our house becomes covered in Box Elder bugs. Once they cover the side of the house, they find every nook and cranny to get into the house.

By using the below formula in a pump sprayer it allows up to quickly cover large areas of surface. After spraying we can immediately see the bugs falling from the house and plants. This seems to continue to repel them for a long period of time.

This recipe is the  most effective way to rid your home of Box Elder bugs-

Ingredients

Mix one once dish soap per one quart of hot water. Spray directly on bugs or infested plants or surfaces.

You can also use this solution on vegetation around your house and in your gardens to help repel deer and other small animals from eating your plants. This solution is a safe, easy and inexpensive way to rid your home and plants of these pests without using poisons.

photo by: karmadude

Why Grow An Organic Vegetable Garden?

Organic Garden

An organic vegetable garden can not only bring beauty to your yard and save you money on your grocery bills, but will also provide safe, chemical free and nutritious produce for your family.

Store bought vegetables are grown in fields that are most likely chemically fertilized. The problem with chemical fertilization whether in a farm field or a backyard garden is that it only focuses on 3 macro nutrients, Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphate. It does not provide a spectrum of micronutrients. As a result, the plants themselves are less healthy and the produce that comes from them is nutritionally incomplete.  Studies have shown that today’s produce lacks in micronutrients such as calcium, copper, zinc, magnesium and others.

By growing an organic garden you can insure that your vegetables are not only chemical free but are also nutritious to their fullest potential. An organic garden requires a bit more physical work to prep but is actually far less expensive to maintain.

When we establish an organic garden the first step is to till and loosen the soil and then add compost and micronutrients. We will then till again mixing thoroughly. At this point you are ready to plant your vegetable plants.

Once everything is planted, we like to spread corn gluten meal over the top of the bed which acts as a pre-emergent weed suppressor stopping weed seeds from germinating and providing an extra boost of natural nitrogen to the soil. Please note, if you are starting plants from seeds in your garden bed, you do not want to use corn gluten until plants have sprouted.

As the season progresses we will spray the vegetable plants with Goat Tea, organic fertilizer once a month. This makes sure that their needs are met through every step of development.

With a little work setting up and minimal up keep, you can ensure that your family will have tasty, healthy and chemical free produce.

The Benefits of Organic Lawn Care

dangers of chemical fertilizersThere are many benefits to an organic lawn. An ecosystem that used natural practices, instead of harmful man made chemicals and compounds is safer for people, pests and the environment.

The biggest misconception about organic lawn care is that it is more work and more money. This isn’t necessarily true. By using organic practices to care for your lawn, it will become much healthier and reduce the need of weed and pest control.

As you add more and more synthetic fertilizers to your lawn you are actually breaking down its nutrients. Lawns become “addicted” and in turn become dependent on those chemicals. This leads to lawns becoming unable to defend themselves against pests and weeds as well as becoming vulnerable to drought because of their shallow root system. This creates a viscous cycle of more chemicals and watering to fight the problems originally caused by using chemicals.

By using organic lawn care you will be working with nature instead of against it. Most chemical fertilizers and pesticides can harm the earthworms and micro-organisms needed to keep your soil healthy.

Earthworms are nature’s aerators. Their tunnels allow water and nutrients to more rapidly reach root systems. They allow plant roots to more easily grow by decreasing soil compaction. The digestive enzymes of earthworms are also extremely beneficial in stimulating plant growth. They also help to oxygenate the soil and plant root systems.

Microbes in the soil act to break down natural material and complex sugars into a form that is easily taken up by plant roots. Nematodes in the soil are natural predators of insect larvae, including grubs. Mycorrhizal fungi help the plant be more efficient at obtaining nutrients and water.

All these organisms are found naturally in healthy soils. Through the use of composts and compost teas you can rapidly reestablish them in your chemically damaged soil, bringing harmony back to your lawns ecosystem.

By using organics, you are using things that already exist naturally in the ecosystem. By replenishing your soil and bringing it back into balance with nature, your lawn will become stronger, healthier and more self sufficient. The key is to feed your soil, not your lawn. If your soil is well taken care of it will take care of your lawn naturally.

photo by: Tim . Simpson

Why Should You Use Compost Tea?

Compost Tea is the easiest, quickest and most inexpensive way to fertilize your lawn organically. The tea is sprayed directly onto the lawn in a liquid form quickly delivering its nutrients and microorganisms to the soil and its root system.

Our Goat Tea includes all of the benefits of standard compost tea and more. Goat Tea combines the use of standard compost along with vericompost and additional amendments. Vermicompost is the end-product of the breakdown of organic matter by worms (red wigglers).

We take the vermicompost or worm castings, mix it with other key organic ingredients and soak or brew it in water to make a compost tea that is filled with the vital nutrients your lawn is craving. Studies have shown that vermicompost tea not only is an excellent fertilizer and soil conditioner, but also reduces disease and improve soil health.

goat-tea

Benefits of Goat Tea

  • Adds nutrients to the soil and increases the availability of those nutrients to the plant. Worm compost typically contains between 5 to 11 times more nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous then ordinary soil.
  • Improves soil texture.
  • Increase plant growth and germination.
  • Increase microbial activity in the soil.
  • Improves water holding capability in the soil.
  • Decrease of compaction of the soil leading to better aeration.
  • Suppresses plant pest and disease attacks.

Since Goat Tea is an organic fertilizer, it can be applied as often as needed without any worry of damage to the lawn. We do recommend monthly application from April to November. As climate conditions change through the growing season, so does the needs of your lawn and plants. Goat Tea is not only formulated to address soil deficiencies but to also address these changing needs.