Maintaining a Healthy Garden with Purple Cow Organics

At this point in the season, gardens have been planted, pots have been potted and seed starts are turning into healthy young plants…but the work doesn’t stop there. In order to keep your garden as healthy as possible throughout the season, the soil needs to be cared for as well as the plants. Purple Cow has a variety of products that were designed to add nutrients back into your soil, making them available for your plants.  These products include:

BioActive All-Purpose Fertilizer

BioActive All-Purpose Fertilizer can be sprinkled onto your flowers or edibles and adds a boost of trace minerals, nutrients, and mychorrhizal fungi. Our All-Purpose Fertilizer is a natural way of increasing your plants’ uptake of nutrients and water. See container for specific use instructions.

Purple Cow Tomato Gro

Purple Cow Tomato Gro is intended for heartier feeding veggies like tomatoes peppers and eggplants. This soil amendment will add the specific nutrients that your veggies need to your existing soil. (Note: this is a soil amendment, not a growing media)

Purple Cow Compost Tea

Purple Cow Compost Tea is an easy way to replenish the nutrients in your hanging baskets and containers. Simply “steep” the tea bags in your watering can and water in the refreshment of nutrients and microbial life.

BioActive Vegetable Supercharger

 

BioActive Vegetable Supercharger is a soluble powder that works in water or Purple Cow Compost Tea. It feeds your plants “immediately” at the leaf surface in addition to the root system. Veggie Supercharger can be applied as often as weekly.

Find these and the rest of the Purple Cow Organics products line at your local independent garden center or hardware store. Your local store can be found on our store locator.

Create Your Own Seed-Starting Plan

Unsure of when to start your plants inside? Use this helpful guide to get your garden off to a great start! Once you have your calendar established, go to your local garden center and pick up some Purple Cow Organics Seed Starter Mix!
We’d love to see your progress, so like us on Facebook and Instagram and share your favorite pictures!

Organic vs. Conventional – A Response From Sandy Syburg

We received a comment about pesticides in organic production and thought it would be a useful topic for all interested parties.

The big differentiator in the organic vs. conventional debate is as much about what is not on or in your food as it is what IS in your food.

Yes, the organic growers do have tools to manage pests and disease. In apples, for instance, the use of botanical oils, like neem oil, disrupt insects attraction and life patterns to keep them away from fruit. Other relatively innocuous products like fine clay (kaolin) is sprayed on the fruit to create a protective shield from disease and pests.

More importantly, though, is that in a healthy, well-mineralized (organic) soil the plants’ natural defenses are enhanced to the point where these “rescue” treatments become far less necessary and possibly eliminated.

Some of the first and most important soil corrective measures include carbon, biology and calcium. High calcium levels prevent many disease expressions in apples (and other) crops and provide higher calcium levels in the resulting crop, which is feed for animals and/or humans, and the benefits of soil health get amplified.

Further, many conventional pesticides are “systemic” which means they are fed to the plant through the root system and then are in the resulting crop, so if an insect tries to eat or damage the crop the insect is killed.

These types of products do not wash off.

Therefore the focus needs to be switched to the clean nutritious food that can be grown in a healthy, biologically-active, mineralized soil. Right now those advancing this soil-plant system just happen to be organic growers. That need not be the case.

I write this in an effort to broaden the dialog. There will always be skepticism about claims made by the companies that gain from food health claims. In my own experience as an organic farmer I have only once purchased an organic pesticide with the concern that a valuable pinto bean harvest may be in jeopardy. Soybeans in conventional neighboring fields were showing signs of disease pressure. My choice was to scout fields on a daily basis and only apply if problems began to express themselves. The crop remained healthy until harvest and I never did end up using the product.

It taught me a valuable lesson: Don’t shoot in the dark.

In other words, fear of loss of what we have (harvest) is a normal human reaction versus insuring health. It makes sense how products gain acceptance because the acres to eyes ratio on many farms now is so high. But there are alternatives.

Soil health improvement and subsequent plant, animal and human health as a result can happen in any type of agriculture. This is most importantly about what we can do to provide clean nutritious food, feed and fiber now and in the future. The solution to so many of our modern troubles lies humbly beneath our feet. Let’s keep the conversation and actions going in the direction of optimal soil health and the other debates will naturally become secondary or maybe even inconsequential.

 

Turf Maintenance Plan to Make Your Job Easier

In agriculture, farmers are concerned about nutrient efficiency: how to get the most out of the inputs of time, equipment, energy, rainfall, irrigation, and, most importantly, fertilizers – all while reducing weeds and pests!

Groundskeeper concerns aren’t too dissimilar – only their budgets are MUCH SMALLER!

As a landscaper, groundskeeper, or turf manager how do you maximize efficiency to keep your turf and soil healthy, lush, soft, and growing for as many months as possible while also reducing weeds and pests?

One of the best ways to improve your turf is by improving your soil.

Applying as little as a 1/4″ layer of organic compost can have last effects on your turf – for over three years!

To read all of the benefits of compost, visit this post where we covered the topic and included a HOW to for the most common 4 ways compost is used.

The Proof is in the Comparison

Below is a comparison of turf roots; the section on the left received compost and compost tea applications whereas the section on the right did not.  This is a clear depiction of why turf grown in healthy soils can manage the stresses of summers, floods, droughts better than turf in unhealthy soils.

turf comparision

Turf Maintenance and Protection Plan to Make Your Job Easier

Whether you’re intent on maintaining your turf organically, biologically, or conventionally, these recommendations will make your job easier.

TopdressingSoccerField

Start in Fall.

We often recommend starting in the Fall when temperatures drop a little and rain is more prevalent to keep your turf growing, especially if seeding.

