Monthly Archives: April 2020

Mulch Now to Decrease Yard Work

Garden Mulch
Garden Mulch For Less Work

Right now is the perfect time to take care of annual mulching. Early birds are rewarded with less yard work in the summer and autumn. However, only a good mulch—whether you choose organic or inorganic—is going to do the trick. Mulching leads to efficiency because good mulch dramatically reduces weed growth while helping to retain moisture during drier months. A great mulch buffers changes in soil temperatures and helps areas that are difficult to irrigate or mow. Of course, many gardeners choose to add mulch just because of the aesthetics. Whether you’re interested in mulching to reduce erosion, optimize soil characteristics, or a combination of perks, now is the time to act.

The mulch you had during the winter helped to keep roots and soil warm. Come summer, it will do the same to keep soil cooler. Mulch helps you out because a good layer of quality mulch means you won’t have to weed, use trimmers, or mow in these areas as often. This in turn means less risk of plant damage and disease. String-trimmer damage can be severe, and it doesn’t take much to over-trim with these hand-held devices. Trimmers can also whisk away bark layers. Once protective layers are gone, plants need ample time to heal. Mulch minimizes this damage.

Choosing the Right Mulch

You can choose organic or inorganic mulch. Organic mulch decomposes slowly and improves soil aeration, drainage, and fertility. Inorganic mulches don’t offer those benefits because they don’t decompose; however, this also means they don’t need to be refreshed as often. Many gardeners think “organic mulch” when they think about mulch, and this can be a great choice for many people.

Pine bark mulch is popular, readily available, and it’s a renewable forest industry byproduct. You can choose from various particle sizes, and the natural brown color is appealing in any garden. Pine straw is also popular and available in bales. As an added bonus, pine straw binds together so it doesn’t wash away as easily as many other organic mulches. There’s also shredded wood that can be sourced from a variety of options including mixed hardwood and recycled pallets. 

Getting Mulch Creative

You can supplement your organic mulch with what you’re already creating in your yard, such as leaf litter and lawn clippings. Lose the bag option on your lawnmower and instead make use of the “debris” by using it as mulch. However, keep in mind this kind of mulch decomposes very quickly so it’s best used as a supplement to purchased mulch that’s packed with nutrients for a happy, healthy lawn.

Should I Buy Compost or Make My Own?

The easy answer is both! In an ideal world, you’d naturally be able to make your own, perfect compost via food scraps alone, but that’s just not the case for the vast majority of people. Compost is essential for your yard and garden because it can help and correct every issue you might be facing. However, “compost” can mean a lot of things. The goal is to ensure that it’s prepared properly and has balanced nutrition. Homemade compost, of course, reduces your carbon footprint, but you only have so much say in terms of the materials used. By pairing it with bagged compost (or supplementing) you can ensure your compost is perfectly balanced.

The nutritional value of your compost completely depends on the materials. For example, compost made of just grass clippings and cardboard is going to have a completely different nutritional makeup than one made of veggie scraps and kindling—but they’re both composts. Many people like to create their own compost because they know exactly what’s in it, but homemade compost is rarely good enough to be a fertilizer on its own. 

Choosing and Making the Right Compost

Compost helps soil sustain more nutrients, air, and water, improving the soil over time. However, some compost can be bad for the soil. Compost is a source for nutrients, and if you overload your soil it can cause a type of toxicity. All plants need phosphorous, nitrogen, and potassium—but not too much of each. When you buy bagged compost, you’ll see exactly how much of these ingredients are included. Before applying compost, it’s a good idea to test your soil’s current levels and get its pH. This will help you see what kind of compost to add and which nutrients the soil is missing. Of course, if you make compost at home, you won’t have that information without testing the soil first (which most people fail to do). 

