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Archive for the ‘Mulch’ Category


Nan’s Garden Tip #101: Mulching Vegetable Gardens

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Want to make your vegetable garden more waterwise?  Here are two suggestions:

  • Switch to drip irrigation

Most vegetables dislike having wet leaves. In fact, wet leaves often become mildewed leaves.  Drip irrigation is far more efficient than overhead spray and it keeps leaves dry and mildew free.

  • Mulch with a three-inch thick layer of home-made compost.  If  you don’t have enough compost, use seedless straw.
  • Straw is the perfect vegetable mulch. It is lightweight, but keeps weeds down and soil moist

    Straw is the perfect vegetable mulch. It is lightweight, keeps weeds down and soil moist

Wood based mulches, stone and gravel mulches are fine for ornamental plants, but in the vegetable garden, home made compost and seedless straw are better choices.  Both insulate the soil from water loss and both are light enough for seeds to push through.

Zinnia seedlings poke up through the straw

Zinnia seedlings poke up through the straw

If you opt for straw, be sure you don‘t get hay or alfalfa or anything  that has lots of seeds.  Why?  Years ago, I mulched with straw and grew a lovely bed of wheat…. instead of tomatoes!

If you can get old straw, that’s even better.  As straw ages, the  fibers start breaking down and residual seeds begin to rot.   That’s a good thing.

And, old straw can’t be sold for animal bedding, so feed stores (the best places to get straw) often regard them as waste.  In fact, they may even give you the straw for free!

If you don’t have room to store an entire bale of straw, ask for a “flake.”  A flakes is simply a section of a bale.

This bale of straw will last me two or three seasons

This bale of straw will last me two or three seasons


Spring Cleaning in July

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

In most gardens, spring cleaning means preparing for spring.  In my garden, it means cleaning away the spring.

Here in Southern California, spring is when plants explode into growth, expanding inches, it seems, each day.  By time we get to the heat of summer (which should be about now, though this summer, we’ve hardly seen sun), plants sink into the slumber that allows them to survive the dry heat.

This is when I do my spring cleaning.

I spent most of this afternoon and evening cleaning my tiered garden.  It was, in a way, like a grand treasure hunt.  I pulled away waves of nasturtiums, revealing plants set into the ground last fall.  Some are most certainly drowned, others may survive.  Only time will tell.

I found baby agaves beneath sprawling wands of a salvia whose name is long forgotten but whose coral colored flowers glow from spring through summer.  Two new Darwinias, the prostrate shrubs named for the prophet of evolution, appear to have a 50/50 chance of survival;  one looks like it will make it, the other looks to be a goner.  How ironic.

Plants uncovered as the nasturtium and salvia are cleared away

Plants uncovered as the nasturtium and salvia are cleared away

Lots and lots of old nasturtium foliage.

Lots and lots of old nasturtium foliage.

The tall, running perennial sunflower leaned so far down from its perch that it nearly smothered the pale yellow ‘Lemon Leigh’ Spanish lavenders on the steppe beneath it.  It took me 20 minutes of pruning to rescue them.

Piles of debris from spring's growth

Piles of debris from spring's growth

My arms are sliced, my hands chapped, but the garden beds looks so much better.  A new layer of mulch and they will be ready for summer!