Posts Tagged With: mulching

Fall Checklist Part 3: How to Layer Mulch for the Winter

Part 3. Mulching Your Fall Garden

For part three of our Fall Checklist for Winter 2014, we’re talking mulch: whatever material you cover your flower beds with, we cover mulch basics to help you select which one will work best in your landscape.

What does mulch do?

Mulching keeps weeds at bay, preserves moisture in the soils and adds a finishing touch to any garden bed or landscape.

What types of mulch are available?

  1. Rock mulch. The most permanent. Rocks won’t fade, wash out, blow away or decompose. It’s an ideal mulch for low maintenance landscapes.
  2. Wood bark mulch. The most common. Bark is inexpensive, looks very natural and is easy to apply, especially if you are planting annuals or bulbs on a regular basis. However, they do decompose over time, and need to be replaced with a new layer
  3. Pine straw mulch. Great for hydrangea, azalea and rhododendron beds. Pine straw slowly acidifies soil once it’s laid in place.
  4. Cocoa hull mulch. One of the more exotic, cocoa hulls are a byproduct of the chocolate industry, smell great and are good for the soil. One warning, dogs often eat cocoa hulls, which can make them sick.
  5. HydroStraw hydro seeding mulch. A new alternative to wood, paper and cellulose mulches. HydroStraw is made in the USA and specially formulated with renewable natural fibers, tackifier and other additives that provide more coverage, more quickly. In addition, you’ll use less water.

How do you apply mulch?

Start by spreading mulch by hand in between plants, using a rake in more open areas, then layer mulch at least two to three inches deep. For every 100 square feet of area, that equates to about 10 to 12 bags of wood mulch.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with wintering your gardens. From wheelbarrows to shovels and everything in-between, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-tos, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Fall Checklist Part 2: Caring for Trees and Shrubs

Part 2. Fall Gardening To-Dos

Part two of our Fall Checklist for Winter 2014 focuses on maintenance tips for your trees and shrubs, suggestions for newly planted varieties and what to plant right now, before the snow flies.

Step 1. Water newly planted conifers and other evergreens regularly, especially if there’s little precipitation and even after it starts to snow. Young trees and shrubs need moisture to help establish their root systems.

Step 2. Clean up rotten, fallen crops and leaves from fruit trees, then prune them in late winter. You can spray them with dormant oil, which is effective in controlling and killing off certain insects and mites that could damage trees.

Step 3. Cut back rose canes to within a foot of the ground and cover them with soil.

Step 4. Rake and compost leaves, which could be an ongoing process until all the leaves fall from your trees!

Step 5. Now is the time to plant new plants such as oak, holly, beautyberry and bare-root roses.

Step 6. Mulch, mulch, mulch!

Special Step for 2014. Consider wrapping tender, thin-barked young trees, which are susceptible to winter sunscald and frost crack. Young maples, apple, crabapple, lindens and cherry trees are especially susceptible. Any tree can be wrapped with tree guards to protect from rodent damage and tender foundation shrubs can be wrapped in burlap or heavy Kraft paper found at your local garden center.

Start at the bottom of a plant near the ground, wrapping upward in a spiral, overlapping each layer so that water falls off the wrap. Wrap a tree trunk up to the lowest branches and secure with masking tape. Also, wrap the canes of tender roses in burlap, lay the wrapped canes on the ground and cover them with soil or mulch.

Before growth begins in late winter or early spring, remove the wrap to prevent moisture build-up, which can lead to disease.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with wintering your gardens. From wheelbarrows to shovels and everything in-between, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-tos, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Categories: Fall Checklist, Gardening and Lawn Care, How-To's | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fall Checklist Part 1: Garden Clean-up & Winterization

Fall Garden Checklist - Part 1

Welcome to our Fall Checklist for Winter 2014! While fall weather is still crisp but cool – and the ground is not yet frozen – we’re going to help you tackle cleaning up your garden.

Step 1. In addition to removing spent blooms and shriveled leaves, cut back, break up and remove any foliage that looks diseased. How do you spot foliage that’s been attacked by disease? Look for bugs, leaves that are eaten away as opposed to succumbing to fall color or lint-like growth and coatings on stems and foliage. Cutting out any disease, or the entire plant, will prevent the offending condition from staying viable, known as “overwintering,” and making it less likely to attack in the spring.

