newspaper mulch

Tami’s Garden is Doing Terrific!

Wow, what a couple of weeks will make.  Just look at how much progress she’s made!  Soaker hoses are in place and keeping the plants happy. 

A couple of things to keep in mind when using  soaker hoses is placement and hose material.  When plants are young, be sure the soaker hose is close to the plant, as their root system has yet to spread out.

When plants grow larger, looping it around them (like she did with this cucumber plant) will work fine.  Not only does it get the water where it needs to go, it wastes less.  A good thing.

Also, Tami found she prefers the lightweight soaker hoses.  They’re more flexible which translates into easier handling.  A closeup for the stiffer hose can be seen here, in the photo below. 

The more flexible hose appears below.  She keeps it in place using a small metal anchor.

As I’ve never worked with soakers in my garden, I’m glad for the tip.  It’ll save me from myself later when I head to the hardware store and dither over which is best!  Another new concept to me is the use of oak leaves for acid-loving mulch as opposed to pine.  At the moment we’re talking about her blueberry and strawberry plants, but I imagine the same can be used anywhere in your garden to achieve the same results.  For example, acid-loving azaleas seem to delight in living beneath oak trees.  And since blueberries like acid, shouldn’t it be reasonable to assume oak leaves will work for them, too?

Yes, and no.  According to one gardener, the research is still out on this one.  He says oak leaves may be acid when “fresh” but turn alkaline with time.  Who knew?  And pine needles?  Seems the same applies and as they compost, their acid-producing benefits are neutralized.  Well, live and learn!  I say we observe how well her berries do and THEN decide.  (Too much of what I read in regard to gardening “how-to” turns out NOT to exactly the case.)

Speaking of mulch, one excellent way to retain moisture in your soil is to line the dirt with newspaper, then cover with hay or leaf mulch.  Not only will the newspaper decompose well and prove harmless to you and your plants, it’s a great way to recycle those old newspapers.  I do love a multi-tasker!

Where Tami lives, mulch is extremely important because a few days without water and no rain can really spell disaster.  Just look at this poor baby bean leaf.  Now I’m only guessing here, and I’ll take any advice from the experts, but this looks to me like leaf scorch — the product of too much sun and not enough water. 🙁  Bad combination.

One only has to glance at these little pumpkins (term of endearment — these used to be watermelon sprouts) to realize the effect one day of missed watering can have on your plants.  Devastating. 

But sprouts are fussy that way.  Without enough volume of dirt and sun shelter, they are susceptible to your bouts of memory loss.  Once in the garden though, they stand a much better chance. With a bit of mulch and deep even watering once every other day or so (depending on what you’re growing), your babies should be good to go!

And remember:  these plants are like your babies.  You must care for them until they can care for themselves.  And you must keep predators away.  While this part of her project is still in progress, she has secured her pipes to the outside of her beds.

All she has left to do now, is wrap this mesh around the corner pipes and she’s golden!  Or neon orange—but who cares?  The rabbits will be forced to go elsewhere! 

Don’t worry.  They’ll be fine.  As in Tami’s garden.

Take Cover!

Mama Nature is throwing us one last dose of chill!  And while some don’t think it will dip into frost territory, we’re not taking any chances.  We’ve been burned (think icy burn) before and will not be again. 

Just look at these sweet little things.  Would you take a chance with their survival?  Didn’t think so.   So after some discussion, we used this lightweight frost blanket to cover our beans, tomatoes and peppers.  It’s not the only option.  We could have “insulated” them with mulch, or thrown a bed sheet over top.  Though whichever way you choose to attack this problem, the goal remains the same:  protect their leaves from frost.

Our potatoes are growing well and quite robust and should be able to tolerate a “near dip” experience.  Though just to be sure, we gathered some oak leaves to ensure a snuggly evening.  Talk about perfect segue–our lesson this week was mulch!  

What kind of mulch?

Natural of course, like leaves, bark, hay and would you believe newspaper?  

Oh, yes.  So long as you keep it from flying into your neighbor’s yard by trapping it somehow–we used hay–newspaper mulch is a great way to recycle.  If you prefer the lovely look of all hay, then simply toss the paper out back like the old news that it is–and onto your compost pile!   

If you don’t have one yet, you will soon.  Composting is too easy and too efficient–even for those city dwellers we know.  One afternoon surfing the net will prove you can compost indoors AND keep it clean.  A must.  We are tidy when at all possible.