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Monthly Archives: August 2016

Success Mulching

With the best part of the cultivating season in front of us, we should investigate how we can make the garden more fruitful while eliminating weeding, one of planting’s more difficult tasks.

Getting the plants in the ground and the seedlings up is only the begin of our satisfaction in the garden. Conveying the plants to development and lessening the opposition for water and supplements from pointless weeds is an on-going exertion. Legitimate mulching can go far to make our garden more beneficial and weed free. Be it the vegetable garden or the bloom bed, there are items that will make you more joyful with the garden without requiring a major expense of cash or exertion. An ambitious start is the key here.

There are essentially three reasons to apply mulch in spring and summer. First, it can help warm the soil earlier and ward off frost on unexpected chilly nights. As the season progresses and the weather gets drier and summer heat more intense, a covering of mulch will help retain moisture near the roots of the plants and retard evaporation. Lastly, this same cover will retard and cut down excessive weed growth, reducing the number of weeds in the garden and making those that do start easier to pull.

You may have already begun your gardening by using row covers. These are light-weight filmy materials to put over young plants early in the season to prevent damage from frost or to keep the day’s warmth from escaping on chilly nights. As the season progresses, they can be used to prevent moths and borers from laying their eggs and keep beetles from damaging leaves. These are mostly used in the vegetable garden.

There are several types available, ranging from plastic stretched over hoops to light fabrics whose use is essentially protection from insect damage. The plastic retains heat better and is most useful early, at the end of spring, to gain a couple extra weeks’ growing time. The fabrics can be used at that time for heat retention or later to protect plants when insect pests are active on a particular crop. You want to keep the borers and leaf eaters from attacking your plants; however, you don’t want to prevent the beneficial insects from pollinating them. This involves careful attention to timing. Keep a close eye on your garden to see when pests are beginning to become active. Many garden guides or the local Cooperative Extension office can help you know when to apply them.

Before leaving the vegetable garden, we should also mention using straw or grass clippings as a mulch along the rows. Due to their appearances, these are not frequently seen in the more formal flower garden. A 2″ to 4″ cover will allow moisture to get to the roots and retard its evaporation during the day. This will cut down on how frequently you need to water, thereby saving you money and time. Some weeds will grow in the straw, but their roots will be shallow, making them easier to remove.

Be sure to use a good quality straw. Do not use hay or clippings that have gone to seed. The weed seeds will germinate and you will have the very problem you are trying to eliminate.

You may have also seen various plastic or synthetic landscape fabrics in the garden store. They are available in several thicknesses and a variety of colors. These can be very effective if applied properly and covered with 2″ to 4″ of a natural mulch – it takes away the artificial look. Landscape fabrics are a very heavy weave of plastic material. They are guaranteed for 5 to 15 years. Most fabrics are permeable to water. Cover them with a natural mulch. Be aware that not only will you have to renew the mulch from time to time, but you should remove any weeds that get started in the mulch. If they ever put down roots through the fabric, they will be virtually impossible to remove.

The same applies to plastic covers. Both landscape fabric and the plastic come in rolls. The material should be cut to fit your bed and held down by garden staples at the edges. Bury the edges under several inches of soil to keep the material in place and to give the garden a finished appearance. Leave a generous cut-out around the crown of your plants and shrubs so they can breathe and water can get to them. Remember plastic is impermeable to water. It will maintain the moisture beneath it, but there has to be some space around the plant to let the water in. If you are using the plastic to change soil temperature or to influence plant growth, do not cover it with natural mulch, and make sure the plastic is in close contact with the soil.

Plastics come in several colors. There is research to show that red plastics can increase tomato yields; blue helps potatoes; orange, turnips. You may also see white or silver plastic. These colors seem to keep down aphids and other insects. Avoid yellow at all costs; it attracts a wide variety of insects, especially cucumber beetles. There is a reason Japanese beetle traps are yellow! Regardless of color, plastic will degrade over time and will have to be replaced every growing season if it is to be effective.

For a more successful and labor-free summer garden, don’t forget to put down mulch.

Guide to Container Gardens

Affirm, so you’ve been to your most loved garden nursery and chose plants that match the sun and shade necessities of your area. You have a compartment sufficiently extensive to hold adequate soil to bolster the underlying foundations of your plants and above all has a seepage opening. Presently what? What do you do beside grow a fruitful compartment plant?

# Plant your blossoms utilizing quality gardening soil. This is not an ideal opportunity to be cheap. There are numerous quality gardening soils accessible, most with moderate discharge manures. Never utilize the dirt from your garden in your holders, it’s much too overwhelming and reduced for the underlying foundations of your plants.