Step 2. During a dry fall, water trees, shrubs and especially evergreens deeply, so they stay hydrated during the dormant winter season.

Step 3. Amend the soil in your garden beds by spreading them with a couple of inches of organic compost, which breaks down over the winter to reveal healthy, nutrient-rich planting material when the snow melts. This is especially effective for sand or clay soils.

Step 4. Apply a layer of mulch to perennial plants, after the soil freezes and daytime temperatures dip below 32 degrees. The winter mulch protects them from chilly air, fast freezes, wind and weather.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with wintering your gardens. From wheelbarrows to shovels and everything in-between, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-tos, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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How to Properly Maintain Your Garden by Weeding, Mulching & Watering

Maintain Your Garden This Summer in 3 Simple Steps

Summer is the perfect time to maintain and enjoy your garden. That said, there are three key components to summertime garden maintenance: weeding, mulching and watering. Pruning and increasing shade when necessary can also improve the lives of your flowers and plants. Disturbed soil loses its moisture rapidly and makes it hard for gardens to recover, so keeping up with your outdoor oasis is crucial.

Step One. Eliminate Pesky Weeds

The idea is to smother weeds before they germinate, and to do so by keeping the soil moist, thus making it easier to pull weeds up. Another preventative measure is to remove weeds before they go to seed and spread through your garden. The key indication being that they are still small at this point, not too big, only 2-3 weeks old. Using a trowel or hoe to scrape below the surface will cut and uproot these tiny weeds. This is an example of cultivation as a weed elimination method.

Another type of weeding is just that, weeding in the literal sense…pulling weeds out by hand. Having really moist soil allows for this because they pop right up if they’re small enough and not deeply rooted.

Step Two. Mulch Every Square Inch

Mulching is also a method for preventing weed growth — depriving them of light and air, essentially smothering them. Mulching conserves moisture and allows your plants to maintain a constant temperature range. Not surprisingly, mulch reduces evaporation from the soil up to 70%.

In addition to this, mulch improves soil structure, increases water retention, soil nutrients and worm activity. Mulch is essential if you want to maintain your garden through periods of low rainfall. And even better, mulching eventually destroys most if not all weeds.

There are a variety of materials you can use for mulch, including:

  • straw
  • compost
  • shredded bark
  • grass clippings
  • other organic material

*Quick Tip: compost, straw or bark mulch are ideal for garden beds. Whereas stones or wood chips are better for paths and non-growing areas because they reduce soil splash, dust, etc.

Step Three. Water With Purpose

First things first, before watering, push aside the mulch and put your finger into the soil. If it’s moist, then there is no need to water. If it is dry, then you know it’s about that time. There are two types of watering systems you can implement: fixed or portable.

1. Fixed: built into your garden. i.e. drip irrigation. This includes soaker hoses, which literally leak throughout the area. Fixed systems are at soil level, so water goes directly to the roots. For a soaker hose specifically, lay it through your garden where plants are small (for easy access) and then cover with loose mulch.

2. Portable: a cheaper alternative that can be moved exactly where needed i.e. watering and sprinkling cans, hand-held hoses and sprinkler systems. When choosing a water hose, consider a few qualities:

  • 4 ply construction for superior resistance
  • Large diameter (5/8″)  for faster delivery
  • Brass couplings, which reduce leaks

A few things to keep in mind when watering…

1. With existing plants, water less frequently and then not at all.

2. Observe for signs of stress i.e. wilting and leaf fall to determine if your watering schedule is effective or not.

3. Less frequent deep watering equips deep-rooted plants to withstand hot, dry days (i.e. drought resistance).

4. Set your sprinkler in one part of garden while hand watering in another to save time.

5. Water where crop plants are and drip plant in beds and out of paths.

Additional Resources

Good luck getting your garden in shape this summer. The sooner you finish weeding, mulching and perfecting your water schedule, the more you can enjoy it. Check out this Guide to Good Garden Watering for more insight. If you’re thinking of creating a new garden, or you don’t have one, take this quiz to find your perfect garden plan. Oh, and if this proves a pretty harsh summer where you are, read this article about how to protect your garden. Please reach out if you have any questions. Happy gardening!

