NEIGHBORHOOD GARDEN FOR NOVEMBER 10, 2007
WHY MULCH YOUR PLANTS?
BY GEORGE EDGAR
The common myth
is that we mulch our plants in the fall to keep the ground warm. The
truth is we mulch in late fall to keep the ground cold. More winter
hardy plants are killed by the freezing and thawing during the winter
than from the cold. So we want to put the mulch on the soil after
a couple of hard freezes (temps in the low 20’s). I usually do not
cover my roses until after Halloween and this year it will probably be
as late as Thanksgiving because of the warm weather we have had. In
northern climates such as North Dakota and Minnesota where it snows and
the snow stays all winter, some plants do better because the snow
insulates the ground all winter and they do not get the freezing and
If you mulch
too early in the fall, you can keep the ground too warm and then when we
get a sudden cold spell, the plant is not ready for the first hard
freezes of winter (temps in the low 20’s). Also, gardeners who put
their mulch on too early in the fall do not allow the ground to cool
down normally and thus the plant does not go into dormancy naturally.
And don’t remove your mulch too early in the spring. Remember that
warm spell we had in March of 2007. Plants that were not properly
mulched or had their mulch removed too early, warmed up and some broke
dormancy. Then when we got the cold spell in April they could not go
back into dormancy and froze. So don’t put mulch on too early in the
fall or remove too early in the spring.
What is the
best mulch? Each gardener has his or her favorite. Gladys uses lots of
compost from her huge compost pile. I use wood chips or shredded hard
wood on my roses, shrubs, and other perennials because I have access to
it. I do not
recommend using CyprEss mulch from an
ecological point of view. CyprEss
trees are being clear-cut from our native wetlands to make
way for business and housing developments in Florida and the destroyed CYPRESS
TREES are not being replanted. According to the Florida Cooperative
Extension Service, the old idea that CYPRESS
mulch is superior to other mulches is not true anymore.
The old-growth CYPRESS harvested
prior to the 1950’s had a reputation for being rot-and
termite-resistant. But all
those old, old trees have all been
taken except for a few saved in our nature preserves. Now CYPRESS
mulch comes from trees that are too young to develop that property as it
takes hundreds of years for the chemical to form inside the tree. Also
science has found that the proper hydrology for CYPRESS
seed germination is difficult and rarely accomplished by anyone but
Mother Nature. Some counties in Florida have restricted the use of CYPRESS
mulch because its harvest degrades CYPRESS
wetlands. CYPRESS works o.k.
as mulch in your garden, but the destruction of these forests is not
good for our environment.
what do we recommend? RED Cedar
mulch comes from Cedar Tree nurseries and the trees are grown just for
the mulch. The trees grow fairly rapidly and quite often on land that is
not much good for anything else. Hardwood mulches usually come from
trees that had to be cut down for one reason or another and would have
ended up in the landfill or burned if not ground up. Recently hardwood
mulches have been dyed red, gold, and dark brown. Most dyes do not hurt
your soil. Pine needles make an excellent mulch.
use compost on my peonies, raspberries, asparagus, rhubarb, and in the
flower garden. Some gardeners use shredded leaves and grass. Do not use
leaves that have not been shredded by a grinder or your mower, or grass
clippings that have not dried out for a couple days. These tend to mat
down and not allow water to penetrate. Also, there are few air spaces
which are needed for good insulation.
Do not use
those foam cones unless you cut the top out. Then fill the inside with
mulch, compost, or soil. On a warm winter day the heat builds up inside
a cone that has the top still on it. This can heat up the soil on a warm
winter day or in the early spring and cause the plant to break dormancy.
With the next hard freeze the plant then freezes and dies. The cones are
easy and convenient to use, but they do not work.
in the winter to keep the ground cold, and mulch in the summer to keep
the roots cool, the ground from drying out, and to suppress weed growth.
NEW WORLD RECORD PUMPKIN--1,689 POUNDS
BY GEORGE EDGAR
always competing with each other. They
want to have the greenest lawn, be the first to have a new plant, or the
first on the block to have a ripe tomato.
At Halloween time the competition is for the largest pumpkin.
In order to
settle who has the largest pumpkin, the pumpkin growers have formed The
World Pumpkin Confederation (WPC) that conducts pumpkin growing
contests. There are contest sites all over the world including a few
sites in Australia and New Zealand.
Ron Wallace of
Rhode Island took home last years pumpkin growing title with his 1,502
pound pumpkin, setting a new world record. This year Joe Jutras of
Scituate, Rhode Island hauled in the winner and set another world
record. The orange behemoth
tipped the scales at 1,689 pounds. So far this fall in the United
States, at least 6 pumpkins have broken the 1,500 pound mark.
to be the only variety of pumpkin that will create an enormous pumpkin.
One record pumpkin grower says he needs 900 square feet per plant. When
the pumpkins are about 30 pounds or the size of a volleyball, he selects
the one or two best, removes the rest, and applies 100 gallons of water
per day. During the hot summer he even puts a tent over the pumpkins to
keep them from getting sun scald. Fall
soil preparation is very important and includes adding lots of compost
and/or composted manure to the bed.
I did not raise
giant pumpkins but did have fun raising mini-pumpkins for our
granddaughters and our friends. I had the best luck with “Jack-Be-Little”
(orange) and “BABY BOO”
(white) varieties. At last count I harvested over 450 mini-pumpkins,
thanks to my neighbor who lets me “farm” his garden space. I also
planted Butternut Squash
(Waltham), ACORN SQUASH (Table
Queen), and PIE PUMPKIN
(Small Sugar Pie) in the garden. All the vines took over the garden, so
if you grow pumpkins and/or squash, make sure you have enough room.