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Monthly Archives: July 2016

Garden Mulch and Its Benefit

Garden mulch can enhance the look of your garden and help keep your garden healthy. Placing it in your garden can also save you time by decreasing the need for watering, applying herbicides and pulling weeds. A healthy vegetable and fruit garden always begins with healthy soil, and a healthy soil can be encouraged through mulching.

Enjoy these Great Advantages of Mulch in the Landscape:

  • Helps moderate the soil temperature
  • Enhances the growth of fruit and vegetables planted
  • Retains moisture during dry weather, reducing the need for watering
  • Reduces excessive weed growth
  • Natural mulches can improve the structure of the soil
  • As mulch decays it becomes topsoil adding nutrients to the soil
  • Enhances the beauty of your home by adding color and uniformity
  • Mulches help prevent damage to trees and shrubs by lawn equipment

There are two general categories of mulch; organic and inorganic. Organic types are made from natural matter, such as bark, wood chips, straw, leaves, pine needles, or grass clippings. Inorganic mulches includes gravel, pebbles, black plastic and landscape fabrics.

Making Comparisons between Organic and Inorganic Mulches

Organic mulch is the most beneficial to your garden. Unlike manufactured types, organic mulch helps improve soil by adding organic matter as it decomposes. According to the United States Department of Agriculture; “Mulch may also encourage the growth of worms and other beneficial soil organisms that can help improve soil structure and the availability of nutrients for plants.”

Organic mulch also costs less than inorganic mulches. Many local Park and Recreation Departments give away wood chips and bark at no charge. A small disadvantage is that because organic mulch decomposes over time, it needs to be replaced after several years.

While inorganic mulch (also known as man-made mulch) doesn’t benefit your garden as much as the organic varieties, it is easier to maintain. The various types of inorganic mulch do not attract pests and do not decompose. Inorganic mulch is an especially good weed barrier.

Water Features for Your Garden

This post is a sponsored review of UK Water Features which is based in Yorkshire, England. A water feature is a great addition to the sustainable garden and can provide many benefits even in a residential backyard.

In addition to the ornamental appeal, a water source is important for the well-being of beneficial insects, birds, and other wildlife that roams the landscape and interacts with the plants, shrubs, and trees that grow there.

Water Feature Suggestions for the Outdoor Landscape

If your backyard is lacking in regards to feathered and furred friends than adding an outdoor fountain or pond may be all that is needed to liven things up! UK Water Features offers some great ideas and options to incorporate water into a variety of settings.

As you’d expect there’s an extensive assortment of garden fountains, bird baths, indoor fountains, and all the supplies needed to set up your own backyard pond including; pumps, liners, lighting, misters, and other pond accessories.

Friendship Fountains and Deck Ponds

A couple of unique products that caught my eye were the Friendship Fountain and the Deck Ponds. The Friendship Fountain is a tiered water feature with water bubbling up from a ball and flowing into one bowl that then feeds into a second lower level bowl. This fountain combines an attractive appearance with relaxing sounds and lighting to accent any outdoor location.

The Deck Ponds come in a variety of sizes ranging from as small as 25 gallons right up to larger units totaling 400 gallons. The Deck Ponds are made from sustainable timbers, require no digging or plumbing and are easy to set up. The simple assembly makes it a snap to store these ponds during the winter months when you are not outside to enjoy them.

Take Your Pick from an Assortment of Garden Features as Well

UK Water Features is about more than just water, they also offer a wide range of products of interest to the gardener and homeowner. You’ll find everything from accent and solar lighting to fire pits, garden furniture, pavers, ornaments and patio heaters.

For the hobby gardener there is a selection of greenhouses, items to assist with pest control, and “grow your own kits” for raising giant pumpkins, fruits, sunflowers, herbs, and more.

UK Water Features offer quality products that are constructed to last even with the constant exposure to outdoor elements. They offer free shipping within the UK, a price guarantee, speedy delivery, and a Yorkshire showroom in addition to an Internet website. So check them out if you have interest in adding a water feature to make your backyard more inviting to both people and wildlife, including beneficial insects that will be happy to lend a helping hand out in the vegetable garden.

