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Garden Journal #9: May is for Mulching

Updated on May 8, 2015

April in Review

I just read my Garden Journal entry from this time last year. I love it. Things are very much the same as they were exactly a year ago.

April started with the expected April showers, and once again, with the kind of surprisingly cold weather that makes us regret putting our coats away and frantically searching for sweatshirts at 7:55am. End of March sunshine and heat. You tease.

In addition to rain, things became quite hectic around here for a few weekends there, so not much got done in the garden. I'm embarrassed to admit it is still relatively disorganized and somewhat looking like a work in progress when it comes to aesthetics.

That said, things are definitely growing.

The sun came back toward the end of the month, and this time to stay. Days have been in the 70s and 80s, and though showers are often predicted, they are few and far between. We did have one day of ice-cube sized hail. I spent all 8 minutes of that storm feeling exceptionally thankful that my car goes in the garage.

April 22: Red Potatoes poking through!
April 22: Red Potatoes poking through!

April 26th Photo Updates

Trellis is complete!
Trellis is complete!
Zucchini, small but steady.
Zucchini, small but steady.
Tomato and basil.
Tomato and basil.
Front to back: red potatoes, spinach (still looking quite sad), broccoli, strawberries and marigolds.
Front to back: red potatoes, spinach (still looking quite sad), broccoli, strawberries and marigolds.
Various tomatoes and basil.
Various tomatoes and basil.

Herbs

Clockwise from 11 o'clock: cilantro, lavender, rosemary, chives, peppermint (2)
Clockwise from 11 o'clock: cilantro, lavender, rosemary, chives, peppermint (2)
Oregano
Oregano
My new lemon verbena.
My new lemon verbena.

Meanwhile... Mulch!

One day this month, a friend posted to Facebook that she had finally gotten around to raking some leaves that had been left, forgotten, all winter long. She mentioned their dark color and rich smell and then said, "Come and get them. Free compost!"

And I did.

April 18: Nature's gold. Bags on bags....
April 18: Nature's gold. Bags on bags....
Desperation? (I swear I'm not the only one who has done this.)
Desperation? (I swear I'm not the only one who has done this.)

Mulch and Compost are Not the Same

So obviously I'm a little new to this whole gardening thing. I'm spending a lot of time between Google and Pinterest and sort of just putting ideas into practice as I see them. I have the rest of the season to evaluate what works. I guess.

So I've been reading up on mulch and container gardens. It turns out, I really should have built these beds last Fall and just dumped all my raked leaves in them to sit and rot over the winter.

Hindsight.

I've had a free flowing compost pile for several years which has never really turned into that "black gold" that so many gardeners boast about. Honestly, it has sort of always just sat and dried out. It turns out, compost likes moisture.

Do you hear me?

Compost needs to be watered.

You can see I'm learning a lot.

So mulch and compost are not actually the same thing. I can't say I have compost right now, but I plan to next year. I do, however, have mulch.

Why Mulch Your Vegetable Garden

I find myself resonating most with the more laid back variety of Internet Gardeners. Those who get really technical and talk about taking the temperature and PH of soil tend to intimidate me. Meanwhile, it seems there are plenty of average schmoes out there growing enormous gardens with a little luck and a lot of love.

I rather fancy myself a lucky loving gardening schmo.

So when I read that the best time to mulch is early and often, I jumped on it. One resounding sentiment for all gardens (not just containers, but especially containers because they can dry out so quickly) is that mulch is basically always a good thing, for a variety of reasons.

  1. It suppresses weeds.
  2. It retains moisture.
  3. It moderates soil temperature.

I can't say that I'm an expert, but from what I read, there are tons of different materials you can use for a protective layer of mulch. This includes strange things like crushed sea shells and small rocks, different colors of plastic sheets, rubber nubs, plastic nubs, even packing peanuts.

On a more natural level, leaves and grass clippings (from untreated lawns) make excellent mulch. Straw does as well. (Some people use pine needles, but as a transplant from the Pacific Northwest, God help me if I ever look at pine needles as something that ever needs to be put back into my yard.)

It seems to me that organic matter as mulch makes the most sense, as it will spend this season protecting my soil and next season fertilizing it. Naturally, this lead me to....

After all that raking...
After all that raking...
...don't tell Molly this happened.
...don't tell Molly this happened.
Or this.  (Mulching the mulch.)
Or this. (Mulching the mulch.)

Photos of Mulch in the Vegetable Garden

I wasn't terribly tidy about it all.
I wasn't terribly tidy about it all.
Weed prevention in progress.
Weed prevention in progress.

Final Notes

So I'm feeling encouraged by everything that is done. I'm forever thankful to my husband who got that trellis up. We will see if it is sturdy enough to hold squash. I still have lots of plans, but I'm counting down the days until June and my first bites of back porch tomatoes.

Come Summer. Come quickly.

  • Pictures of strawberries?
  • Ordered nets for strawberries. They are an Amazon backorder, coming to me all the way from China. I guess this means people like them.
  • Remove stumps. Landscape. Make things pretty.
  • Tomato supports. Tomato nets?
  • Compost. Compost bin. Compost area. Something that works and looks okay.

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