Lawn Care - please help

Storms, fires, floods, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions keep reminding us that we are not the boss.
To winterize or not to winterize lawn
"Winterize your lawn", the big sign outside the garden store commanded. I've fed it, watered it, mowed it, raked it and watched a lot of it die away. Now I'm supposed to winterize it? I hope it's too late. Grass lawns have to be the stupidest thing we've come up with outside of a thong swimsuits! We constantly battle dandelions, Queen's lace, thistle, violets, chicory and clover that thrive naturally, so we can grow grass that must be nursed through an annual four-step chemical dependency.
Imagine the conversation The Creator might have with St. Francis about this:
"Frank you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there in the Midwest? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect, no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracted butterflies, honeybees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles."
" It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites.
They started calling your flowers "weeds" and went to great extent to kill them and replace them with grass".
" Grass? But its so boring. Its not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. Its' temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that green grass growing there?
"Apparently so, Lord, They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poising any other plant that crops up in the lawn".
"The spring rains and cool weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy".
"Not exactly, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it-sometimes twice a week".
"They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?"
" Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags."
" They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?"
"No, sir. Just the opposite. They pay to throw it away".
"Now let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?"
"Yes, sir."
"These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work."
"You aren't going to believe this Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it."
"What nonsense! At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer . In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It's a natural circle of life."
"You better sit down, Lord. The suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and have them hauled away."
"No! What do they do to protect the shrub and the tree roots in the winter and keep the soil moist and loose?"
"After throwing away your leaves, they go out and buy something they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in the place of leaves."
"and where do they get this mulch?"
" They cut down trees and grind them up."
"Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. Saint Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?"
"Dumb and Dumber, Lord. It's a real stupid movie about.
"Never mind I think I just heard the whole story."
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On 4/3/05 5:26 PM, in article snipped-for-privacy@comcast.com, "John A.

It took me awhile to change my thinking about stuff as described by the above but I succeeded. I now rake the leaves around the trees and let the worms suck them into the ground. I have found that by covering the leaves with a little dirt helps...In the fall I collect the bags of leaves that are put out by my many neighbours. If the leaves are dry I will run my lawn mower over them to help in the break down process. (Next year I will ask them to do it). I then put them in a large bin adding fresh chicken manure and some soil to help things along. My grass clippings go into a compost bin and I add fresh dry chicken manure after each dumping of grass. My neighbours gladly contribute their grass clippings also. I don't accept any that have used chemical sprays on them. I will spread a little soil into the mix to help keep it loose. It heats up and breaks down into amazing stuff. I compost all my kitchen scraps and collect kitchen waste from some local restaurants. This will include coffee grounds with filters, carrot peels, lettuce, onions, potato peels, etc. etc. anything but not bones, fat or bread. The restaurant owners are only too happy to oblige. In view of the large amount of restaurant kitchen waste that is generated I barely make a dent into that volume but I do what I can do and the taste and size of my vegetables attest to the value of doing it. As for the composted leaves? I use them under my trees (cedar) to provide a natural leaf mould for my Trilliums. The Trilliums have grown to an amazing height and the flowers last year lasted and lasted! Something is working for them. Not everyone will want to do what I do, but if you can relate to any of the above then start. Start by composting your own kitchen vegetables and enjoy the results. I haven't purchased any synthetic (chemical) fertilizers for a long time. I don't need them and in fact they are counter productive...they kill the worms and certainly don't feed them. I just feed my worms with compost and they do all the work. Sorry about the long post but there are times when a story is a long one. Gary
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----- Original Message -----
Newsgroups: rec.gardens Sent: Monday, April 04, 2005 2:09 AM Subject: Re: Lawn Care - please help=compost eh!

to be

and
this:
on
plan.
with
butterflies,
kill
temperamental
grass
green.
that
And
the
a
fall
of
As
winter
call
you're
the
Rather than dirt whick would reduce oxygen needed by the tree for respiration you could place "COMPOSTED" wood chips of top. That would be better if you follow some simple instructions. Look up "Proper Mulching" http://www.chesco.com/~treeman/sub3.html
You do have a good idead placing the leaves back but I would rather support composted wood chips on top rather than dirt. Maybne you mean soil but its still the same. Please see the above link for specific important notes on PROPER Mulching. Any words you have trouble with may be in the dictionary at www.treedictionary.com
In the fall I collect the bags of leaves that are