Categories: Gardening and Lawn Care, How-To's | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Utilize 3 Easy Steps for a Glorious Garden This Spring

Soil. Fertilize. Mulch.Soil. Fertilize. Mulch. Repeat.

Soil. Fertilize. Mulch. Repeat.

It’s the gardener’s mantra, and sometime during the growing season you’re probably adding “Harvest,” and “Enjoy” to the chant as well. As long as you follow this mantra and do your due diligence in preparing your garden for plants, grass, flowers or shrubs, it really will look glorious. So, get out your wheelbarrow and shovel, and get to work.

1. Prepare the Soil

Before you start digging into your garden patch or lawn, make sure the soil is dry enough to work without causing damage. Turning over or tilling wet soil can actually cause it to clump, becoming brick hard after it dries out. Form a ball of soil with your hands, then see if you can break the ball apart easily. If you can, the soil is dry enough to work.

Here are a few more tips:

  • Test the soil pH every three to four years. Use lime to raise pH and iron sulfate or elemental sulfur to lower it, according to recommendations.
  • Improve poor, compacted soils by adding a six-to-eight-inch layer of rich organic compost.
  • If the soil is especially poor, consider building raised beds and filling them with a mixture of good topsoil and leaf compost, for growing vegetables, herbs and flowers.
  • Avoid erosion by protecting bare soil with cover crops, ground-covers, turf or mulch.

2. Fertilize

Most plants used in landscaping get adequate nutrition from a soil that’s rich in organic matter. Garden beds that get yearly applications of at least one inch of compost are also nutritionally sound. Overusing fertilizers can cause weak growth, more pests and water pollution. Make sure to sweep granular fertilizers away from paved surfaces to prevent them from washing into storm drains and waterways.

Plants that typically benefit the most from fertilizer are flower-producing annuals, fruit trees and vegetables. Apply a soluble fertilizer to the root system or to foliage. Fruit trees are usually fertilized in the spring; however, landscape trees, mature shade trees, fescue and bluegrass turf are best fertilized in the fall.

Cow, horse, sheep, pig, goat and poultry manure makes a nutrient-rich, moisture-retaining fertilizer for your plants. In the spring, use cow and horse manure in flower or vegetable beds and on acid-loving plants such as blueberries, azaleas, mountain laurel and rhododendrons. Chicken manure is good for vegetables and potato crops.

3. Mulch

Mulch is a gardener’s secret weapon, protecting plants and soil in a number of ways:

  • Conserves soil water
  • Suppress weeds
  • Moderates soil temperatures
  • Reduces soil erosion and crusting
  • Increases water absorption into the soil
  • Improves soil structure through aeration, moisture control and less cultivation

To properly insulate the soil, apply mulch evenly at a uniform depth of about two inches. If weeds are a problem in your garden, consider treating the area with a pre-emergent herbicide before mulching.

Ideal mulch is one that is free of weeds, insects and disease, adding organic matter to the soil. It’s also readily available, economical, easy-to-apply and remove, yet stays in place. Summer mulches applied in mid-spring, once the soil is warm enough for roots to grow, are made to warm the soil, reduce weeds and retain moisture. Whereas, winter mulches applied in late fall, before the ground has frozen, protect the soil and plants from winter weather.

Gardeners should choose the right mulch for each garden location:

  • For vegetable gardens or fruit plantings, use black plastic, landscape fabric and straw
  • For shrub beds or around trees, use wood chips, bark chunks and pine needles
  • For annual or perennial beds, use attractive bark granules, wood shavings, sawdust, cocoa shells and buckwheat hulls
  • For rock gardens, use crushed stone, fine gravel or volcanic rock

About the Author

Tempe Thompson is a sales and inventory expert at Runyon Equipment Rental. She has over 35 years of experience and has accumulated a tremendous amount of knowledge and expertise. She could talk for hours about how to use all of Runyon’s tools and equipment, in addition to suggesting which type corresponds to a certain application.

Categories: Gardening and Lawn Care, How-To's | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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