# Plant your plants level with the top of the pot or maybe a ½” below. After the first couple of gentle waterings the soil settles anyways. If you plant two or three inches below the top of your containers, your flowers will spend the first few weeks of spring just trying to get to the lip of the pot. Your pots will look much fuller if you plant them close to the top of the pot.

# For lush overflowing containers, plant your flowers next to each other, about an inch or so apart. They do not have to be spaced as far apart like you would if you were planting directly in the ground. Remember you are controlling their environment so you can push the envelope a bit.

# Water…..the secret ingredient to fabulous containers! Containers need to be watered daily. Ideally it’s best to water in the morning so the plants are fortified for the heat of the day. Every time your container dries out and the plants collapse, they lose a little of their vigor. So it’s important to water regularly and sufficiently. Water the container until it runs out the bottom of the pot. You’ll notice as the plants grow you’ll need more water that when the container was first planted.

# The companion to water is fertilizer, also essential for successful containers. Despite using potting soil with fertilizers included, your plants will need a boost of nutrients during the season. I usually start using a liquid fertilizer a month after my plants are first planted, then every other week after that. Remember you are watering daily and many of the nutrients leach out of the soil. Plus you have a lot of plants in a relatively small space and they will quickly use up the nutrients in the soil, especially as they grow bigger as the summer progresses. Even fertilizing your containers only once during the season will be a help. Be sure to follow all the manufacturer’s directions on the liquid fertilizer.

#6 And finally take a little time each week to keep your containers looking attractive. Remove spent blooms, not only will your plants look better but they’ll produce more flowers. Don’t be afraid to do some judicious trimming, some plants get unruly in the summer and want to take over the container. Most plants will grow back if you overdue it but you may want to hold off on serious trimming until after your garden party.

Simple Composting Tips

Fertilizer is a cultivator’s answer for pretty much any dirt issue. The meaning of manure is essentially, “A rotted blend of natural material that is utilized to enhance the dirt in a garden.” For myself, I just wouldn’t know how to plant without it.

The most widely recognized essential elements for us home nursery workers are garden cuttings, leaves, pine needles, kitchen junk, grass clippings, espresso beans, tea sacks, and creature excrement from herbivores, for example, stallions, dairy cattle, sheep, chickens; never include canine or feline fertilizer. Never use meat products, grease or scraps. At whatever time you dump a spent plant from a grower containing old preparing blend, whether inside or out, put it right on the fertilizer heap. The main exemption would be if the plant material is infected

Materials in the compost decompose when tiny organisms in the soil begin their work of eating and digesting the raw materials causing the pile to heat up and ” cook”. While working, these microorganisms are producing the carbon dioxide the plants need to grow. In order to do their work, they need water and oxygen. They also need a balance between nitrogen and carbon. In general, the green-colored additions to your pile are the nitrogen, and the brown is the carbon, but like all rules, there are exceptions. For instance, both coffee grounds and animal manure are considered “green” because they are each high in nitrogen.

You want to turn or stir your pile to allow air to circulate, you want to keep it moist, but never drenched, and you want to layer and mix the brown with the green. A big pile of green grass clippings will just lay there and stink. A big pile of brown leaves will stay whole and crisp for a long time. Mix them together, and they will quickly decompose into a valuable soil additive.

The best way to make compost is to gather all your raw materials together, then build the pile all at once layering the green with the brown keeping in mind that you need considerably more carbon than nitrogen. Using this method will get your pile to heat up sufficiently to kill unwanted seeds.

Even though the best way is to layer, measure, and mix, it is possible to simply throw all your garden waste in a big pile and leave it alone. It will eventually decompose and become compost. The mixing and measuring simply speed up the process. The contrast between the two methods tells you that you can’t go too far wrong.

My compromise is to use two open cedar bins side by side. I dump the raw materials into one bin as they become available, then immediately cover them with some unfinished compost from the second bin. (Never leave kitchen scraps uncovered as they tend to attract unwanted night visitors.) As I cover the fresh additions each day, I am slowly turning the pile. I continue until the first bin is completely empty, then reverse the process. I NEVER add weeds that have gone to seed, or the seed heads of the many self-seeding plants that I grow in my garden.

During the summer, when leaves are not readily available, the bulk of the new additions tend to be green, so the question becomes, where to get the brown? Shredded black print newspapers, straw and ground up corn stalks are some good carbon additions. Using the unfinished compost to cover the fresh additions seems to be the key for me as that unfinished compost is brimming full of the microorganisms needed to break down the new additions.

Many of my neighbors rake leaves in the fall and put them into trash bags for disposal. I often collect these bags and store them under my deck to use throughout the summer.