OK
I then put them in a large bin adding fresh chicken manure

I would compost the chicken manure with you compost pile of composting wood chips. But please note anything fresh is not good. It should be composted first. Adding soil reduces oxygen which is need for the trees respiration.

fat
the
is
of
kill
Sincerely,
John A. Keslick, Jr. http://www.chesco.com/~treeman Beware of so-called TREE EXPERTS who do not understand TREE BIOLOGY! www.treedictionary.com Storms, fires, floods, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions keep reminding us that we are not the boss. Some people will buy products they do not understand and not buy books that will give them understanding.
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On 4/4/05 3:52 AM, in article snipped-for-privacy@comcast.com, "John A.
<very big snip>

Hello John, You could be right and probably are to some degree but my focus is not on providing a mulch. What I am doing (or trying to do) is feed the worms that are in the ground already. The soil I add on top of the leaves is not put on so thickly that it will cut off the oxygen. (I put about a quarter of an inch of soil on top). The soil, put on top of the leaves, is to allow the worms to eat 'in comfort and safety'. Having worms in the ground around the tree with plenty of food for them to eat will provide a natural oxygenation of the soil because of their movement through it. This particular tree has a flower bed around it extending out 8 to 10 feet or so. The annual flowers have already grown through the leaves and the soil I put on top. This is an experiment that I started two or three years years ago when I decided not to remove the leaves but instead to leave them on the ground around the tree. I have seen where worms have actually pulled the leaves into their burrows and eat them from under the ground. A little pile of leaves 'pointing' upwards with worm casts around is the tell tale sign. Gary
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Compost Nut wrote:

Worms do not pull leaves into their holes.
--

Travis in Shoreline (just North of Seattle) Washington
USDA Zone 8b
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On 4/5/05 10:23 AM, in article sQz4e.25751$k66.2200@trnddc03, "Travis"
<snip>

Travis, can you expand on that? What do you mean? You have never seen it? I guess it would depend upon what kind of trees you have and whether you have dew worms around. They do like some tree leaves more than others... Gary
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Compost Nut wrote:

How do earthworms pull the leaves into their holes? With their hands?
--

Travis in Shoreline (just North of Seattle) Washington
USDA Zone 8b
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On 4/5/05 8:23 PM, in article WCI4e.6320$%b1.5511@trnddc08, "Travis"

You live in Washington State? Find some deciduous trees (on a farm possibly as everywhere else someone has raked up the leaves, put them into bags etc. etc.) and look around. Look for little mounds of leaves sticking up straight with blackish soil around them. I am serious. I didn't believe it either until I was shown my first and I am still amazed! I still look for them just because I know they are there...I even found some in my own yard...Japanese Maple tree. I know they like leaves from those tall, tall narrow trees that I cannot remember the name of. Check it out. Gary
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Compost Nut wrote:

I have decidous trees in my yard and have never seen such a thing. I will keep looking.
--

Travis in Shoreline (just North of Seattle) Washington
USDA Zone 8b
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On 4/6/05 11:22 AM, in article 4OV4e.7411$%b1.6164@trnddc08, "Travis"

It may be too late this year but in the early spring (or should I say earlier spring) that is when I have seen them in numbers. Gary PS: As an after thought get a bunch of leaves and bait the worms...I have never done this so don't know if it will work. It may just be worth a try. I may even try it myself as I still have lots of bags of leaves from last fall. I wanted to take a photo of 'the mound' but don't have a camera that would do justice.
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Compost Nut wrote:

There may be two threads with the same subject regarding worms. I said that I was wrong about the worms and the leaves. Here in my part of the world I have not seen nightcrawlers or dew worms nor do I know it they inhabit this part of the world and that is why I didn't believe it.
--

Travis in Shoreline (just North of Seattle) Washington
USDA Zone 8b
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On Thu, 07 Apr 2005 18:54:23 GMT, "Travis"

