Yesterday, I introduced the concept of mulching in the garden. I covered what mulch is, when and where to mulch and reasons for applying mulch. In this post, I’d like to discuss some of the different materials that can be used as mulch. I will finish with a couple of tips for applying mulch. I realise this is quite a long post but I didn’t want to break it up into two parts as it will ruin the flow.
There are pros and cons for each type of mulch, which I will summarise below. The key is to use the mulch most suited to the plant. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it contains some of the most common mulches that are used around the garden.
Tips for mulching
One of the great things about being a part of this challenge is that we are constantly reminded about what we should be doing around the garden. Even if you’re a seasoned gardener (excuse the pun), it’s easy to overlook things, especially in spring when you’re so busy. In her recent admin comments, Sarah reminded us to apply mulch before the rain sets in again, if we haven’t already done so. Yesterday, I managed to spread some lawn clippings around our tamarillo, lemon and banana trees (see photo). Fortunately I had weeded the area about a fortnight ago, so I could go straight to the task of applying the mulch. We don’t have much of a lawn because it gave way to the garden over time. As a consequence, we don’t get many clippings. However, the neighbour’s property was very overgrown as it had been abandoned for a long time after the tenants moved out. When the lawn was finally mowed two days ago, there were lots of clippings which I gathered for the garden. There was no one around to ask permission, so I only raided the front (I didn’t want to sneak around the back and be busted trespassing!). Anyway, their lawn looks much tidier now that the layer of clippings has been removed. I was going to purchase some Kolush seaweed and manuka mulch which I trialled last year for Palmers Garden Centre, who kindly gave me four bags to use around the garden and follow up on through my blog and on social media. I had excellent results using this product – lots of lush growth, flowers and fruit on our trees. However, lawn clippings are free. I’m trying to economise more in the garden as I’m very conscious of the fortune we spend for the upkeep. I also wanted to experiment and try using different mulches around the garden, comparing their efficacy later on in my blog. For now, in the challenge, I thought this would be a good time to share some tips about mulching. There is a lot of ground to cover (again, excuse the pun!) so I will spread (haha) this over two posts.
What is mulch?
Mulch is material which is spread over the surface of soil. I will outline some common mulches in my next post.
Where to mulch
Anywhere you are growing plants, whether in the ground, raised beds or containers
When to mulch
Mulch is important to have in the garden all year round. Typically, I apply mulch in spring and autumn as it makes sense to do so straight after new plantings. How often you mulch depends on the material you use and the length of time it takes to break down, as well as how often you plant and replant crops.
Reasons for mulching
Tomorrow, I will outline the different types of mulches you can use, as well as some tips for applying mulch.
In yesterday’s post, I opened up about how developing schizophrenia in my early 30s led me to re-discover gardening, having enjoyed helping my parents around the garden at my childhood home in Whangarei when I was a kid. Because this is a gardening blog, I don’t want to write too much about my health issues. If you want, you can read about my journey at https://www.anitakundu.co.nz/mind. To summarise, I have encountered the following health problems over the past eight years:
I started our garden simply by planting a lily (Hot Spot) in Dad’s memory. I didn’t know anything about growing lilies and didn’t even expect it to flower. When it did, I became hooked and from there, the garden grew. At first, I started off just with flowers (mainly bulbs), then started growing some veggies. I added a few roses and bit by bit, our front lawn gave way to the garden. The range of what I grew also expanded. In the past eighteen months, I added some fruit trees and berries. I consider the garden to be “complete but not finished”, if that makes sense.
Against the background of battling all of the above issues, I found gardening to be very therapeutic. It gave me an outlet and took my mind off my problems (although over time it presented new problems to think about!). In my opinion, medication alone isn’t enough when confronted with these kinds of health issues, a view that was propounded by a couple of health professionals from Counties Manukau who visited me when I was sick once. I strongly believe that plants have healing properties, whether taken medicinally or not. A couple of years ago, I noticed a stray cat that had decided to make a home for herself in our garden. She always seemed depressed, too. In time, she found a way into our hearts and became our cat. Pets can be wonderful therapy for dealing with depression.
I used to be a lawyer. While I did try to return to the workforce several times, in light of all of my health issues, I found that I could no longer hold down a full time job. For a long time, I felt angry that I was forced to step off the career track as a corporate lawyer by no choice of my own as I worked very hard at school, university and in my formative years as a lawyer at one of the largest and oldest commercial law firms in London and Paris. Over time, the garden became my work, if you like. I even ran a boutique nursery from home last year, selling plants and hosting workshops to educate locals about how to grow their own food. I always feel like I’m making up for lost time. I work damned hard (with only two weeks holiday per year I work like an American) and take what I do very seriously (maybe too much so). I’m in a good place now in terms of my health, but it took a long time (and a lot of hard work) to get here. I really resent our busybody neighbours for (i) prying into my mental health issues which are obviously an incredibly sensitive issue (yet apparently spying on the neighbours, asking them lots of personal questions and gossiping about them constantly constitutes so-called normal behaviour?) and (ii) for judging me when I was unable to work and genuinely unwell, even though they don’t work themselves. People can be very quick to criticise others, when they should be looking to themselves first for self-improvement. As for me, I’ve learnt to flip things around and look at life more positively. Living with (and living down) a mental illness isn’t easy, but it is achievable. I’ve accepted my issues and worked hard to find solutions. Developing our garden is a part of that. In the future, I’d like to branch out into other ventures. I see my blog as a stepping stone to bigger projects. I’ve thought of writing a book about gardening and in time, possibly other things too.
