Bedford Ramblings
Steve Mills

Garden Gleanings - New approach to mulching

Posted Saturday, March 1, 2008, at 8:57 PM
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  • Boy, what a day! I can tell I had a great one in the garden 'cause I feel like I've been run over by the tractor. Even Cooper is coming in early.

    Planted some red potatoes to see what will happen. I have never done well with them but we had a bag come from the grocery just bustin' to grow. They were not good for eating so....

    Tilled the other half of one garden and started making the beds. There is something about freshly tilled soil that sure is invigorating. I just wish O had the energy to go along with it.

    Need to get my tomatoes going but I believe I am done for the day. Sitting at the computer or TV might be all I can muster.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Sun, Mar 2, 2008, at 4:27 PM
  • Hey Stevo!

    Sounds like I'm not the only one working in the garden today! I finished tilling up my small garden(via one of those things you stick in the ground and turn it with all your might).

    I put all my seedlings outside today, and about half my tomato plants broke! I guess the wind blew them too hard, and bent their stems. They are about 4 to 6 inches tall. Is there any advice you can give me for the remainder of my tomato plants?

    I have learned the hard way that tomatoes, onions, and Marigolds aren't very harty plants (at least inside). My tomatos stay in the window seal.

    Now I have not lost a single pepper plant yet! I know I will have a ton of those come pickin' time!

    -- Posted by Mary on Sun, Mar 2, 2008, at 11:16 PM
  • Oh, and neat idea about the wood for mulch!

    The only problem I could think of is you would have to watch the circumference (sp?) of your plant stems/trunks, making sure everything had plenty of room to grow.

    I was thinking about using newspaper for mulch. What do you think since you are the expert?

    -- Posted by Mary on Sun, Mar 2, 2008, at 11:21 PM
  • Thanks for the confidence, but we are all being taught by Mother Nature every season, so we probably should downgrade that a bit. I am sure there are more knowledgeable gardeners out there. I just happen to have the blog and love to write. (not type, but...)

    Boy, you are more optimistic than me! Tomatoes already? You may know what I write next, but for others who might be reading:

    Number one for the tomato and pepper plants is be sure you are ready to cover them up during our fickle springs. We have some cold weather coming up tomorrow night.

    I plan to cover my cold-hardy plants with a white non-woven fabric, but tomatoes might need something more with temps going down into the mid-20's.

    Depending on how tall they are, I might suggest using a plastic cup and a blanket. The cup will hold the weight of the blanket off the plants.

    I used this during the cold snap last spring and saved all my plants. The blanket may have gathered heat from the soil and kept it close. Some people will put a light up under their cover to add warmth, but keep it off the blanket to avoid fire.

    The tomato plants that bent over may not be lost. Mound some soil up to the bottom leaves. They sound pretty young, so it is also suggested to handle them by their leaves when lifting them to replant.

    On the ones still to be planted, dig the hole deep enough to bring them up to their bottom leaves. People often cut the bottom leaves off spindly or tall plants to purposely bury more of the stem.

    This is because the stem will produce roots where it is covered, thus giving the plant an even larger root mass to work with. Your plants sound young enough that they will not have leaves to spare yet, so just plant them to the bottom leaves.

    Newspaper is great mulch. It absorbs moisture, shades the soil and decomposes into the soil. Many newspapers use a soy based ink, so that should not be an issue. If you are not sure, just use the black and white pages.

    Anyone know what the T-G uses?

    I would use 4-6 layers at the minimum and plan to put some other mulch or weight on top to keep it from blowing away. Wetting it works, but it will dry out eventually so you need the weight.

    I tried this on an entire garden bed once. After I wet it down, I was able to transplant easily through the paper, then mulched on top to make it look more presentable. I did not use enough paper because it only lasted about half the season before the weeds got through.

    I may try again on one of the beds I am creating now.

    I don't know if you have the problem, but on tender seedlings, I would put tooth picks next to the stems to reduce cutworm damage. Others will have more suggestions, but the basic idea is to keep the cutworm from being able to encircle the stem.

    Supposedly they can not feed if they can not wrap around it. I have not seen an actual example of how the cutworm eats, but it seems to work so...

    -- Posted by stevemills on Mon, Mar 3, 2008, at 8:02 AM
  • Thanks for all the advice.

    My tomatos and peppers are still inside with me. I will probably plant them outside at the end of March. Not sure though.

    I have been saving news paper all winter, so hopefully I will have enough for my garden.

    Thank you again!

    -- Posted by Mary on Mon, Mar 3, 2008, at 11:44 AM
  • Aha, when you said you put them outside, I was afraid you meant in the ground. I was trying to find a nice way to say YIKES!

    Now I understand, you just took them for a breath of fresh air.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Mon, Mar 3, 2008, at 4:53 PM
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