Why We Became an Organic Lawn Care Company

Why We Became an Organic Lawn Care CompanyOne question that I am always asked when meeting new customers is, how did we get into organic lawn care. It is not the prettiest or most flattering of stories, but it is what’s true. Hopefully it can be a cautionary tale that doesn’t happen to anyone else.

My passion for organics started in my 20’s with vegetable gardens. I was tired of my tomatoes tasting like miracle grow, so I started learning about organic vegetable gardens. Later in my 30’s I was a typical, naïve homeowner that thought I needed the “perfect” lawn. So I ventured into the local home improvement store and figured if they sold it, then it was safe. But man was I wrong.

I purchased what the man in the orange vest told me to. Went home and connected the sprayer to my hose and proceeded to spray the dandelions in my yard. After using up what was in the initial sprayer bottle I then opened the second bottle of concentrate and poured it into the sprayer bottle. In the process of pouring, some of the concentrate spilled onto my right hand. Without concern I finished spraying my lawn. An hour later I finished up and went into the house and washed my hands where I spilled the concentrate on.

After a few hours, the muscles in my right hand began twitching violently. This continued throughout the next day. By the end of the following day, I had lost all fine motor control in my right hand. Only through physical therapy was I able to regain the ability to open and close my right hand, but the fine motor never returned.

I didn’t realize at the time that this was pesticide poisoning. As a result, I vowed to not only keep chemicals far away from my family but to also educate others on their dangers. My hopes, by starting Billy Goat Lawn Care, is to provide people with alternatives to chemicals on their lawn. Every lawn that we can help convert from chemical to organic is a victory for us and the environment.

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The Hidden Dangers of Mulch

organicSpring is the time of year that people like to add fresh mulch to their flower beds. It makes the landscape pop and gives a nice fresh look. It also helps to prevent weeds from growing in the beds. But beware, mulch can also harbor hidden dangers!

Died mulch contain toxic chemicals like formaldehyde and heavy metals like arsenic and lead. These poisons are added to help slow the rate at which the mulch breaks down as well as to obtain its color. The most dangerous of all mulch colors is red.

Not only can these poisons be toxic to your plants living in the beds but also to members of your family. Both kids and dogs are especially at risk as dogs have a tendency to chew on and eat mulch and young children will put anything in their mouths.

However, by choosing wisely, you can still have a beautiful landscape that is safe for your family and the environment. Just make sure the mulch is natural in color and in its processing. You want to look for mulch that is as close to its natural form as possible. Our favorite mulch to use is called Eco Mulch. It is ecologically friendly for two reasons, it is made from the grindings of tree limbs that are harvested by utility crews and it is not died. It also has a rich dark brown color that our customers really like.

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The Importance of a Fall Clean-Up

fall clean-upThe first sign that fall is coming is the beautiful and colorful leaves on the trees. Eventually those leaves do fall off the trees creating a fun play environment for children and pets. However, it also means hours of work cleaning them up. As labor intense as it may be to clean-up and dispose of all these leaves, it is a necessary evil.

Why do you need to clean-up those leaves?

Leaving the leaves creates several problems for your lawn.

  • Leaves on the lawn deprive grass plants of needed sunlight. This will cause brown patches and/or dead patches in the lawn.
  • Leaves on the lawn suffocate the lawn by depriving the turf of vital oxygen.
  • Leaves on the lawn trap moisture within the turf which can create fungus issues.

Leaf clean-up in just one aspect in assuring that your yard looks its best come next spring. A complete fall clean-up is the key to preparing your landscape for a long winters nap and ensuring that it awakes happy and healthy in the spring. No one likes a cranky yard 🙂

What else is important in a final fall clean-up?

  • The lawn should be mowed shorter than normal (around 3 inches) to prevent fungus problems.
  • Trim and shape hedges and shrubs one last time for a neat winter appearance and to prevent snow and ice damage.
  • Dead wood or cross branches should be pruned to eliminate the chance of pest issues.
  • Remove all leaves, branches, twigs and debris from lawn and planting beds.
  • Perennial flowers should be “dead-headed” to promote growth in the spring.
  • Mulch should be turned and roughed up for a neat appearance and to eliminate any mold that may be setting in.
  • Fall fertilizer high in natural phosphorus should be applied to promote healthy turf growth in the spring.

Putting in the time or money for a proper fall clean-up will not only pay off come spring with a beautiful and healthy yard but will also have things looking great for those Christmas lights and decorations.

fall clean-upBilly Goat Lawn Care does complete fall clean-ups at very reasonable rates.

Benefits of Core Aeration

healthy lawnCompaction is the number one enemy of turf grass, particularly on heavy traffic areas. Compacted soil prevents grass roots from penetrating deep within the soil profile (grass roots grow in the air spaces between soil particles). If the soil is compacted, aeration is required.

What is Core Aeration?

Core aeration is a mechanical process by which small cores/plugs of soil are removed from the lawn. Core aeration reduces compaction of the soil by creating channels which allow oxygen, nutrients and water to get to the root system of the lawn.

Benefits of Core Aeration

  • Loosening of compacted soilcore aeration
  • Enhancing root growth of turf grass
  • Improved water uptake to turf root systems
  • Easier nutrient delivery to turf root system
  • Better oxygenation of soil

All of the above benefits will result in a stronger root system and thicker and more resilient turf grass.

Best Time to Aerate

The best time to aerate is in the spring and/or early fall. During these seasons, weather conditions are milder and lawns are not as stressed. This is also the ideal time to over-seed. By over-seeding after aerating, grass seed will readily collect in the pocks of the soil created by the aerator.  The grass seed will now have a firm hold within the turf allowing better conditions for germination.

 

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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

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.