Today’s photo is of an oriental trumpet lily which has just started flowering.
In the Yates Veggie Growing Challenge’s blogging tips, we are required to be honest in our blog. With the end drawing closer, I thought that it would be timely for me to summarise the things that I have opened up about over the course of the competition, both explicitly and implicitly.
Today’s photo is of some of my many celery seedlings in the nursery. I hope to keep them rust free by spraying them every fortnight with Yates Liquid Copper.
Over the past week, we’ve been seeing a lot of rain in Auckland, with much more to come. Despite the downpours, I’ve managed to continue to progress the summer garden. Here’s a little summary of what I’ve been up to over the past five days.
Action list for the coming days
Today’s photo is of my two Tumbling Tom Red tomato plants which I grew from seed (Egmont) and planted into hanging baskets. I’m very pleased with how these are coming along. Is anyone else growing tomatoes in hanging baskets this year?
Rain is great for the garden (watering with the hose just isn’t the same!) but there has been a lot lately and it’s sometimes a bit frustrating as I can’t get as much done outdoors! I bet those of you with smaller gardens have finished planting your veggies and are enjoying a rest. I’m jealous. I’m far from finishing the summer garden for two main reasons: (i) successive sowing and planting is great because you have a continuous supply of veggies but it also means that the garden is never complete; and (ii) in my opinion, it’s still too early to plant some things out such as watermelon, okra and snake beans. I’m waiting for December for these heat-loving plants.
You may still be able to get some work done outside in between showers. Depending on how much it is raining, the more general conditions (wind, temperature etc) and what tasks I need to do outside, I sometimes put on a raincoat and continue with my tasks. If, like me, you still want to use time constructively to further your garden when you can’t be outdoors at all (eg if it’s raining torrentially), here are some ideas for indoor (or at least undercover) activities:
Today’s photo is of a strawberry smoothie that we have been having every day, using fresh strawberries from our garden. Mum found the recipe in an old Weight Watchers magazine. It tastes delicious!
In my previous post, I discussed growing okra and outlined some general tips for success. In this post, I will cover some specific tips for sowing, planting and harvesting okra.
Today’s photo is of my bean seedlings. These were a variety of seeds from the Heritage Food Crops Research Trust. Our cat Ginger just loves sleeping in her bed in the greenhouse! Sorry the picture quality is poor – I tried taking this photo many times but it always came out blurry.
This morning, I sowed a packet of Yates Clemson Spineless okra seeds in a punnet on my heat pad. Sometimes, I wonder why I even bother growing okra. It is more suited to growing in a tropical climate. Plants can reach over six foot in certain parts of India, Fiji and some of the southern states of the US. Indeed, this is primarily where okra is eaten. By contrast, my plants are usually grown in pots (if they make it to that stage, as they can be difficult to get growing in the first instance) and are pitifully short by comparison. They’re hardly what I would call heavy croppers. If we’re lucky, we can harvest a handful at one time.
What is okra? It’s a green vegetable quite unlike anything else you have eaten. It doesn’t have a lot of flavour in itself, the real taste comes from the spices you add to it. Usually, you would wash and cut the ends off before cooking it. Okra can either be eaten by itself or added to a dish with other ingredients. You may have come across it in Indian or Chinese dishes. Indian people refer to it as bindi. It is also a key ingredient in gumbo, which is a dish eaten in the southern states of the US. I used to be vegetarian and one of my favourite meals was lentil (dahl), rice, spinach, eggplant and bindi. We love preparing okra with some onion and a little turmeric. We cook it in a little pot on the stove. It doesn’t take very long to cook and tastes delicious!
Here’s why I go to the effort of growing okra every year:
While okra can be a bit tricky, it is nevertheless possible to grow successfully, depending on (i) where you live and (ii) how long and hot your summer turns out to be. Here are a few of my top growing tips.
I’ll cover my specific tips for sowing, planting and harvesting okra in my next post.
Today’s photo demonstrates how the garden works in mysterious ways. I noticed that something has popped up in my chilli plant which is in a 35 litre container. To me, they look a bit like watermelon seedlings, but I’m not sure how that can be as I used fresh potting mix! What do others think? If they are, I’m pretty happy as I find watermelon quite tricky to germinate and don’t have many plants to show for all the packets of seeds I went through!
As the saying goes, it never rains but it pours! We have been blessed with a lot of rain lately, with much more to come. The only thing that concerns me is the cooler temperatures. For every step forwards, it feels like we take two backwards. Surely if you can’t plant the summer garden by now (perhaps with the exception of things like watermelons, okra and snake beans – I’m waiting until December for these ones), I’m not exactly sure when the right time will be. Even so, I think some of my plants are safer braving the elements of mother nature outdoors than being kept in the greenhouse. My poor seedlings kept getting munched by pests!
It’s been awhile since I’ve written about what I’ve been doing in the garden, so here is a potted summary of my recent activity outdoors:
In this series of posts, I will continue to explore common problems with raising seedlings and plants. Two days ago, I covered the topic of death. Yesterday, I focussed on damage, in particular the issues of breakage, pests and disease. In today’s post, I will cover poor crops and a failure to crop at all.
Failure to crop
Today’s photo is of our new David Austin rose Grace, which I have been spraying with Yates Super Shield to prevent black spot. If you’re after David Austin standard roses, D & S Nurseries have an excellent range.