Lowenfels: Moment to mulch is now -- just be careful

GardeningMay 8, 2013 

What a difference a week makes! Who even remembers winter? I sure don't, given the number of things I keep finding to do in my spring garden.

Let's start with the mulch you should have on all soils. (There are no bare soils in Nature). If you haven't already, it is a good idea to gently pull it off your garden so the soils can warm faster. It's not the end of the world if you don't, but you will see warmer soils quicker if you do. This seems to be particularly so when large bark chips have been employed.

Obviously, be careful if you are working in a perennial bed as the new shoots may be hidden in the mulch. Keep all you remove and put it back in a couple of weeks so that it can support the soil food web.

If you don't have mulch, you should. Brown mulches feed the soil life best for perennials, trees and shrubs. Green mulches are ideal for annuals and row crops. (Read: "Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide To The Soil Food Web," Lewis and Lowenfels, Timber Press). It's easy to get green mulch when the lawns green up. If you don't have extra leaves around, it's a bit more difficult to get brown mulches without having to pay for them. For this reason, keep an eye on those in your neighborhood who foolishly rake and bag all this great stuff under the guise of spring cleaning. Pick up those bagged leaves for mulch and for composting.

For those who have had their houses, cars, play equipment and anything else left outside bombarded with "artillery fungi," which reside in mulch (usually bark mulches), consider adding mushroom spawn the surface of your mulches. This is available in soil and mulch mixes found at local outlets. One university professor suggests a 40 percent mix -- that is four buckets of spawn to six of mulch. And for goodness sake, don't scrape the stuff off onto mulch around your house as this will cause it to regrow in the mulch.

Next, why are you waiting to buy starts? When the birch leaves are the size of squirrels' ears you can even start to harden them off. The crowds, the humanity you miss by shopping early will be offset by the best selections of annuals and vegetable and tomato plants. The tomatoes and some of the others may need transplanting before planting out (traditionally Memorial Day Weekend). Make sure you have mycorrhizal fungi on hand to dust the roots. Also, place organic fertilizer (especially with phosphorus) toward the bottom of the pot where the roots will grow into it. (Read: "Teaming with Nutrients: The Organic Gardener's Guide to Optimizing Plant Nutrition," Lowenfels, Timber Press).

By all means get potatoes going. Get them into light so the eyes will grow a bit. Next week, chip yours; that is, cut them into pieces so that there are a few eyes on each. You can plant them in pots of soil if you want. If it is warm, you can plant them in container systems. Ground beds will still be too cool and will slow growth.

Finally, the only thing a spring lawn really needs once it starts growing is water. Either you give it to the lawn or Nature does. Don't fertilize it. Don't lime it. Just wait and see how it does. Oh, and surely don't thatch it. Aerate it, yes, but thatching is something you do once a lawn has greened out and you determine what you have is thatch build-up, not just dead grass, which is what you see now. That will decay and feed the lawn soils.

 

Join Jeff Lowenfels at "The Garden Party," 10 a.m.-noon on Saturdays on KBYR AM 700.

 

 

 

 

BOOK SIGNING: My new book, "Teaming With Nutrients: The Organic Gardener's Guide to Plant Nutrition." Get a copy now. I will sign it at the Alaska Botanical Garden on May 25. There will be a test.

SOCIETY OF AMERICAN FORESTERS ANNUAL PLANT SALE: DETAILS AND ORDER FORM AT FORESTERY.ORG/ALASKA.

ALASKA BOTANICAL GARDEN: MEMBERS GET INTO THE GARDEN'S PLANT SALE EARLY, AND IT'S COMING UP ALONG WITH ALL SORTS OF EVENTS, SO DO JOIN AND DO CHECK OUT WWW.ALASKABG.ORG.

FLOWERS: IF YOU HAVE ANY SEEDS, GO FOR IT. IT'S EITHER TOO LATE OR JUST ON TIME, BUT WHAT HAVE YOU GOT TO LOSE? WE WILL BE IN THE GROUND IN A FEW WEEKS!

PEONIES: THIS IS ONE PLANT IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO "DEMULCH" AND TO DO SO CAREFULLY.

MAT-SU MASTER GARDENERS ANNUAL PLANT SALE: 9 A.M.-3 P.M. ON JUNE 1 AT THE PALMER PAVILION.

Garden calendar

 

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