A New Technique Grow Sweet Potatoes

Some veggies wilt under the summer’s heat but growing sweet potatoes is one way to make the most of high temps in the backyard garden. In fact, many growers will need to find ways to turn the heat up a few degrees in order to keep sweets happy and productive.

The opportunity for growing sweet potatoes is not limited to Southern climates, They have always done just fine in my Central Pennsylvania gardens producing tubers that are large, sweet, and tasty with little fuss and no disease or insect worries.

# Why Try Something Different when Growing Sweet Potatoes?

So why would I change a good thing when it comes to growing sweet potatoes? Because that’s part of the joy of gardening and I’m always seeking out new techniques and better ways to tend the garden.

In this case I made a few minor changes and so far I’m seeing some rather surprising and noticeable changes. Of course the full story won’t be known until harvest time when the sweet potatoes are dug, and even beyond that after they are cured and eaten!

# What’s New and Exciting with Sweet Potatoes in the Home Garden

For me the changes started with the sweet potato varieties that I planted this year. Rather than the popular but ordinary Puerto Ricans and Georgia Jets, I went a bit more exotic with selections like Korean Purple, Diane, Beauregard, Speckled Purple, and one variety that goes only by a number; “8633.”

My plants were purchased from Mericlone Labs this year and that leads to the next departure from the norm. If you are used to the slips sold in local nurseries that sit in water and already have a nice root system attached, you’ll be as surprised as I was by the appearance of the “slips” from Mericlone.

Their sweet potato plants were shipped from California in a plastic zip lock bag with no water, soil, perlite, or other packing material. The plants had no roots to speak of and looked like a simple vine cutting with a few leaves and part of the stem.

# Growing Sweet Potatoes from Cuttings Rather than Slips

Set aside your skepticism, these plants adjusted to being transplanted faster and easier than any locally grown slips that I have used in the past. Planting was easy as inserting the stem end a couple inches into the soil, and then I just went about my other gardening tasks.

Weather conditions were mild and we did get some rain as the plants were establishing themselves but it was still amazing to watch those rootless sweet potato cuttings take off with very little set back.

A month later I took a cutting from one of the plants in the garden and inserted it into an EarthBox to see how it would do. The weather was much warmer by this time but the cutting took just as easily and makes me wonder why nurseries always use rooted slips for propagation.

# Warming up to New Techniques in the Sweet Potato Bed

The next change that I implemented this season with growing sweet potatoes was to use a black plastic mulch to help warm the soil and retain moisture. This worked great and was very convenient because a small slit in the perforated black plastic was all that was needed before inserting the cuttings.

Mericlone Labs recommended using PVC hoops and clear plastic to cover the bed and running drip tape inside for irrigation. I chose to substitute a heavyweight grade of floating row fabric in place of the plastic because I thought that would work better in my climate and also allow water to penetrate, eliminating the need for drip irrigation under the tunnels.

The floating row covers also helped to increase and hold warmth for the heat loving sweet potato plants; especially on cooler nights. The covers were left in place and made it impossible to actually see the plants, but I could tell that they were growing and filling out behind the scene.

# Evaluating Results of the Improved Practices for Sweet Potatoes

Well yesterday I decided to roll back the cover and take a peek to see just how the plants were doing. It was a very pleasant sight to see lush, healthy, green vines filling the area underneath the cover.

I know it’s still early and there’s a long way to go before I harvest or sample the first fruits from this trial, but so far all is good and I’m encouraged by the results. I’ll probably leave the cover off at this point, especially considering that the vines look like they are ready to stretch out beyond their tunnel area.

One final twist to report is the discovery that unseen underneath the row covers my sweet potato plants have actually been flowering! I’ve never noticed that happening before, and here’s hoping that it’s a good sign of things to come at harvest time, I’ll keep you posted.