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Autumn is the time for yard care

 . . . Fall is an important time of year for employing organic and sustainable gardening methods.

Pesticide Free SLC!

Preparing for next year– Be Pesticide Free!

The fall is a key part of the gardening cycle because it allows us to prepare our garden for the winter and sets us up for a productive spring and summer.

Most pesticides and fertilizers used today are produced with harmful chemicals that even when applied correctly can have adverse effects on the environment, pollinators, and human health.

But don’t worry– there are plenty of ways to have a healthy garden and lawn without using noxious chemicals.

Leave the Leaves

Not all leaves need to be raked up and disposed of immediately:

  • Consider that your leaves are a free fertilizer and weed suppressant! This makes them perfect for organic gardening.
  • Leaves also provide important winter habitat for butterflies, bees, and other beneficial bugs.
  • Finally, “leaving your leaves” reduces emissions associated with polluting leaf blowers. Keeping leaves out of the landfill also prevents the generation of potent methane emissions.

So how can you use leaves?

Use whole leaves around perennials, trees and bushes, or lightly layered on lawn (they may need to be shredded first). You can also create a leaf pile that will decompose into “leaf mold“– a rich, valuable compost amendment to be used in warmer months. Or– if you’re like me– simply pile your leaves on your vegetable garden bed and turn them into the soil in the spring before planting.

And if you still have too many leaves, use your curbside compost can to dispose of them (please keep them out of the gutters and storm drains). If you have a lot of leaves, give us a shout and we’ll help you get an extra container or two.

Here are a number of helpful resources on “leaving leaves”:
Xerces Foundation      National Wildlife Federation     Leave Leaves Alone

Use organic amendments to improve the health of your soil

Materials like the aforementioned leaves, as well as other compost, manure, bone meal, etc. can be used to balance the pH of your soil and will release nutrients into the soil to create a vibrant ecosystem and help your garden grow. Mulches can also be great for keeping weeds down, retaining moisture, and feeding the soil. Other organic soil enhancers, like coffee grounds, tea bags, and even newspaper can be an important tool in keeping your garden thriving. Learn more about amending your soil.

Aerate and dethatch your lawn

Fall is a great time to dethatch and/or aerate your lawn. Both of these strategies keep your grass healthy by enabling nutrients, water, and air to reach grass roots. Remember – healthy grass means weeds are naturally suppressed, eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Aeration involves a machine “coring out” compacted soils. You can rent an aerator or hire a lawn company to do it for you (or maybe the backyard squirrels are helping dig in your lawn, too??) After aeration, you can apply organic fertilizer, overseed your lawn with grass seed (if it’s warm enough), and apply microbial superfoods like molasses diluted with water.

Dethatching is the process of removing dead grass tissue, known as thatch, from the living grass. This dead grass can prevent water and nutrients from reaching the soil, so dethatching improves the overall health of the lawn while reducing the need for fertilizers and other soil amendments. It can be done by raking deeply in the grass while raking leaves in the fall. Alternatively, a specialized dethatching rake with metal tines can make the job easier if you have more thatch build-up. If you have A LOT of thatch, consider renting a power rake or contacting a lawn care company to do it for you.

Fight pests in the house with natural repellents

As the weather begins to turn cold, many pests will start trying to find ways into our warm houses. Mix 5-7 drops of peppermint oil and a few drops of dish soap in a spray bottle filled with warm water, then spray around the house to repel spiders and ants. Peppermint oil can also be placed in a shallow dish of water to repel mosquitos or applied to cotton balls to repel rodents.

We’ve compiled a toolkit of resources to help with all your organic gardening questions! Visit our website to learn tips for managing pests, using organic fertilizers, and planting drought-tolerant species.

Then, join other members of the SLC community in taking the pledge to be Pesticide Free! Click here to take the Pesticide Free pledge and commit to keeping our ecosystem, soil, and bodies healthy. You will also receive a yard sign as a symbol of your commitment, and we hope it will act as a source of inspiration for your neighbors to take the pledge and join the #PesticideFreeSLC movement too!

Preparing for the Winter – Pesticide Free

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