Archive for May, 2012

May 25th, 2012

The Ten Commandments of Mulch

The Ten Commandments of Mulch

1. The word “mulch” does not mean wood chips or shredded bark. “Mulch” is anything that covers the soil to retain moisture and prevent weeds. Nurseries would LIKE you to think that wood = mulch because they’re often paid to take wood chips and shredded bark from tree cutters trying to avoid high landfill costs. If they can then sell it to you as mulch, they get paid twice.

2. There is no better mulch than compost. No, compost is not acidic and it doesn’t harm plants (it’s plant FOOD!). But nurseries have to actually buy compost, so some might tell a little…eh, ‘fib’ to achieve that higher profit. Did I just say, “fib”? I’m sorry—that’s not fair. I meant to say: “Liar, liar; pants on fire”. I apologize for the error. Anyway, in a groundbreaking study from Iowa and Ohio State Universities two inches of compost prevented weeds just as well as two inches of ground wood mulch. And the compost provided all the food it’s plants needed for the season, while the wood mulch actually increased the plants’ need for food (see #9, below). You gonna believe some guy what wants to sell you wood to make a bigger profit? Or the published results of University researchers?

3. Compost is pretty. When I spoke with that study’s lead researcher, Dr. Dan Herms, he observed that the compost mulch was as black and nice looking as the dyed black wood mulch they were testing it against. It looked so nice, in fact, that he switched to it personally. Simply put, a mulch of compost provides all the benefits you can get from mulch with none of the negatives of wood or other troublesome mulches. Other mulches of high regard include shredded Fall leaves, pine needles and pine straw; and really cool esoteric local ones like cocoa bean shells and rice hulls.

4. Wood mulch is not nice—especially dyed wood mulch. It’s made by grinding up old pallets and other trash wood, and may contain arsenic, creosote and other nasty stuff. It is the lowest quality mulch you can buy. Oh, except for…

5. Rubber mulch is WORSE! You know you have to pay to throw away your old tires. Do you really think it’s a smart idea to buy them back after somebody grinds them up and calls them mulch? Rubber mulch leaches zinc and other pollutants; and it STINKS in the summertime. Why does everyone with a toxic waste disposal problem always have to think, “Hey—I’ll bet we can convince people to use this stuff in their garden!”?

6. Thou should not use wood mulch near thy home. As many hundreds of listeners have told us they learned the hard way, any kind of wood mulch—like wood chips, so-called triple-premium shredded bark and those increasingly popular root mulches—can breed a nuisance mold known as ‘shotgun’ or ‘artillery’ fungus that will permanently stain homes and cars within 30 feet of the mulch with impossible to remove fungal spores that look like little tar balls. Sorry, but the reason University Bulletins don’t offer removal tips is that once they dry, those spores are there for good.

7. Thou should not run ANY mulch right up to thy home. Everyone in America has subterranean termites in their landscape. Subterraneans prefer to travel under cover. Mulching right up to the side of your home with anything—even stone—provides the protection and moisture they require to find their way RIGHT to your framing. Always leave at least a six-inch area clear around your home.

8. Never touch a plant with any mulch. Mulches are for preventing weeds and retaining soil moisture—they are not blankies; they do not keep plants warm or comfort them. Just the opposite, in fact: ANY mulch that’s piled up against a plant stem or tree trunk provides cover and traps moisture, inviting pests, disease and rot to destroy that poor plant. There is no good reason for mulch to ever touch a plant; there are many good reasons for it not to. Always leave a few inches wide open around the trunk or stem.

9. Wood mulches starve plants. As we have often warned, wood is high in carbon. Carbon seeks out nitrogen to help it break down into soil, just like in a compost pile. Mulch your plants with wood and the wood will steal their food in its quest to become really nice dirt a few years from then. When I hear that a plant isn’t thriving, my first response is generally, “get rid of the wood mulch”.

10. You CAN use wood mulch! It’s great for smothering unwanted plants and keeping weeds down in walkways far away from homes and cars.

For even more info, check out last year’s diatribe on this topic:
http://www.gardensalive.com/article.asp?ai=552

May 22nd, 2012

Removing Grease

Removing Grease

Grease is often a pain to remove, even with many toxic concoctions that inhabit most cleaning supplies. As usual, the natural alternative is much more effective and inexpensive. Simply use plain water and lemon juice to remove grease on kitchen appliances, counter tops, or cookware.

Lemon juice is an excellent home cleaning substance, but it can also be used to boost your internal health. Warm water with lemon first thing in the morning is not only highly beneficial in fighting fat, but also in boosting immunity overall. Lemon presents itself as a highly useful health food item as well as a significant taste enhancer.

I hope you have enjoyed this five series advice on using a natural cleaning solution. When you get rid of all the chemicals in your home and start using more natural products, you will start noticing a big difference. You will be able to smell chemicals right away when you are around them. It’s amazing when you become aware of the chemicals that is going into your body. If we all did this, just think how much safer our environment would be.

May 21st, 2012

Natural Glass Cleaner

Natural Glass Cleaner

Whether it is a dusty vase, dirty window, or old coffee pot, lemon juice is an excellent glass cleaner. Try using one part lemon juice in ten parts water and applying to a rag or paper towel. You will be surprised how effective the solution is, and perhaps even more impressed with the lack of chemical odor that traditionally fills the house after using many toxic glass cleaners.

Another favorite thing that I use are the microfiber cloths. All you need is water. I wet one, go over the windows, then take a dry one and go back over the window to dry. Your windows are sparkly clean. No chemicals.

May 17th, 2012

Removing Tarnish

Removing Tarnish

Use a simple ‘paste’ made of table salt and lemon water to make copper, chrome, and brass shine once more. After applying the mixture, let it sit for about 10 minutes before rinsing with warm water and ultimately applying a gentle buffer to enhance the shine effect.

May 16th, 2012

Bathroom Cleaning

Bathroom Cleaning

Bathroom cleaners are perhaps the most toxic cleaning supplies on the market, which is especially concerning when considering that the toxic compounds will end up compiling into the small space that compromises the traditional bathroom. Instead, use a mixture of borax powder and lemon juice to clean your bathroom efficiently and naturally.

May 15th, 2012

Disinfect and Deodorize Naturally

This is good advice if you are trying to rid your home of harsh chemicals.

Disinfect and Deodorize Naturally

Disinfectant chemicals are among the most widely used in homes throughout the developed world. In fear of germs and the potential ailments that ‘dirty’ countertops could bring, you may be wiping down your tables daily with antibacterial wipes and sprays. Not only does this contribute to resistant bugs that could cause serious problems for public health, but scientists are increasingly showing that some bacteria is essential to proper immunity.

Instead of harsh cleaners, use lemon juice to clean cutting boards and counter tops naturally — without developing heavily resistant ‘super’ bugs. In addition, the lemon juice can help remove unwanted stains and odors.

May 9th, 2012

Before You Empty the Fish Tank…

I do not have a fish tank, but I thought this was a very good idea. I felt I needed to share this with you.

Before You Empty the Fish Tank…

The dirty water from a fish tank makes a wonderful organic fertilizer for your houseplants.

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