Posts Tagged ‘mulch’

On the Wild Side

November 9th, 2010

After all the wonderful rain that we have had lately the sun has come out, the soil has warmed up and the weeds have become wild!  Time to tame them!  How many tedious hours I am spending beavering away lately, but it is all good, it happens every year!  The ducks come out and help too, the freshly turned soil just has to have some interesting little treats for them!

Waddles loves to help in the garden

About two or three years ago I discovered sugar cane mulch!  Around about this time of the year it is time to get a few bales and spread them about over the recently weeded areas, it is really super in the vege patch and most effective at keeping the weeds under control.

The broad beans are being harvested now and are a very tasty treat at dinner.  It is a bit late, but I am putting in some tomatoes and some carrot seeds.  The rhubarb is very tasty at this time of the year and gives us the pleasure of rhubarb and apple crumbles topped with a big blob of cream.  Yum!!  I have left some lemons on the lemon tree, so lemon delicious pudding still makes it onto the table too.  Ahh, the pleasures of the harvest!

Rhubarb -for the crumble

It is such a treat to have our own supply of vegetables, herbs, lemons and eggs fresh from the garden.  Not only is the produce organic, it is also immensely satisfying to grow your own food.

Happy gardening!

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The Heap

August 12th, 2010

This morning I headed out to the compost bin and gave it a bit of a stir with my trusty fork, then gave up on the fork and got stuck into it with a stake.  It never fails to make me feel better, both I and the heap give off a good bit of steam.

When I was first learning about gardening, I put my hand on the top of a compost heap one chilly morning and I remember the shock I got to find it warm.  It was like a living thing.  It seemed to me to be a wonderful thing that a heap of rubbish and manure should become a living, steaming thing.  I still feel this today.

This winter I have built a very good compost heap.  More organised than other years with layers, sort of.  I have put in weeds, kitchen scraps, leaves, duck poo & the shredded remains of my old tax files.  I feel a sort of pride as I mush it about, it is very nearly ready!  Excitment +

There is a science in compost but there is also alchemy, a kind of magic.   The things I have learned about compost make up a corner of bigger lessons about life itself.  Everything that lives must die.  Everything decays.  Life springs from death.  These are matters at the heart of things, and at the heart of the compost heap.  A compost heap is all about life from death, but it is also about muck and muck is the stuff of life.  If  life is getting a bit on the mucky side I recommend going out to the heap and giving it a good old going over with the fork!

Happy gardening.

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Mandy’s Mini Missions for June

June 29th, 2010

 

Yes, folks they are all mini missions at the moment!  It is cold and wet outside, so you don’t want to be out there longer than you need to be!  Well, some days anyway!  I set myself up for those days when you don’t have very much time, back in January with a beautiful, romantic basket full of things you might need for that quick mini gardening session.  This basket has had to give way to a more practical, for winter at least, bucket! 

The basket worked well all summer, but it is true that as the seasons change, the contents of your 5 minute garden basket needs to change.  Gone is the water saving crystals, there seems to be plenty of water out there now!  Now it contains secateurs; gardening gloves; my trusty hook and little chop stick [for loosening soil in and around pot plants and for planting cuttings].  Also, a little winter addition of some plastic bottles with their bottoms chopped off!  Chopping the bottoms off can be a little hobby for indoors!  What, you might ask, do I use these plastic bottles for?  Well, when Jack Frost is about, they can come in very handy to put over small tender plants that might be harmed by nasty ol’ Jack!   

In fact, part of the 5 minute garden time, late in the day is to head outside and put these covers on, then the next day, while letting out the ducks, I take them off again.  Of such exciting chores is my day made up!  This morning, a little snail had climbed to the top of one of these bottles, much to the ducks delight!  I poked him out with my trusty chop stick and called the girls over, ‘First one to get here gets the prize!’ I said. 

Mulching your plants with spoiled hay or straw or autumn leaves helps to protect your plants from frost also.  It is a bit like tucking them up in their little beds, it helps to keep them nice and warm. 

Happy gardening!

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Mulching around

February 8th, 2010

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I do believe that the very best mulch of all is lucerne, which I discovered a few years back while creating my ‘no dig’ vege garden.  Lucerne fixes essential nitrogen in the soil.  Now that I have ducks I have super enriched lucerne that the ducks prepare for me.  Super!  Of course, coming up very soon, in the Autumn there are the leaves and might I say raking them up is an Autumn Job that I love!  I do not own a leaf blower!  No, no no!  Apart from the exercise, raking them is just so much better, you can use them as they are; put them into plastic bags for later or add them to your compost.

Tomatoes in my vege plot

Tomatoes in my vege plot

But the autumn leaves are not around yet  we have to wait for them.  In garden centres there are heaps of different mulches you can use, rice husks are good and I have used the sugar cane stuff too.  But wandering about in Bunnings the other day I came across  an excellent coir mulch in a small, easy to carry to the car, easy to store little block.  It looks a bit like a brick.  I had to investigate!  When you want to use it you dunk it into a tub of water and leave it to do its stuff.  It increases at least five fold!  Super!  So you are left with a lovely mulch that is damp to pop over your garden bed.  This is wonderful in summer as you can use it on the days you water – pop a brick in to soak; go away to do your good soaking then top it off with some damp mulch.  What could be better? 

