August 12, 2009

I do not, because I know that the weeds that I hate in my lawn are the only ones that welcome the water, and they really appreciate it – but the good grass mixture that I had planted to make a nice lawn hates being hot, and just wants to lay dormant until this ridiculous August heat passes, then, fully rested, I know that my lawn will again display the verdant beauty I appreciate. 

I recommend that everybody who hasn’t gotten a soil test before, get one for each of the uses you ask of your soil.  Gather samples from a six – eight inch depth from four to six locations you want tested.  You need at least a cup of soil for a soil test.  We sample each major lawn area, the vegetable garden, and the larger flower gardens.  Your extension may have bags for you to use, and they or the better gardening centers may even take your bagged samples to the lab.  You should get your results in about a week.

The most important things to look for are: soil pH, organic content, and general fertility.  The optimal pH value for most soils and plants is 6.5 to 7.0.  Lower is more acidic, higher is more alkaline.  Soil organic matter between five and 10 percent would be nice.  The general fertility part of the test shows the amount of nutrients, such as phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium.  We know that the unique quality plants brag about is that they produce their own food, but these nutrients to them are more like vitamins to people. 

Most soil tests will then offer a recommendation of how much of each fertilizer should be added for the type of use you ask of that area.  We try to test our soil areas about every three to five years, to see if there is any change in their vitamin needs.  Of course, if you keep the paperwork and your nutrient additions, you will learn a lot more, and I believe your plants will be happier.

We are happy that we have seen no Japanese beetles eating our roses or anything else this year, and I am not sure why we are so lucky, but we are happy.  We did seem to have a lot of other leaf eating bugs!  Another thing we unhappily missed were the Monarch butterflies that used to be so numerous.  They are beautiful, smart, and truly unusual – they start their year in a small mountainous forest in Mexico, hatch out as pretty caterpillars, eventually turn into butterflies, flitter towards the north, enroute stop and lay eggs and die.  The next generation then moves farther north, lays eggs and dies. 

This continues until the Monarch reaches its annual destination in the Northern United States and the weather cools off, when they fly all the way back to the Mexican mountains where they started this year’s enormous travel – actually, they live through five generations of Monarch each year, and the fifth generation is able to find the same mountain and tree that the first generation hatched out in – unless that tree has been harvested.  Maybe we should plead to stop harvesting those particular trees!

We have seen only one Monarch butterfly this year.  Milkweed leaves are what they lay their eggs on, and what the larvae eat until they pupate and change into Monarch butterflies.  Milkweed is a weed to farmers, but we have always grown a few.  They spread seeds by letting the wind carry them by parachute-like tops, and by root extensions.  Their blossoms smell beautiful!  Monarchs are beautiful!  

Get Obama to save the Monarchs too! !  .  .  .    Good gardening

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