Archive for the ‘organic’ Category

New Green Technologies

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

I was in a business meeting this week with a couple of “green” business people, like me.  Green meaning geared toward sustainable methods of doing business, or in today’s world, business methods geared toward reducing the carbon footprint.  A few cool things came up.  A great water filtration system originally used by NASA but now available for homes and pools was discussed that eliminated the need for bottled water ( ).  We talked about the carbon footprint of a single bottle of water, from harvesting to purifying to bottling to shipping to the warehouse, then shipping to the consumer.  Mind-boggling when you think about the amount of work, fuel and carbon emissions for a bottle of water.  Also discussed was the recently introduced Bloombox ( ), which has great potential for solving some of our planets’ energy needs.

Some of the plant care tools we like to use to reduce carbon footprint are methods to add carbon back into the soil.  We encourage mulching grass clippings for one (which has many other benefits); allowing leaf litter to act as a mulch on the property instead of collecting and carting off site; adding compost, mulch (and other products high in carbon) into the soil.

A somewhat newer technology to add carbon into the soil is a product called BIO-CHAR.  This BIO-CHAR is the by-product of pyrolysis, a carbon negative source of energy production.  The amazing thing about this material is the amount of time this form of organic matter will stay in the soil, potentially hundreds of years.  Compared to compost and mulch, which are generally in the soil closer to 5 years before they are for the most part broken down.  As with most new technologies, availability and affordability are hurdles, but integrating the product into soil care even in low amounts can have many positives.  Just like other high carbon soil amendments, this material can be treated with beneficial soil organisms and become part of a highly productive matrix of soil that can keep your plants healthy without chemical inputs.  The process that makes the BIO-CHAR produces little or no carbon emissions, and yields this high carbon material that can be used to improve soil quality.  As wonderful as composting and mulching are (and I would encourage as many people as possible to promote the prudent use of high quality compost and mulch) there are still carbon dioxide emissions from both.  A friend of mine says “I love technology when it works”.  I’m always on the lookout for new technologies that work for plants and soils.

Paul Wagner – The Soil Geek

  • Share/Bookmark

Soil Geek talks about root damage

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Soil Geek

Just last week I found myself at a clients’ home where several trees had been damaged during a construction project.  As a person that takes care of trees for a living, I have a tendency to think that everybody is aware of how delicate trees are despite their rugged appearance.  This is very rarely the case though.  Interestingly enough, a very reputable landscape firm had been trusted to protect the trees during construction, and were under the impression they had done exactly that.  The homeowner was actually the party that was thinking that there might be damage to these big beautiful trees.  I love clients that love trees, by the way! The representative of the landscape firm (who was comfortable throwing around his credentials) assessed the site with me and was sure there would be minimal damage.

We both (along with the concerned client) looked on as a 10-wheel dump truck, loaded with soil, drove over the roots of two 50+ foot tall trees.  One tree with a trunk not 4 feet away from the tire of the truck that weighed easily in excess of 15 tons.  This was one of a few hundred trips driven over the badly crushed roots of these trees.  I cringed as I watched this knowing it would take a tremendous effort, and a very carefully crafted plan (and some good karma) to save these trees.  My counterpart shrugged it off and said the trees should be fine.  Over 50% of the roots of these trees had been impacted by construction, how could he say that?!  Especially since he holds some of the same credentials I hold!  I couldn’t believe we didn’t see the same thing.

This was only one of several insults trees had been subjected to during this project. Although I love a challenge, it would have been so much better for the trees (and the client) to prep for construction and steward the trees through the project, rather than have to put on my Superman cape and come to the rescue!  Trees are rugged and delicate simultaneously.  This is kind of like football players.  They all have that rough and tumble appearance until they are at the podium announcing retirement.  The delicate side shows up when they are a bit vulnerable.

Paul Wagner….Soil Geek

  • Share/Bookmark

The evolution of plant health care.

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Way back in the early 1990’s, the use of IPM (Integrated Pest Management) methods were taking hold in the landscape trade.  That meant we would target pests instead of blanket spray properties.

Following that, some companies decided to use less toxic materials to control insect and disease problems on trees and shrubs.  We were one of the first companies to use Bacillus thuringiensis to control Gypsy Moth caterpillars.  We just thought that dead was dead and the less toxic the material we used to get the job done, the better.  Also, we felt better that our crews had less exposure to toxins.

One by one we replaced harsh chemicals with their organic substitutes.  It was a learning curve; finding out which materials actually worked and under what conditions.  Today, compost teas are home brewed to add the right beneficial biology to the plants and soils… giving them strength and resistance to insect and diseases.

We have learned to mimic nature.  We adjust soils so there are better growing mediums for the specific plants/turf in which they are growing.  When new plants are installed, their ball soil is often different from the soil in which it is planted.  This makes it hard for the plants to acclimate… but today we have an arsenal of techniques and materials to help new plants so they do not skip a beat and grow beautifully.

Currently, it is all about ecological landscape management.  Many landscape companies are having a tough time adjusting to the new ways, but these ways are here to stay.  By using ecological techniques, optimum results can be achieved in correcting 99% of landscape problems… and our work is sooooooooooo pleasant now.

Soil Geek

  • Share/Bookmark