Chicken tours and lawn cures

September 16, 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen, start your chickens!

I don’t care how seriously other people take them, I still think that chickens are funny. And the best part of covering the annual Windy City Coop Tour is that I get to play the Looney Tunes “chicken song” on my radio show.

But don’t get me wrong. I fully understand why people in urban and suburban areas would choose to raise chickens. And, to be sure, keeping backyard chickens is legal in Chicago and some surrounding suburbs, including Evanston and Oak Park. As the good folks at Chicago Chicken Enthusiasts point out, not only can you get fresh eggs from your chickens, but their eggs and manure can contribute to the fertility of your soil

They also note that there’s a strong connection between people who raise chickens and those who have backyard gardens, compost systems, beehives, and other elements of urban food production. Heck, the mayor of Portland, Oregon, raises chickens! Are ya listening, Rahm? By the way, if you’re thinking about raising your own chickens, you might want to check out Chicago Chicken Keeping Recommended Practices, as compiled by Chicago Chicken Enthusiasts.

Martha Boyd from Angelic Organics Learning Center stops by today to talk about the 2012 Windy City Coop Tour, which occurs next Saturday and Sunday, September 22 and 23. There about 20 Chicago area coops on the map–some hosting Visitors on Sat 9/22, some on Sun 9/23, and some on both days. Here’s a map of tour locations. The event starts at 10am and ends at 2pm each day…so don’t get pushy about hounding the chickens.

Of course, if you’re on the tour, you get to meet the chickens and their people, and learn how city dwellers are incorporating chickens and more into their yards and lifestyles. Visitors can ask Tour hosts about coops, feed, breeds, costs, and their experiences raising healthy chickens in the city and suburbs.

September is lawn care time

Let’s face it. This hasn’t been the easiest summer to be obsessed with your lawn. Between the heat and drought, most lawns took a real beating. But, here in what is sometimes called the “Upper Midwest,” we finally got some rain accompanied by cool temperatures and…voila! The lawns bounced back! It’s a lesson that many folks would be wise to learn. Of course, sadly, they won’t, and the next time we have these conditions (next year?), they will again panic about their beloved lawns.

But I digress.

The point I want to make is this is absolutely the best time of the year to work on your lawn. Do I need to say that twice? I don’t have to because Illinois Extension has my back. I’m talking about the month of December, when the temps get more reasonable and our cool season grasses (like Kentucky blue grass, fescues, etc.) get a lot happier.

The reason is in the descriptive phrase, “cool season grasses.” Simply put, they are turf plants that do well in the cool weather of the spring and fall, but not so much in summer. Which means that you can work on your lawn in the spring, when it’s cool, but the problem is that we soon get into summer, which is stressful for these plants–especially if you just planted seed.

On the other hand, if you plant seed at this time of year, it has time to germinate, and it will grow as long into the fall, often into the winter, if the ground doesn’t freeze.

So, if you want to rejuvenate your lawn, do it now. As you know, I’m not a fan of the chemical method. Which is why I’m encouraged by a new campaign by the Espoma Company. Take a look at the video they recently released, heralding the arrival of their new Organic Lawn Care Program. If you were watching the Super Bowl in 1984, the theme might seem familiar.

Paul Tukey, founder of and author of The Organic Lawn Care Manual, recently penned a great post called Organic Lawn Care: Step by Step. I highly recommend this article as a way to get started on your lawns.

Today, I welcome Melinda Myers back to the show to discuss fall lawn care. In addition to being an author and columnist with more than 30 years of horticulture experience, Melinda is host of the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moments, which airs on more than 110 TV and radio stations througout the country.

She is also a spokesperson for Milorganite, a great sponsor on my own radio show, and a great product for getting your lawn back in shape this fall. Here’s what Melinda has to say about Milorganite:

“Whether you are an experienced or beginner gardener consider using Milorganite organic nitrogen fertilizer. I like it for several reasons. The low nitrogen slow release formulation makes it goof proof. Independent research results found the phosphorous is non-leaching, so it won’t pollute our waterways. And most importantly, it is safe for you, your children, pets and the environment.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.