Keep repeating that phrase, it best describes MOST of your responses.!
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This has been a fascinating thread in its own odd way. The query seems absurd at first blush, but worms do pull decaying leafmatter partway down their tunnel in order to avoid being out where salamanders might get them at night or birds get them during the day if they were eating above ground, or where sun or drying winds might dessicate them. Small earthworms wouldn't pull anything into their tunnel large enough for us to notice, but a big nightcrawler do, &amp periodically a set of leaves will be spotted standing straight up on the surface of the ground, with just the stem in the ground. In some locations the worms do such a good job of pulling small leaves underground that all the fallen leaves vanish after one night of rain; it's part of how worms churn the soil & keep organic matter well-stirred into the topsoil.
We tend to think of the doings of worms as 100% good. But the worm's leaf-snatching activity is not invariably a good thing. Most of the worms in our landscapes are invasive species that did not exist in North America before the arrival of Europeans, & native plants don't always cohabit with these worms successfully. In many forested areas none of these worms are found, if fishermen never introduced them, & in such truly "natural" North American wildernesses the undergrowth can be very different than what is found growing where European worms have gotten established.
THere are a large number of native plants that evolved to thrive in decaying leafmatter as it accumulates on the surface of the ground, such as trilliums. Some of the worms burrow very deeply, & pull leaves & beneficial fungus lower than small plants' roots will ever reach; furthermore, by eating up all the beneficial fungus in a given area, even shrubs & trees can begin to languish, because trees & shrubs cannot process their nutrients without beneficial fungus in the soil to assist in sugar conversion, plus the beneficial fungus that worms turn to worm-castings or pull too deep into the soil are pathogen-retardants & when the healthy fungus is all eaten up or dragged too deep, the entire ecosystem of that area becomes more susceptible to disease. Furthermore, a layer of leaflitter in a forest serves as the forest's "skin," & without it invasive plant species that did not evolve for leaflittered forest floors get established & crowd out native plants. For all these reasons which begin with the introduction of alien worms, the most sensitive native plant species are dying out of some regions because of the rising population of invasive worms.
Here's a fine introductory article on the bad worms can do as they remove decaying leaves & funguses from the ecosystem: http://www.wvnps.org/earthworms.html
In the garden this does not necessarily apply as many of our plants come from the same regions where the worms originate & are adapted to them, & we tend to ammend soils in our gardens with manure topcoatings or other organic methods that keep the microorgism population, including beneficial fungus, very high. Even our habit of watering regularly keeps micropopulations at maximum. And folks such as myself who grow dogtooth lilies & trilliums & native ferns which evolved in heavy leaflitter uneaten by worms, we can make the extra effort to insure that autumn leaves are moved to places around these plants.
But in the nearby woods the worms can be harmful. Forest ecology tends to be stable, or changes from type of forest to another over a period of centuries, unlike a dynamic garden that changes rapidly. The doings of worms in the garden fascilitates rapid growth & rapid changes, but in the wilderness the same worms hamper stability & slow change.
-paghat the ratgirl
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You write great and provide great descriptions of things. I'm going to disagree though about earth worms being the destructive force as you're describing it.
1) I know very little about earth worms. 2) There has been more devistation to forestry by man than by any other animal on the face of this planet and if compare the destruction of each, the destruction by earthworms pales in comparison.
I don't know about leaf snatching. I know I'm seeing worms under piles of leaves though. They seem to like the moistness of the soil under the leaves. I don't think I've seen a worm in dry soil/sand. Which makes me wonder, where the heck do they come from?
I'm betting the leaves, when they get on the ground together and do their humpty dumpty stuff, excrete earthworms.
Thanks for all the cool and neat things you post. Did anyone ever tell you that you have a flare for writing, that your writing style is a true blessing? It is. I enjoy it alot. Thanks!
-- Jim Carlock Please post replies to newsgroup. Tell Microsoft you are interested in keeping 32-bit program compatibility. http://www.classicvb.org/petition
This has been a fascinating thread in its own odd way. The query seems absurd at first blush, but worms do pull decaying leafmatter partway down their tunnel in order to avoid being out where salamanders might get them at night or birds get them during the day if they were eating above ground, or where sun or drying winds might dessicate them. Small earthworms wouldn't pull anything into their tunnel large enough for us to notice, but a big nightcrawler do, &amp periodically a set of leaves will be spotted standing straight up on the surface of the ground, with just the stem in the ground. In some locations the worms do such a good job of pulling small leaves underground that all the fallen leaves vanish after one night of rain; it's part of how worms churn the soil & keep organic matter well-stirred into the topsoil.
We tend to think of the doings of worms as 100% good. But the worm's leaf-snatching activity is not invariably a good thing. Most of the worms in our landscapes are invasive species that did not exist in North America before the arrival of Europeans, & native plants don't always cohabit with these worms successfully. In many forested areas none of these worms are found, if fishermen never introduced them, & in such truly "natural" North American wildernesses the undergrowth can be very different than what is found growing where European worms have gotten established.
THere are a large number of native plants that evolved to thrive in decaying leafmatter as it accumulates on the surface of the ground, such as trilliums. Some of the worms burrow very deeply, & pull leaves & beneficial fungus lower than small plants' roots will ever reach; furthermore, by eating up all the beneficial fungus in a given area, even shrubs & trees can begin to languish, because trees & shrubs cannot process their nutrients without beneficial fungus in the soil to assist in sugar conversion, plus the beneficial fungus that worms turn to worm-castings or pull too deep into the soil are pathogen-retardants & when the healthy fungus is all eaten up or dragged too deep, the entire ecosystem of that area becomes more susceptible to disease. Furthermore, a layer of leaflitter in a forest serves as the forest's "skin," & without it invasive plant species that did not evolve for leaflittered forest floors get established & crowd out native plants. For all these reasons which begin with the introduction of alien worms, the most sensitive native plant species are dying out of some regions because of the rising population of invasive worms.
Here's a fine introductory article on the bad worms can do as they remove decaying leaves & funguses from the ecosystem: http://www.wvnps.org/earthworms.html
In the garden this does not necessarily apply as many of our plants come from the same regions where the worms originate & are adapted to them, & we tend to ammend soils in our gardens with manure topcoatings or other organic methods that keep the microorgism population, including beneficial fungus, very high. Even our habit of watering regularly keeps micropopulations at maximum. And folks such as myself who grow dogtooth lilies & trilliums & native ferns which evolved in heavy leaflitter uneaten by worms, we can make the extra effort to insure that autumn leaves are moved to places around these plants.
But in the nearby woods the worms can be harmful. Forest ecology tends to be stable, or changes from type of forest to another over a period of centuries, unlike a dynamic garden that changes rapidly. The doings of worms in the garden fascilitates rapid growth & rapid changes, but in the wilderness the same worms hamper stability & slow change.
-paghat the ratgirl
--
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Well, compared to humanity's destruction of everything, the invasive earthworm's effects on North American forests by doing away with needed leaf-litter is comparatively slim. Humans cart away the whole forest.
-paggers

