Saturday, October 25, 2008

My Big Plans Petered Out

Or, maybe I should say I petered out! I had big plans out in the garden today. It was a perfect gardening day. There was a light breeze, the temps weren't dreadfully cold or hot, and there was lots of bright sunshine. I was going to weed, put down fresh compost, throw out some seeds, then top off with new mulch. The only thing that got accomplished was going to buy mulch, ten...yes, TEN (10) bags of mulch. I also got some pics of what's going on in my flower bed right now. The cool weather has really put a stop to most of my bloomers. So, let's talk mulch.

This is such a beautiful picture. Not only because of the bags of mulch, but because it's in the bed of my truck. My truck that's been out of commission for about 2 months because I thought it was the battery that needed to be replaced. My husband, the mechanic, said it was the fuel something or other. Two months later, turns out it was the battery. Need I say more?!?

I digress.

Mulch is essential in every garden. The two most important functions of mulch are water retention and weed control. A proper layer of mulch, approximately 4", helps the soil retain water, thus cutting down on the amount of water you need to use to keep your plants flourishing. Less water usage equals a lower water bill during those hot summer months. If you live in an area prone to drought and have water rationing, mulching will help your plants stay healthy when you can't water. My favorite kind of mulch to use is a native Texas shredded red cedar mulch. The finely shredded cedar smells GREAT when you take it out of the bag, deters pests, and doesn't usually float away in the rain. The neighbor's cats, however, love to dig in it! LOL

This is what we use in our beds, Texas Native Cedar Mulch from Austin Wood Recycling in Cedar Park, TX. We get it at our local Lowe's. It costs us $3.08/bag. We buy the busted bags for $1 each. What a bargain! I don't like the chunkier mulch as it's a pain in the patootie to use and the bigger chunks float. I used it my first year in a small bed in the back and decided never again! I was sweeping mulch off the patio all the time. Also, you want to avoid the fake-looking colored mulch. It might look pretty, but it's full of chemical coloring. Chemicals are not good for plants and the soil. If I wasn't using shredded cedar, I'd use native hardwood tree mulch, but that's more attractive to nasty bugs, and my goal is to keep the bug population out of my garden. I hate bugs. I'll take bees, birds, hummers, butterflies, anoles, lizards, and ladybugs, though. They're all good bugs to have in the garden. :o)

You can see in the following picture how finely it's shredded. If we had smell computers, you'd be able to smell the wonderful aroma. Too bad we're not that advanced.

Weeds are every gardener's nemesis. I wish we didn't have to deal with weeds. I hate weeds, but they exist. I keep waiting for the weed eradicating fairy to arrive at my house, but I think she got lost along the way. This year, the weeds have been especially bad in my front bed. I think it's because the compost I put in this past spring wasn't really ready and hadn't heated long enough and decomposed properly. I was in a hurry and was still dealing with my back problem.

My plan before the dead of winter sets in is to try to pull the weeds by hand or to dig them out. Then, I'm going to apply some horticultural cornmeal which acts as an anti-fungal and pre-emergent weed killer. On top of that, I'm going to put a layer of newspaper with little slits or cut out areas in which I'll put the various seeds I'm going to sow now for next year. Then, I'll top with some compost from the compost pile and a nice thick layer of mulch. I doubt I'll need all 10 bags. I need to add some to a long narrow bed along the garage and a small bed in the back.

I'll let you know in the spring if my plan worked. I don't want a repeat of this next spring, weeds encroaching upon my Autumn Joy Sedum.

Lastly, there is one other type of mulch we use. It's in ready supply and free. We have a small bed in the front of our house that gets total shade from a huge oak tree. It also gets lots of acorns from said tree, but that's another story for another time, maybe this winter when it's absolutely dead in the garden. Once again, I digress.

So, in this little bed, I have native columbine, pigeonberry, and some daylilies. When we moved in, there was nothing planted in this bed. It was covered in a thick layer of leaves, since the house had been vacant for over a year and the yard had been neglected. When we planted last spring, we dug out all the leaves and hauled them to the compost pile in the backyard. It took us about 4 trips to the compost pile to get all the leaves. We ammended the soil with cottonseed hulls, mushroom compost, and compost from our compost pile, planted our new plants, then put down our cedar mulch. The first good spring rain came, and our mulch washed down the driveway! We decided to put the leaves back in the bed as mulch until we get gutters and a downspout to redirect the rain from the roof. They've worked extremely well and they don't float away.

Here's a pic I took this afternoon of the leaves with some ripe pigeonberries.

Here's what the Columbine bed looks like in early spring when the Columbines are at their growth peak.

Until next time, happy gardening!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Plant Swap! (AKA "Free Plants")

This afternoon, my husband and I drove over to Arlington to participate in the North Central Texas Plant Swap hosted by the Texas Gardeners group on the Dave's Garden website. What an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon! The weather was absolutely perfect, not too hot and not too cool, a light breeze, and lots of sunshine. There were about 50 of us, give or take a few, and TONS of plants to be traded and given away. Almost all of the plants were from individual's gardens, either from volunteers, dividing clumps, rooting cuttings, or plants people didn't want any longer.

Here's what I took:

I had some Rock Rose (pavonia), Ruellia "Katie's Pink", a couple of Shasta Daisy "Becky", and May Night Salvia. Yesterday, I dug up several starts of Pigeonberry that I discovered out by the compost pile and took those along as well.

This is what I came home with:

I don't know what half of these things are, but thankfully they're all labeled!

More plants.

My husband scored a tomato plant with little flowers on it as well as some seed starting trays.

Here's a picture of the trade tables. Every member was assigned a spot at the tables and it was marked with each person's board name. Plants brought for pre-arranged trades were put under the table at each person's place. Extras were put on top of the tables.

I am already making plans for the spring swap!! Now all I have to do is get all this stuff planted before the first freeze!