• Build and Maintain a Healthy Soil
• Right Plant Right Place
• Water Wise
• Grasscycle and Compost
• Stormwater Runoff and Pollution/Water Quality
• Songbirds and Butterflies
Q. How do I improve my score on the Healthy Yard Assessment?
A. Look for items on the assessment that you are not doing right now. Pick the items that you can easily change first. Then set goals to complete bigger projects.
Build and Maintain a Healthy Soil
Q. How much does it cost to have my soil tested?
A. Costs vary by county, but typically range from $8-$20 per sample. Sometimes counties have grant dollars to pay for the testing.
Q. Can I purchase a soil testing kit from my local garden center and use it instead of submitting the sample to my local K-State Research and Extension office?
A. Many commercially available soil testing kits can provide you with a general range of nutrient levels and pH, but do not provide recommendations about what to do with those results. K-State Research and Extension can provide you with detailed recommendations based on the results of your soil test.
Q. What is the best type of compost to use?
A. There are many different kinds of compost – from your own yard waste to commercially available products. If you use your own, make sure it is “finished” before incorporating it into the soil. For commercial products, look for weed-free labeling.
Right Plant Right Place
Q. Why are invasive plant lists different in every state?
A. Cultural conditions affect the plant’s ability to reproduce and spread. A good example is Miscanthus sinensis, or Maiden grass. In some areas, the weather is just right for the plant to re-seed itself and cause problems. While Maiden grass grows well in Kansas, our weather conditions are not conducive to it becoming a problem.
Q. My irrigation system sprays water over the sidewalk, but if I adjust it to avoid the sidewalk, it will also miss a large part of my yard. How can this be fixed?
A. You may have to make some adjustments to the system. In small areas, such as between the sidewalk and street, a different type of irrigation head can be used. Those areas can also be set to run separately from the larger spray heads. This may be an expensive fix, but think of the water you will save. In some cities and states, these fixes are mandatory.
Q. Where can I buy a rain shut-off device?
A. Start with companies who install and maintain irrigation systems, but typically they are available anywhere that irrigation system parts are sold.
Q. Why organic mulch?
A. In regards to mulch, organic just means it will break down and improve the soil. Because of this, it helps to create a better environment for healthy plants.
Grasscycle and Compost
Q. Do I have to purchase an expensive commercial bin to start composting?
A. No. You can simply pile leaves, clippings, etc. in a corner of the yard. For those who like a neater approach, build a simple frame to contain the yard waste. Commercial bins help contain the yard waste, and some versions ease the job of turning the compost. A few bins can actually speed the composting process.
Q. How do I know if the fertilizer I am purchasing is low in phosphorus?
A. Phosphorus is the represented by the second number in the 3-number series found on every fertilizer bag or box. For example, a fertilizer labeled as 30-3-4 is 3 percent phosphorus.
Stormwater Runoff and Pollution/Water Quality
Q. Is it okay to plant groundcover in-between the flagstones of my sidewalk?
A. Yes! The plants will help break up the water flow over the flagstones, and help absorb water so it does not flow into the storm drain.
Songbirds and Butterflies
Q. If I attract birds and butterflies to my yard, will that attract other (unwanted) wildlife?
A. You should always keep in mind possible unwanted effects when feeding any wildlife. Raccoons, opossums, and even skunks could make homes in areas with dense vegetation.
Q. Do bathouses really work?
A. Sometimes! At least a few Kansas residents have reported bats moving into the bathouses they have installed.