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Travis said:

Nightcrawlers pull leaves and other material with their mouths.
(From Agriculture Canada, the longer answer:
Q. How do earthworms obtain their food?
A. Earthworms possess very strong mouth muscles - they do not have teeth. Dew worms or nightcrawlers often surface at night to pull fallen leaves down into their burrow. When the leaf decomposes or softens a little they pull small bits off at a time to munch on. They also "swallow" soil as they burrow and extract nutrients from it.
http://res2.agr.ca/london/faq/earth-terre_e.htm
The forests of the northern parts of North America did not have native earthworms, post glaciation. The spread of exotic worms into these forests has had a problematic effect. The worms move what should be a thick surface layer of leaves deep into the soil and seem to be contributing to the loss of native wildflowers and the spread of exotic weeds.
If you go Up North fishing, take you left-over worms back home afterward!
http://news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/200208/14_hemphills_worms -m/
--
Pat in Plymouth MI ('someplace.net' is comcast)

Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.
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Pat Kiewicz wrote:

I stand corrected. I have never seen a dew worm or nightcrawler here. I don't know if they live here or not.
--

Travis in Shoreline (just North of Seattle) Washington
USDA Zone 8b
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On Wed, 06 Apr 2005 03:23:34 GMT, "Travis"
Like you they suck nourishment up their arses!
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As a matter of fact yes, they do. they 'eat' them into their burrows.
--
Ann, gardening in Zone 6a
South of Boston, Massachusetts
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