Fertilizer is in my blood. My dad’s family business promoted treatments to help grow greener yards. The chemical products they used were “your answer to a beautiful lawn.” So while we didn’t have the lushest grass, ours always looked healthy and green. But since I now have well water at my house and the nearby Peconic Bay is polluted with nitrogen lawn runoff, I decided to go organic.
It’s a noble choice that often leads to less than perfect results. You begin with organic fertilizer, which is rich with natural aromas, as in manure. It goes on in a cloud of very pungent, permeating dust. We close the windows and keep the dog inside when I apply it. Then I shower immediately afterwards and wash my work clothes with a strong detergent.
Now I have my organic lawn, which also has a lot of organic weeds. To stay organic, I’ve tried spraying them with white vinegar. Though it’s fairly acidic, it’s far less effective than old-fashioned weed pulling. Beyond dandelions, the most nefarious weeds I have are wild strawberries. With their little red buttons of fruit, they initially looked cute, though not very tasty. Seemingly overnight, the berries have infested everything and worse still, attracted a posse of critters.
Wild life in our “hood” includes bunnies, chipmunks, squirrels and the latest scourge—voles. These burrowing mice are attracted to grubs beneath the lawn. But the voracious voles don’t stop there. They devour dahlias, hostas and tulips. An organic remedy I prefer is called milky spore, a bacteria that you apply in dust-like form to your lawn.
Finally, no organic garden would be complete without compost. I’ve been putting leftover vegetables, egg shells and coffee grounds in the compost for years, never bothering to see what was at the bottom of the buggy, wormy pile. A few weeks ago, I took a look and shoveled out some amazingly rich, dark soil. Success finally, from just table scraps. It was perfect for transplanting some new rhododendrons.
To me that’s what going organic is all about. The results may not always look picture perfect. But you do feel great about letting nature take its course, while avoiding all those nasty chemicals.