If you feel overwhelmed already, you’re not alone. Composting for gardens isn’t as simple as choosing a bag at random and adding it to the soil. You can do more harm than good. The goal of composting is to fix any deficiencies in your soil and not poison the soil with too much of a good thing. You’re adding nutrients that your soil is lacking, and you need to know where your soil stands first. The good news is that testing the soil’s pH is easy, cost-effective and you can get kits at most gardening stores.

Composting 101

The first step is testing your soil. Once you know which nutrients your soil is lacking and which ones are in abundance, you can make an informed choice on bagged compost. If you’d like to reduce waste as well, adding in some homemade composting probably won’t hurt your yard since most people can’t create too much home composting. How much compost you’ll need is another factor. Most lawns require 8 – 16 cubic yards of compost. You’ll be adding a compost layer anywhere from ¼ – ½ inch to the yard. Most compost bags are 3 cubic feet, which means most people need 72 – 144 bags.

As you can see, a lot of compost is necessary to reinstall a yard and you’ll likely order compost by the truckload. However, for smaller projects like a tiny garden you want to nurture and will require fewer bags. We’ll help you determine how much compost you need based on your project.

8 Tips to Make a Healthy Garden

The Dirt Bag Healthy Garden Tips
Healthy Garden Tips

Whether you consider yourself equipped with a green thumb or a black thumb, there are some basic gardening tips to keep in mind. What does gardening and the holiday season have in common? Quite a bit—you can garden year-round depending on where you live and your penchant (or not) for indoor potted plants. Some plants thrive in the colder months, while for others this is prime time for planting and winterization.

No matter what kind of garden you have planned, keep these gardening hacks in mind to make the most of your bounty:

1. Test and (maybe) fertilize your soil

The odds of your soil being perfectly attuned to the needs of your plant are slim to none unless you are using garden soil plus. That’s like hoping your diet perfectly gives your body all the minerals and nutrients it needs without a supplement. Test your soil every year for deficiencies, and add fertilizer if necessary.

2. Choose local plants

Simply put, it’s easier to make a plant thrive in your garden if it’s already local and native to the area, a local compost helps too. It’s not very easy to encourage a palm tree to grow in Alaska. Plus, if you’re a veggie or herb grower, this can also help you eat seasonally in a serious farm to table type of environment. 

3. Follow the plant’s instructions

This one should be a no-brainer, right? However, make sure you brush up on the recommended amount of watering, shade, and sunlight your plant needs. Even if you’ve been caring for a specific breed of roses for years, it doesn’t hurt to make sure you’re still following the “owner’s manual.”

4. Prune and deadhead…correctly

There’s an art to pruning and deadheading, and every plant has different specifications. However, general rules of thumb include not removing more than one-third of a plant’s branches, making angled cuts when the leaves aren’t present (for deciduous plants), and trimming more often if the tree/plant is younger.

5. Practice natural pest control when possible

There are many ways to battle pests and insects without using harmful chemicals. Do your research on the best plan of action depending on the pest in question. For example, coffee growers in Costa Rica use a makeshift solution with a cup filled 25 percent with a sweet rum. It attracts insects, drowning them (happily) since the rum is more appealing than the coffee plants.

6. Only take on as much as you can handle

The health of your garden depends on the answer to this one question: How much time can you, and want to, dedicate to it? A neglected garden isn’t going to thrive no matter how sturdy the plants are. If you’re a newbie, start out with potted herbs and see just how invested you really are (it’s much easier to expand than cut back).

7. Plant at the right time

There’s a plant for nearly any time of the year. If you’re a serious gardener who wants to work on your green thumb year-round, seek out plants in your region that require care, planting, or pruning through every season.

8. Spacing is everything

For many plants and trees, the root system is much larger than what you see above ground. Make sure you properly space your plants and trees. With veggie gardening, spacing is crucial to optimize the size and growth speed of each plant.

Whether you dream of making your own holiday wreath from your own plants in a few years or you’re already plotting your summer bounty, ‘tis the season to reflect on your best gardening practices. Contact The Dirt Bag today to chat about the best plants for your future harvests.