Sunday, September 9, 2012

Getting rid of dandelions organically

Yesterday I decided to pull dandelions from my front yard. I used the same method my parents taught me - take a screwdriver and try to pull the dandelion plants out with the roots. I rarely managed to get most of the roots. I wondered if there was a better way to get rid of the weed.

(On a side-note, I really do not mind the plant. But my neighbors probably do not want dandelion seeds from my yard blowing into their yard.)

Here is what I found:

UC Davis recommends mowing and watering the lawn appropriately to prevent weeds from becoming established. They recommend watering to at least 6 inches down - up to three times a week in hot climates. They actually recommend that the top two inches of soil be allowed to dry out (unless the grass is new and is getting established). Letting the soil dry out makes sense, as this makes it hard for weed seeds to establish themselves.

As for mowing, UC Davis recommends taking no more than 1/3 of the blade height each time the lawn is mowed. This may mean mowing more frequently, but it keeps the lawn healthier. Having a healthier lawn makes it harder for weeds to take hold.

If dandelions (or other weeds) do grow, UC Davis recommends hand weeding. They recommend removing the entire root. Next time I weed, I will take their advice and try a tool they recommend called a dandelion fork. It is similar to a screwdriver, but has a forked end. I will also water the grass well beforehand so that the roots are easier to pull out.

Another UC Davis page,( ), mentions that dandelions can sometimes regrow from just one inch of root.  Since the roots can be 6-18 inches usually, and possibly up to 15 feet ( ) getting the entire root can be difficult without watering the ground first.

Even if you do not weed, be sure to pick the flowers. Giving a kid 5 cents for every dandelion flower he picks out of your own yard would help prevent the next generation of infestation.

Other websites had ideas such as pouring vinegar over the dandelion. I figure that you might as well as pull the plant up if you are going to go through all the trouble of hunting each dandelion plant and pouring some substance over it. None of the organic options are guaranteed to work, anyways.

My favorite idea that I have come across several times is to think of it as "harvesting" dandelion greens instead of "weeding." The greens are edible by humans and critters like rabbits and chickens. Enjoy digging the dandelions up and eating them.

Since I am a little bit skeptical of my ability to make absolutely sure I'm eating something safe, I just placed the root of the dandelion plant in the compost bin that the city will pick up. I left the leaves on the lawn do be mowed and turned into mulch.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Mirror, Mirror on the wall- Which tree is the hardiest of them all?

I admit, I do not have a very green thumb. So here are my personal statistics on keeping food-bearing trees alive:

Citrus: 6 out of 6 trees still alive. These have been very hardy. 3 have been exposed to severe neglect by me not watering them for a month at a time in hot weather (90 to 104 degrees F). The lemon tree is the hardiest - it has grown very well.

Hazelnut: 3 out of 3 trees dead. I got these from the arbor day foundation. They looked like small sticks with a couple of roots on the bottom. I may have taken too long to plant these.

Peach: 1 out of 1 tree alive, but barely. This baby tree has been neglected of water for months at a time and was planted in the shade. Considering the circumstances, this tree has been very hardy.

Avocado: 2 out of 2 trees dead. I think one was water-logged by being planted in clay soil. I was too lazy to plant the other one, so it dried out completely in its pot.

Cherry trees: 1 out of 1 planted trees dead, but 2 out of 2 existing trees still alive. I don't think the baby tree I planted was able to survive the neglect of water. I also placed it in a spot where I used to keep chickens. The ground may have too much nitrogen from the chicken poop for the poor tree to survive.

Pecan: None planted, many keep popping up. Pecan trees seem to want to grow where I am at. I think there may be animals burying the nuts in my yard. I would love to have pecan trees if I had a larger piece of property. But for now, my property is too small and I know that at least two of my neighbors do not like the tall pecan trees. This may have something to do with the sticky substance produced by aphids. I agree that I do not want sticky stuff on my car or house. I also do not want a tree so high that it poses a large hazard to my home if it falls.

Bay: Every year I cut down at least a dozen trees that I think are Bay Laurel. I cut these trees because they grow tall very quickly.

So which are the hardiest trees that I planted at my home near Sacramento, California? I would say the lemon tree (and all the citrus trees) and the peach tree. These trees have done an excellent job so far of surviving my neglectfulness.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Shredding leaves without a leaf shredder

Today my neighbor let me have 3 1/2 extra-large trashcans full of dry leaves he collected from another neighbor's yard.

I am certainly happy to have the leaves, but I needed the leaves to be smaller to take up less space and decompose faster. I did not feel like pulling out my leaf shredder that I got for low cost from a city rebate program.

The way I dealt with shredding leaves without a shredder last week was I mowed over them with my lawn mower. Most of the leaves collected into the bag, and I poured the leaves where I needed them.

Today, I did not have my mower out. So I put the leaves in a plastic kiddie pool and stomped all over them. Since the leaves were very dry, they crumpled easily. This was a lot of fun. It would be even more fun for a kid!

To store all those leaves I put set up a short piece of chicken wire fencing into a circle. Then I dumped the crushed leaves into the center. Some of the leaves fell through the wire, but that is okay. I was able to put all the leaves into an area the size of a single trash can since they were crushed.

For now, the leaves can compost in place for leaf mold. I also plan to use the leaves as needed for carbon material in the compost pile in the summer.

The best thing about shredding leaves without a leaf shredder is that I do not have to worry about rocks and sticks stopping up the shredder. Also, saving energy is really great.

Unfortunately, this would not work on leaves that are not dry. But a simple remedy for that is to leave leaves out until they are dry!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Seeds for Kids from Bountiful Gardens

Today I decide to sort through two packets of last year's "Seeds for Kids (of all ages)" from the Bountiful Gardens store. ( These packets contain an assortment of seeds from the company, non-genetically modified and pesticide free.

They do not have to be sorted, but I find it kind of relaxing to sit and the table and pick through the seeds.

There are probably over 5o varieties of plants in these packets. Quite possibly over 100. I like this because I get seeds I would not normally get if I were paying for each packet individually.

I am a little bit concerned because I do not know what most of the seeds are. When do I plant them if I do not know what they are? I plan to try anyways. They are affordable enough for the surprise. I ordered 12 more packs, one for every month, since they are only 50 cents. However, with all the seeds they have, I do not think I will get around to using all the seeds!

There are a few random types of corn. I might use these as stalks to grow peas on.