Tips for Helping Your Lawn Survive the Winter

Tips for Helping Your Lawn Survive the Winter 01

We need to tuck our lawns in for their long winter’s nap so that they will wake up lush and healthy in the spring. While we are doing that, we can also do right by our planet by employing eco-friendly methods and products. The following tips ensure that our lawns bounce back with the least possible damage to the environment.

Clear Up the Lawn

Rake up the leaves and add them to your compost pile. If left on the grass, they prevent sunlight from reaching the grass and allow patches of mold to settle in. The dead leaves also adversely affect water quality. The phosphorus and nitrogen run off, feed algae that kill fish and contaminate our water.

For the same reasons, it’s not okay to let leaves go down storm drains. Those nutrients go right to the nearest body of water. You might as well dump a chemical fertilizer directly into the river.

Dethatch and Aerate

Thatch is that layer of shoots, stems, and roots on the surface of the soil. It prevents the grass roots from getting the water and nutrients they need for the winter. You may be able to rake the thatch up with a garden rake. If it’s especially thick, use a thatch rake or a vertical mower. The good part of thatch is it makes for more material for your compost pile.

Aerate a lawn that had too much traffic in the summer, is now compacted and, like the thatch, is creating a barrier between nutrients and grass roots. Punch plugs of soil from your lawn with a tined garden rake or a rented self-powered aerator.

Weed

Dig up invasive weeds completely, or else they will sprout again in the spring. Don’t add them to the compost pile like they are or they will grow and spread. You first have to “cook” them to death, or practice hot composting. Seal them in a black plastic bag and put the bag in a sunny spot off by itself. In a couple of months, you will see that the weeds are mere vestiges of their former selves, and you can toss them into your compost pile.

Note: Most chemical herbicides are toxic to animals and the environment in general.

Overseed

This tip is region-specific. If you live in a warm region, overseed with cool-season grassseed, such as Kentucky bluegrass or perennial ryegrass. As the warm-season grass types go dormant, the cool-season grasses will keep your lawn green throughout the winter. In the cooler regions, overseeding prevents weeds from attacking. Thin lawns are open invitations to invaders such as crabgrass and dandelions.

Tend to Your Compost

Material composted over the summer should be ready. Use that “black gold” that is brimming with nutrients to amend deficient soils or improve the fertility of your lawn. The compost gives your lawn a jump-start for the springtime.

For new compost, add a layer of straw or leaves. It needs to be alive and active even in winter, and the additional layer keeps up the internal temperature. Do not put any diseased or insect-infected plants into your compost pile, or else you’ll be returning the diseases and pests to the soil in the spring. Destroy the plants instead.

Written by Katie Marie for EarthTalk.

Featured image provided by Gus Ruballo

Fall and Winter Composting for a Lovely Spring

Fall and Winter Composting for a Lovely Spring 01

Autumn provides ample brown material for composting, and turning food scraps into fertilizer gives you everything you need to get a jump start on soil enrichment before the frost sets in. Whether you are already skilled at composting and want to make the most of the nutrients you save or are just starting out, the results can make a major difference in the health of your lawn or garden. Fall and winter composting ensures that your garden is ready to shine the next year, and it makes it simple to recycle and reuse organic material in an eco-friendly manner.

Preparing the Soil

If you already have a home composter setup or an outdoors composting bin, remember to keep the balance of green and brown materials — from the kitchen and the yard respectively — at about an even 50/50 blend. There are a few ways to speed up the composting process, from shredding and heating the materials to agitating regularly, but all fertilizer creation takes time, and it’s best to get an early start in the fall for plenty of prep time.

As the compost matures, try using a garden tiller to aerate the soil and work the material into the ground. Adding nutrients during the fall months can promote faster and healthier growth in spring, but preparation should end before the first snows fall. Adding more nutrients during the cold winter months can actually promote mold and undesirable decomposition of roots or bulbs, making it a better idea to save compost for later use when the ground starts freezing.

Planting Seeds

Planting in autumn is only natural, as it is harvest season when the fruits drop and wildflowers spread seeds abundantly. Once your soil is ready, begin planting the seeds for next year’s blossoming flowers. Annuals and perennials both benefit from early planting before the ground hardens. The natural hardening and packing of the soil during the winter months provides added protection against scavenging animals and freezing winds.

Protect the Ground

It’s entirely likely that you’ll end up with far more brown matter during the fall season than your kitchen scraps, grasses and other green materials can match. Avoid adding too much brown material to your compost mix, and instead use these nature-made tools to keep the ground safe and ward off unwanted mold or mildew that can crop up when the ground freezes and materials break down on the frozen surface.

Protect the ground in your planting beds as well as lawn areas with layers of mulched brown materials. Pine needles and similar yard waste provides ample protection against both frost and mildew throughout the winter months as the needles and bark do not break down easily.

Winter and fall don’t necessarily mean an end to your efforts composting at home. The materials produced naturally during this time can help ensure the ground has all the nutrients and protection it needs to weather the snowy seasons and spring back when the warm weather returns. Taking the time to get the right mix of materials and focusing on composting early and protecting the ground as the seasons change can make a real difference the next year.

Written by Avery Phillips for EarthTalk.

Featured image provided by Justin Ha

The Dark Side of Sustainable Technology and How We Can Fix It

The Dark Side of Sustainable Technology and How We Can Fix It 01

Advancements in technology have the potential to do great good and great harm to our environment. The toxic lake of tech waste in Batou, Mongolia, is testament to the damage that modern technology can do to the environment. The man-made pool of toxic sludge is a result of the tech industry, which relies heavily upon rare earth elements to create everything from magnets to smartphone screens.

On the other hand, advances in technology have allowed renewable energy industries to thrive and gain traction in many countries across the world. About 2.5 million Americans work in renewable energy, which benefits from technology coming out of the tech sector.

Is Clean Energy Truly Clean?

It would be quite difficult to do a proper analysis of the actual environmental costs of the industry and innovation that actually goes into producing the components for renewable power. The production of materials and technology required for a renewable energy operation could potentially be executed in extremely environmentally unfriendly ways — which defeats the purpose.

There have been a number of advancements in electrical engineering, one of which has made batteries an increasingly useful resource in clean energy. They’re used in clean cars and provide increased energy security. There are, however, severe environmental impacts associated with batteries, especially those designed for electric cars and renewable power operations.

Sustainable From the Ground Up

Clean energy is a noble goal, and despite the political climate it remains competitive in the U.S. There are a lot of reasons to hope for a future in which the majority of energy is clean, but without clean methods of production we might just be spinning our wheels.

We need to start thinking about sustainability in the design process. The engineers who create advancements in renewable power need to start considering the impact not just of the result of their ideas, but of the systems that create them. From the production of basic materials, to transport, to the machines required for assembly, we need to change the entire supply chain that creates clean technology.

Good News: We’ve Already Started

Green careers are popping up across a number of industries, which include electrical engineering and design, giving sustainability-minded individuals the chance to push change forward at all levels of innovation, creation, and production.

From legal careers that focus on green issues, to corporate social responsibility positions that give people the opportunity to change the way an entire company thinks about the business they do, there are opportunities emerging for individuals to create real change. For people concerned about environmental issues, it’s rare to have the opportunity to do so much good. The work can be so daunting that we don’t know where to begin.

Solar power, wind power, and electric cars are high-end products and the result of long, complex production chains. Until we change the way those chains work, the footprint of clean technology may continue to have an unpleasant dark side. The bottom-up change is absolutely achievable.

Written by Avery Phillips for EarthTalk.

Featured image provided by Solomon Hsu