My ducks love to dig in mulch

My ducks love to dig in mulch

Last year we had a limb come down from a tall gum tree and when the lovely tree man came to fix it for me he asked if I would like it mulched.  Lovely!  Luckly, I had read that if you are using wood chips as mulch in the garden you should leave it sit for 6 to 8 weeks, because it took me that long, working every weekend to spread it all over my front garden beds.  I knew also that I would need to add in some fertiliser before putting on the mulch, as wood chips drain the soil of nitrogen while the wood chips break down.  So, I weeded, fed, watered and then spread the mulch.  It has been very effective at suppressing the weeds.  Wonderful! I think it true to say there is nothing like mulching around!

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Soil

January 26th, 2010

Happy soil brings forth happy plants

Happy soil brings forth happy plants

All gardeners know that the success of our garden depends largely upon the health of its soil.  It is essential to understand the soil you have and to provide it with anything it lacks.  Soil is a living community and contains a zoo-full of micro-organisms and animals that rely for their nutrition upon the organic matter in or on the surface of the soil.  Soil mineral particles are held together by hyphae (fine strands of fungus) and by secretions produced by countless micro-organisms.  So, organic matter  is the magic ingredient for improving soil structure and its ability to hold moisture and take up nutrients. 

Waddles & Hazel, my ducks

Waddles & Hazel, my ducks

I don’t think gardeners need to carry out tests on their soil to determine what type of soil they have.  It becomes ovious as you work it and water it.  Clay is made up of very fine particles and is the base of my own garden soil.  Clay is the most naturally fertile, even though it may be slow to drain and heavy and difficult to work until you take to it with gypsum, aged manure (thank you ducks) andthick layers of mulch, which break down and contribute to the soil’s structure.  Sandy soil will also thank you for manures, mulch, and – the best antidote of all – compost.  I try to apply these very regularly and have watched my soil improve over the years.

A vast variety of activities is taking place beneath the soil in your garden.  A wide array of living organisms – from earthworms ( the gardeners best friend) to woodlice, slugs and beetles – all these little creatures are busy breaking down large pieces of waste matter, whether compost, mulch or leaf litter.  I never use any chemicals on my garden, out of consideration for the birds and insects, let alone the soil organisms.  All parts of the soil are interdependent and the processes taking place in the topsoil and subsoil are integrated.  By destroying one small element, you upset the complex natural balance and jeopardise the health of your soil.

Tomatoe season has begun

Tomatoe season has begun

One excellent fertiliser is poultry manure, I use my duckhouse straw which the ducks have enriched for me, but you can buy chook manure and it does the same thing.  I spread this thickly over my vege patch before the major planting of the spring, then I top this with a very thick layer of lucerne as a mulch.  This also helps suppress weeds and conserve water.  Sometimes I put the poultry manure into my compost heap too. 

My tomatoes growing well

My tomatoes growing well

Another really great fertiliser is Blood and Bone.  This is an organic all-purpose fertiliser that you can either throw over the garden – and then water in – or apply in liquid form.  The plants just love it!  It does smell a bit though, makes you think you are on a farm.

Of course, your very own sweet-scented, dark and crumbly compost is the best and cheapest of all soil conditioners and fertilisers – it adds to the structure and porosity of your soil and releases essential nutrients as it breaks down.  Making compost is not just kind to your garden and wallet; it is also kind to the environment.  By composting gardeners avoid increasing landfill.

By working at improving your soil you will be working with your garden and your plants will thank you for it.  Happy gardening!

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Garden Lessons

January 8th, 2010

 

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If you, like me, inherit an old overgrown garden, resist the urge to hack it down and dig it up. Instead stand back and watch the gifts your garden wants to give you through the seasons. The spring may bring bulbs you never knew were there. You can also make notes about how much sun each garden bed receives. Weed, mulch and take notes. Also, stroll around the streets in your neighbourhood and see what grows well. More notes in your garden diary.  Check out the climate!  Is it shady?  Which parts will get direct sunlight and for how long each day?  Then chat with your local pant nursery to choose the ideal plants for each section.  Buy ones that are rugged survivors with the gift of spreading, propagating themselves and staying lush all year round.  Position plants together that have similar watering needs.  This will give you a huge headstart.
While you are waiting make a mulch heap of all your lawn clippings and bland vegetable peelings. Never put in onions, garlic or chillies. Avoid rotting fruit, which could attract the dreaded fruit fly! And definitely no meat! Choose a hidden sunny spot for your mulch heap, because warmth gets the break-down microbes working. Mine was under a rangy, sparse-leafed tree near the back fence. A lot of goodness will seep down and feed the roots, but keep the mulch heap away from the trunk as it could cause rot. Incidentally, you will probably soon find wonderful worms breeding at the bottom of your mulch heap. Spread them around other parts of your garden.

If you inherit a backyard of ancient trees they probably haven’t been loved or pruned for years. Buy a bag of blood and bone, throw it around their roots and water it in. Old folk need special care to get their energy back!Garden -Dec09 028

Old citrus trees, such as orange, lime or lemon, need to be checked for fruit wasps burrowing in the trunk or old branches. Usually these are found near the forks where limbs meet. Instead of poison, I give the hole a good poke with a metal skewer, followed by a flooding of vinegar and water mixed 50:50. Next day, poder the area thoroughly with borax. When pruning citrus trees, cut recent growth that has green stems. Then trim the height so you will be able to reach the fruit next season. Ideally, citrus should be trimmed into a ball shape, so the sun can ripen all the fruit. Pruning is best done in autumn, when you will recognise recent growth because the stems are still greenish.

Weeds in a brick-paving courtyard can be a problem. Resist the urge to tackle them with a spray or pour-on weedkiller. Instead try boiling water, this does the job nicely! Just make sure you pour on enough to cook the roots. Putting some salt over them first helps too.  Well these are just some of the lessons I have learned from trial and error in my back yard.

Happy gardening.

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