Yesterday David burned weeds in the brick walkways. We call the weed burner Old Smokey, because everything around here has a name. Smokey runs on propane gas, so using him is much more ecologically friendly than some of the things we could be doing to rid the walkways of weeds. After David finishes burning the tops of the weeds, a very important first step as they are full of seeds, I will pour vinegar on the remains. We find this is approach a fairly effective deterrent.
In the back yard, the dog pee tends to kill whatever it hits. Because we have the dogs trained to stay away from the garden areas, mostly weeds in the walkways are killed, although some of them seem to thrive on dog urine. Lately, the dogs have done a job on my Hosta lillies which hang over the walkways.
I tell myself, the nitrogen in the urine will encourage next year’s grow of leaves, although this year’s crop of leaves looks pathetic. The 5 days of temperatures above 100 and no rain did not help.
Hosta (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The urine begins to stink if it doesn’t rain periodically, so I sprinkle lime on the walkways and water it in with the garden hose which pumps alkaline water from the Potomac. “Won’t that lime burn their paws?” David asks, unconcerned about whether the lime is good for plants (it is). “Not if I use the pellets,” I reply. The pellets take a few years to completely break down, and the granules are so small they slip between the pebbles on the walkways.
We used the white hydrated lime at Girl Scout camp to clean the latrines, but no one ever wondered if it would burn our behinds. I don’t know if it was very effective at killing germs, but it helped to neutralize the smell in the outhouses. These days, the camps have running water and flush toilets.
After all these years of cleaning up dog and bird and cat effluvia, I have learned much chemistry. Feces and urine are nothing but nitrogen, urea and other chemicals.
Time was our ancestors used excrement for farming. Composted cow manure is great for home-grown vegetables. Herbs like lavender don’t like the acid buildup from manure, however. They prefer alkaline, which is why I sprinkle lime and calcium over my herb beds.
Most perennial plants generally like a PH neutral bed, not to acidic, not too alkaline. It takes years to get the right mix, but adding compost every year helps. Compost breaks down over time and increases friability or the ‘crumble effect’ in soil, and is PH neutral.
Super Chemistry Friends! (Photo credit: phooky)
Although we kept a Doggie Dooley in the yard (a little septic tank) for years, we stopped using it a while back. And, we don’t compost dog manure. Per county regulations, we flush it down the drain and into the sewer system so the county can process it before it returns to the local waterways. Otherwise the streams become nothing but torrents of E Coli. Environmentalists (most of us around here) don’t want the stuff messing up the creeks and streams which feed the Potomac. In a heavy rain dog feces can wash untreated into the creeks, rivers and eventually the Chesapeake Bay. Which is why one should always pick up their doggie doo-doo.