Posts Tagged ‘mulching’

November Gardens

November 6th, 2010

The roses are in bloom

November in Melbourne, and the roses are flowering,  the weather is warming up and the weeds are rampant!  Roses and rhododendrons both seem to be affected by early heat much more than other plants.  Within a few days of blooming, many of the flowers completely blow or wither, before we have a chance to really enjoy them.  One way to get around this is to bring a bunch inside to enjoy them there.

But, even if you don’t want flowers inside, dead-heading is essential, because if it isn’t carried out, the plants will have much less strength to form the next lot of flowers.  Roses will produce another flush of bloom during January, with a final flush during April.  If you leave the flowers on, and the seedpods are allowed to form, there will be no more flowers later on in the season.  You can just snap off the dead blooms, but if you take the extra time to prune back to the next healthy leaf-junction, the next lot of blooms will be quite good and the bush takes on a better shape. 

Now that we have enjoyed all this lovely rain it is time for me to get very busy and active out in the garden weeding and you guessed it, mulching!  Especially around the camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons for they all have very shallow, compact root systems.  They tend to dry out very easily and summer is a very hard time for them.  The best way for me to help them is to mulch heavily with decayed straw or spoilt hay. 

So, its off out into the yard with my garden hat squished down to stop the sun & my garden hoe in hand to attack the weeds and spread some mulch!

Happy gardening!

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Mulching around

February 8th, 2010

Garden -Dec09 001

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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January Jobs

January 5th, 2010

 

Water in the cool of the morning

Water in the cool of the morning

The summer is getting mighty hot out there so I head out first thing these days and try to finish all my little chores early in the day.  Some chores are wet and cool and there is nothing more pleasant than watering in the cool fresh morning after a hot night.  The plants enjoy it too.  Here are the main tasks that will keep me busy for the month ahead.

Fertilising: All the flowering annuals will benefit from a fortnightly application of liquid fertiliser. So will the tomatoes and any veges in that vege garden. Azaleas, camellias, rhododendrons and daqhnes can also be fertilised this month. You need to water well before and after applying the fertiliser or you can burn the plant. If you have any problems with yellow leaves on plants such as daphnes you can cure this by watering with a watering can full of water to which you have added 1 tablespoon, but no more than 1 tablespoon of epson salts just once a month.

Feed the tomatoes once a fortnight

Feed the tomatoes once a fortnight

Watering:January is the month where this really becomes a chore esp. with all the water restrictions in force. The roots of the plants should be encouraged to reach deep down into the soil, where it will be cool and moist, and this can be achieved by a good soaking once or twice a week. Lots of short waterings only encourage the roots to remain near the surface, where they dry out easily and can be burned off on a hot day. The best time to water is early in the morning. Roses are best watered in the morning, as damp foliage in the evening provides an ideal enviroment for the spread of fungal diseases such as black spot and downy mildew.

Weeding: January is that dreaded month where weeds run to seed, so we do need to try to keep the weeding under control. To win the battle you need to pull the weeds out before they go to seed. This makes the job much easier in the coming year. I mulched my garden in October so the weed situation is not too bad for me but there are some determined ones out there….

Waddles ready to help with the mulching chore

Waddles ready to help with the mulching chore

Mulching:

I find that I have a much healthier and mor robust garden if I have mulched at the beginning of the summer, but it is not too late to start. All gardens benefit from mulching. Compost, dried leaves, lucerne-hay all make excellent mulch. Water first (after pulling out those weeds) then stuff that mulch on top.  Waddles and Hazel love to help as I weed and mulch you just never know what snails are still lurking out there.

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