Saturday, May 30, 2009
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Friday, May 15, 2009
- It keeps your good organic soil from washing away.
- It keeps moisture in.
- It keeps soil temperatures steady.
- It suppresses weeds.
- It beautifies your landscape.
Of course, the negative thing about mulch is that it has to be applied! Witness the mountain of mulch that still blocks my driveway. I had 8 yards delivered about three weeks ago, and with much hauling, cursing, mumbling and some strong teenage help, I've gotten maybe half on the garden. Now deep into May, I begin to feel I'm NEVER going to get finished. As I lug the buckets (I can't use wheelbarrows due to the steepness of the property and the thickness of the plantings) I generally find something that has to be done before the mulch can be put down. Weeds to pull or behead, a chlorotic rose, slug damage, a transplant Necessity, etc. So I'm delayed. But I like to think the garden benefits as a whole.
Those of you who read my weekly News-Times column know I like the dark, organic mulches, such as Sweet Peet and Agrimix. I don't use dyed material, and I don't use stones, rubber or peat moss. I want a product that will not only enhance the garden but improve it as well. By the end of the season an organic mulch will have mostly melted into garden soil, enriching it. Of course, that means that mulching is an annual chore, but oh well.
This year I've set June 1st as my Finish-the-Mulch goal. Let's I hope I get there.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
The colors and blooms of spring are often fleeting, and in the shade garden this is particularly true. Such plants as bloodroot, Virginia bluebells, lunaria and bleeding heart make a dashing appearance and then dash away, not to be seen again until next year. But oh, the impression they make while visiting! To flaunt their beauty, they take advantage of the dappled light available at this season before deciduous trees fully leaf out. Scattered about on the floor of the shade garden, they, along with tiarella, phlox divericata, ginger, pulmonaria, and lingering hellebore brighten the gardener's heart. Gardener's whimsy in the form of early botanical tulips sparks further interest.
But what happens to the deeply-shaded garden once these beauties have passed? It's important to have "bones" to carry intrigue through the next five months. These can include, as above, such structural items as the picket fence, blue birdbath, and fieldstone path. Japanese painted and maidenhair ferns lend structure and pique curiosity. Areas in the shade garden which receive more sun can support bright hosta such as 'June'. Azaleas, deutzia 'Chardonnay Pearl' and rainbow leucothe also help. The varied leaves of heuchera stay the season. And of course, plantings of shade-tolerant annuals in clumps throughout the bed assist in maintaining interest.
Many of the spring ephemerals are self-sowers. If you wish to increase their stock for next year, refrain from mulching until the ginger, lunaria, Virginia bluebells, phlox and bloodroot have had a chance to cast seed.
A shade garden is often the kindest imitation of Mother Nature, who plants in groups on the forest floor and whose tranquil, soothing scenery calms the weary soul. With planning, your garden can reflect the best our Mother has to offer.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
There aren't any hard and fast rules, of course. But there are wise practices. As the earth warms and water becomes ever more precious a resource, we must husband what we have. In fact this sping we here in Connecticut are 8" under so far for moisture. Shocking, isn't it?
Here's some suggestions on how to utilize what we have:
- Purchase an attractive watering can, one of substantial size (maybe 2 gallons). It should balance well in your hand, have a removable rose, and be presentable enough to live in the garden. (I love my French Blue from Gardener's Supply in Burlington, VT). Keep it filled at all times, especially as you leave the garden at the end of a workday. That way it's always handy to employ on a moment's notice.
- Obtain a good hose, keep it coiled and ready to use. If your's is a large garden, having one in each section is smart. Invest in hose guides so that as you use the hose across yard & garden it doesn't smash your lovely plants. (my hose guides are dark brown metal, ornamented with little birds, and they stay in place all season long)
- Set up a rain barrel. These are widely available nowadays, and are a direct descendant of the wooden barrels our grandmas had under the downspouts of our childhood homes, catching all that soft rainwater. One or two of these, hard at work snagging all the free water sheeting off the roof will go a long ways towards conserving water.
- Irrigate early in the day, if possible, to avoid evaporation in the midday sun. Try not to water in the evening; that promotes fungal disease.
- Refrain from watering your lawn. Instead, keep your lawn soil rich by using a mulching mower; dusting with a thin layer of compost; and incorporating clover into the seed mix. Grit your teeth in times of drought; the lawn may go dormant, but it'll come back!
- Keep your garden soil organic and therefore able to retain moisture. Dig in that compost!
- Mulch, mulch, mulch. Use an organic product such as Sweet Peet or Agrimix. Mulch helps the rainfall to soak into the garden; it keeps soil moisture from evaporating; it beautifies your garden; and it prevents erosion, just to name a few of its attributes.
Wise use of water befriends Mother Earth, upon whom we all ultimately depend. Do your part.