Sandy has been struggling with our perennial and square foot gardens (insects and a general failure to grow healthy plants), and I have been struggling with the lawn (mainly to grow new grass in bare spots and get rid of anthills). We have tried lots of things.
- Watering by hand a cup at a time
- Lovingly pruning and deadheading
- Miracle Grow
- Commercial insecticides
- Blaming the weather (Too hot, too cold, not enough rain, too much rain)
- Blaming the squirrels
- Building containment units for our gardens
- Using a grass patch to grow instant grass
- Mowing high
- Mowing low
- Alternating mowing patterns
- Collecting the lawn clippings
- Allowing lawn clippings to stay on the yard
A month ago I received a DVD from Netflix - Jerry Baker: Year 'Round Lawn Care. It basically details how to plant, grow, and maintain a healthy lawn. His presentation is quick with lots of quips but. . .I like him. He seemed like a friendly guy. He's kinda like someone's grandpa. He's the guy that would play tricks on his grandkids and steal their noses. And he just looked like an honest guy, and he spoke directly and with candor. "Don't mow your lawn before 7 pm. It's bad for the grass and it's uncomfortable for you." The most interesting thing about the video was his formulas for lawn care "tonics" using household products like ammonia, shampoo, mouthwash, and pop. I had seen a news segment about someone who used this type of household formula years ago on TV, and it interested me, even if the person was portrayed as being a little loony.
So I had a stroing sense of deja vu that I found myself face to face with the tonic man. However, I am skeptical. It might not work. It might be worse than anything we have tried. Here are some of the things I found today when searching for "lawn beer" on google:
From a May 2004 story posted on the NBC news site in Cleveland:
In May, 2003, a story was done about a former Greenskeeper from Colorado. He used a lawn tonic could be made from common household items in a home, like pop, beer, and liquid dishwashing detergent.From an August 2002 NBC news site in Denver:
“I have the best lawn in the neighborhood,” said Tim Heffron, lawn tonic expert.
He says all it takes to keep his lawn lovely in Colorado’s scorching summers is a mixture of pop, beer, ammonia, dish detergent and mouthwash.
“I started using it about five years ago back in Oklahoma, where it’s 100 degrees every day, day in and out,” Heffron said.
A Parker man is using a home formula he found on a cable program to keep his lawn green in our drought conditions. He’s using a concoction that includes mouthwash and beer, and is getting great results.From an article by Bruce Zimmerman a Canadian horticulturalist with a radio show:
Tim Heffron hand-waters his lawn only lightly on his regular watering days but gets a great looking lawn because, he says, his "lawn tonic" reduces the natural tendency of grass to resist water.
Heffron uses a regular fertilizer in the early spring to jump start his lawn, then applies his lawn tonic about a half-dozen times across the growing season. He uses it on his grass, his small plants and his trees. He says he found the formula on a cable show and has also used similar mixtures while working jobs he held at golf courses. There are dozens of variations of this lawn tonic recipe. Heffron said this version seems to work well in Colorado.
Put the ingredients in a 10-gallon hose sprayer, and water your lawn with the mixture. You'll find your lawn will need less water during our drought.
One must always be on guard when someone says that a product is natural or organic. One question I get from my listeners is, are these next two mixtures natural / organic and / or safe.From an article by Walter Reeves, a Georgia gardener:
1 CAN OF BEER
1 CUP OF AMMONIA
1/2 CUP OF LIQUID LAWN FOOD
1/2 CUP OF MOLASSES OR CORN SYRUP
MIX IN A 20 GALLONS OF WATER
FEED YOUR YARD EVERY THREE WEEKS
Yes, I am sure this works because you are adding yeast, pure nitrogen, manufactured chemical fertilizer and natural sugars to feed the bacteria which breaks down the organic portion of the soil profile releasing it's natural stored food. Is Beer a natural food eh?
1 CUP OF SHAMPOO
1 CUP OF CHEWING TOBACCO JUICE
1 CUP OF ANTISEPTIC MOUTHWASH
IN 20 GALLONS OF WARM WATER
PLACE THREE FINGERS OF CHEWING TOBACCO IN NYLON STOCKING AND SOAK IN ONE GALLON OF HOT WATER UNTIL WATER IS DARK BROWN. USED TO CONTROL INSECTS AND DISEASES YOU SHOULD SPRAY THE WHOLE YARD EVERY TWO WEEKS.
Yes, I am sure that this mixture works too. The shampoo acts as a sticker and spreader of the mixture. The mouthwash is an anti-bactericide. The tobacco is a very deadly pesticide so toxic that they are not registered for consumer use for decades. Indiscriminate spraying of this mixture is dangerous to all life including the beneficial insects in your yard.
BEER FOR YOUR BERMUDA? I have mentioned before my disdain for television hucksters touting lawn care "formulas" made from household products. The presentation is enthusiastic but the recommendations contain only tiny nuggets of scientific truth.So. . .I don't know what to believe. Maybe that's the point. You can't just read or see something and take it at face value, you have to try it for yourself. If it fails, go back to the drawing board.
It is true that household ammonia contains a small amount of the nitrogen fertilizer that turfgrass needs - but it evaporates before becoming available to the plants it is sprayed onto. It is verifiably true that detergents can make other chemicals spread and stick to the leaves of plants - but the proportion of detergent should be only a few drops (not tablespoons) per gallon. Otherwise, the detergent will burn the plant leaves like a herbicide would. It is true that soil micro-organisms need and consume carbohydrates - but they specialize in the complex carbohydrates found in plants, not the simple sugars found in soft drinks and beer.
Sometimes I just want to slap the folks promoting horticulture pseudo-science.
I don't like Jerry Baker's website. It looks like he is hawking every gardening product on the planet. But I also realize that an old man like Jerry is not the one programming the web pages either, he's just a guy with a good looking lawn and garden, so we are to believe. His archived articles are straightforward and fun to read, however. From an article on the deterrance of Geese:
TIMELY TONICSo this weekend I am going to mix up some soap and beer and detergent and mouthwash. I'll forgo the chewing tobacco juice for now, as I don't chew, and I would like to move away from using deadly chemicals. I'll spray it on a part of my lawn and a part of my garden. I'll see what happens to that part. If that part looks better after a few biweekly applications, I'll stick with it. If it looks worse, then I'll drink the beer myself. If it's not good for the plants, at least I know it will be good for me.
Geese aren't the only things around to bother your yard and garden; there are also those four-legged furry critters with big, bushy tails. Squirrels can get mighty hungry this time of year. Keep 'em away from your plants with my Squirrel Beater Tonic:
* 2 tbsp. of cayenne pepper,
* 2 tbsp. of hot sauce,
* 2 tbsp. of chili powder,
* 1 tbsp. of Murphy's Oil Soap, and
* 1 quart of warm water.
Mix all of the ingredients together. Pour into a 20 gallon hose-end sprayer, and liberally spray on all of your plants.