Mowed grass is both a blessing and a curse to the compost pile. Nothing heats up my compost faster than freshly-mowed grass, but too much stagnates the pile. Therefore, we spread it on in a thin layer and cover it with brown material. A very simplified measuring stick offered by Lee Reich, soil scientist and contributing editor to Fine Gardening Magazine, is this: if your pile doesn’t heat up, it needs more nitrogen. If it stinks, it needs more carbon. How simple is that?

A final concept to understand about composting is that the smaller and softer the pieces, the quicker they will decompose. A shredder is a great help for chopping the components so they will digest quicker. If you don’t own one, using your clippers to cut up pieces of garden waste will help speed things along. Use only healthy plants, discard anything that is diseased.

Compost is the ultimate recycler. Reusing the cuttings that come from your soil returns nutrients to your garden. The more waste products you compost, the less you are sending off to our landfills. The more compost you make, the less commercial fertilizer you will need to purchase.

Know These Common Garden Mistakes

Ok, the chipper, charming vision of planting an excellent garden. Hold that idea! On the off chance that you are genuinely new to cultivating, you should know a couple of things that will keep you out of inconvenience. Indeed, even furnished with cultivating know-how and planting counsel, being a planter implies, in addition to other things, committing errors.

Above all else, before setting any blossom, vegetable, vine, tree, or bush into the ground, you should set up the dirt. You can buy the most elevated review plant material accessible; yet in the event that your dirt is not legitimately arranged, your garden might be bound to disappointment. Know your dirt. You can begin with top soil on the off chance that you wish; but since without anyone else it is too overwhelming and thick and is constrained because of porosity, water maintenance and absence of supplements, you should add lighter material to it.

You may add any of the following materials to top soil to make it “good” gardening soil: sphagnum peat moss (aerates the soil to promote strong root systems, helps retain moisture and nutrients); perlite (white, lightweight little “pebbles” that improve aeration and drainage and help promote root development); vermiculite (similar to perlite); humus (rich, dark soil); composted cow manure (contains a wide range of minerals and nutrients, adds to the composition of the soil and holds moisture). Do not use fresh manure as it can burn young plants; composted manure has no offensive odor. A generally acceptable mixture is two-thirds soil and one third amendments, well mixed.

Know your conditions. For example, do not plant impatiens where they will receive 6 to 8 hours of sun daily because they will not survive. A better choice of annuals for that space would be petunias, verbena, geraniums, daisies, vinca, or cosmos. Plant your impatiens in a place that receives either a little morning sun with shade the rest of the day or where they receive dappled shade all day.

Do some planning. Another common error beginning gardeners make is to pack the garden with as much as possible. Allow room for growth and spreading. To do justice to a plant is to give it room to grow and be as attractive as it was meant to be. One of my more easily corrected mistakes was when I planted “Gayfeather” liatris in front of tall garden phlox. I didn’t allow for the fact that the liatris was the tallest variety and grew to 5 feet, so the poor “tall” garden phlox disappeared into the back of beyond and they’re too gorgeous not to be seen. I’ve moved them now.

Plant at the proper depth. A very common error is planting too deep. It’s a natural inclination to plant a somewhat floppy-stemmed annual out of a market pack deep into the soil in order to support its stems. However, it’s not a good idea. Instead, the floppy-stemmed plant should be pinched back from the top, then planted so that the rootball sticks out of the soil just a fraction of an inch.

While on the subject of planting in general, when you remove a plant from the container in which you purchased it, be sure to look carefully at the rootball. Half of the rootball will probably be bound up or encircled in its own roots. Before planting, the rootball must be opened and the roots separated, or the plant will just continue to be root-bound and will simply not grow. Opening up the rootball will allow the roots to spread.

Purchase healthy plants. This practice greatly increases your chances of success. Beware of spindly, dry, browned, or droopy looking plants. Symptoms like these often mean they were not well cared for and will probably not make it through the growing season.

Water well. A common mistake is to give the garden a light sprinkle and let it go at that. After you plant anything, be sure to soak it immediately and thoroughly. Be careful of sprinklers; remember that they only water the foliage. In the hot summer, most of that water evaporates before it does any good, and the roots rarely get the water they need. Water deeply, not daily.

Watering well promotes the development of a deep and extensive root system. Frequent and light watering only promotes shallow rooting. The preferred deep-rooted plants will be able to survive hot dry weather much better because their roots will be able to reach the moisture deep in the soil. Generally speaking, a flower garden needs at least one inch of water per week. You need to remember, too, that over-watering will wash the nutrients out of the soil and also encourage the spread of fungal diseases.

Gardening is a labor of love for most of us, mistakes and all; and if you realize that mistakes are actually important in the learning process, it will help keep your frustration level down. Happy gardening from a gardener who is still making mistakes and still learning – there’s hope for all of us.