Core Aerate.

First, assess the soil structure, compaction.  If soils are dense or clay, then always start with a core aeration.  This will open up soils for more oxygen, moisture, microbe, and nutrient infiltration.  Weeds often prefer – or can thrive better – in dense, lower-oxygen soils than turf.  So, help your turf out-compete weeds by giving it more air.  If soils are sandy, skip to step three to add more moisture- and nutrient-holding capacity.

Topdress with compost.

After aerating if you need to, apply a layer of quality compost.  Purple Cow Classic Compost works great.  It is packed with microbes, nutrients and organic matter and screened down to an industry leading 3/8” product.  The amount of Classic compost you would apply depends on the current state of the soil and the budget.  About a semi-trailers worth of compost (~35cy) per 1 acre –  which ends up being about a ¼” layer – is a good starting point for some slight correction.  [Increase or decrease this rate based on budget or timeframe expectations.  Athletic fields that receive more traffic often require more TLC than parks or general use areas with less aggressive foot traffic.]  After applying this amount of compost ~3 years in a row, you can often start reducing the application rate to “maintain” healthy soils.

Overseed.

If there are current bare spots in your turf, that can impact soil structure and encourage weed germination and growth.  A great time to overseed is in conjunction with a compost topdress.  The microbial life in the compost will help the seed germinate quickly and will also keep the seed and new roots moist for early success between rains or watering.
Compost again in Spring if your budget allows.  If you’re growing organically, some people will include a corn-gluten application as a pre-emergent as well.  If you do compost, just make sure the soil is firm and dry enough to handle any equipment driving on it.

Fertilize.

We recommend (and sell) an organic, slow-release, granular fertilizer – available in 8-4-4 or 4-6-4.  An application of 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet will provide nutrients in a slow-release method.

Apply a liquid biological.

During the summer, if you have the equipment or relationships, we recommend two applications of Purple Cow CX-1, which is a liquid biological which introduces hundreds of species of beneficial soil bacteria and fungi.

These buggers can:

  • Help cycle nutrients in the compost and fertilizer and existing soil to feed the turf.
  • Affix to the blades of grass and help feed and protect the plant from the leaf surface.
  • Provide some trace nutrients to the soil through Purple Cow Activator – a soluble nutrient packet.

Mow higher.

We suggest mowing the turf slightly higher if possible or when not in use.  This will help crowd out weed germination and weed growth.

Organic weed killers

They available, but can be expensive and mostly unnecessary.  If it is necessary, we recommend spot treating with a product like Fiesta, which chelates iron.

A healthy turf grown in healthy soil will naturally out-compete weeds for sun, moisture, and nutrients.

Following the above steps for 2-3 years will make a dramatic impact on your soil and turf – and make anything you do during and after this time much more effective.  If you’re on a tight budget, start with steps 1-4 & 8, and add 5-9 – in that order – as budget allows or as you cut back on compost.

Shorewood River Park, Shorewood, WI; maintained organically

Shorewood River Park, Shorewood, WI; maintained organically

Soccer and Rugby clubs who have followed similar programs notice a difference in the softness of the soil – which makes a difference on joint impact and when sliding and tackling.  In addition, these fields stay greener throughout the growing season and require less irrigation.

Investing in your soil is an investment in your turf, which is an investment in the health and well-being of anyone who enjoys that turf.

barley

The Relationship Between Nutrient Levels in Soil and Weed Growth

Much has been said and little studied on the relationship between nutrient levels in soil and weed growth/suppression.

A long time organic grower and agronomist (and friend) shared his experiences with calcium levels and the reduction of weed growth after planting.

  • One thing that is necessary is good functioning, highly biological soil.
  • The second necessity is highly available calcium.

2017 barley high calcium weed suppresion trial skip

The barley in these photos shows the crop 30 days after planting.

The barley was planted with equipment outfitted to apply a liquid biological (Purple Cow CX-1) right in furrow on the 24 run drill (see picture of planter: the CX-1 goes down on each row/run planted right in the double disc openers) at a rate of 5 gallons per acre.  The day after planting a highly soluble calcium product was spread at 500lbs per acre over the field and left on the open surface.

24 run drill

Purple Cow FortiCal could be an option pre-planting, but in this instance, to be more “tender footed” in application, a finer/drier product that would go through a fertilizer cart was used (vs needing a spreader truck or larger heaver equipment) because it was applied on the planted (not yet emerged) crop.

~James (Sandy) Syburg, Soilologist

As you can see even the area in the field that was skipped by the drill (where the bare soil is exposed), there is almost no weed pressure even 30 days after planting!

UPDATE

60 Days after planting

2017 barley high calcium weed suppresion trial skip60DAYS

The barley looks pretty good for how wet it has been. Probably still a few weeks until harvest but weed pressure is almost nonexistent. I took a picture of skip and still very little weeds even with all the rain. My guess is very little of the soluble calcium is still around but I say it did its job.

~James (Sandy) Syburg, Soilologist

Why does soil biology matter?

The take away is to insure you have biologically active soils by using a liquid biological at planting – at the genesis of plant growth and germination.  Also, balance soil minerals to make sure to have nutrients available to both soil microbiology and the plant.

Mineral form application

Nutrients in an organic form that require liberation via the soil microbial community – meaning in mineral form – are best.  But in planting situations when soils biological activity is low the soluble calcium is what is believed to suppress the weed seed germination.  In this instance I would have to say it worked.  Not all the calcium in the product that was applied is soluble, so the biology is now taking over the job of releasing it due to the soils being warmer and activity returning.

~James (Sandy) Syburg, Soilologist