There's just a few left but they're lookin' pretty and ready to find a garden to grace :)
They're not hard to winter either if you just sink the container into the ground where you want it to be and then in the fall just lift it up and out of the ground, lay it over on it's side and rake a BIG pile of leaves over the entire plant. This will make a blanket to keep it snug over winter. The following spring around early to mid april pull it out and stick it back in the garden! Clip the branches back to green wood and it's all set for another season!
A quick note on fast and slow herbicides..
Fast killers kill the cells in leaves on contact.
They will not however necessarily kill roots. The roots will still have stored energy and sense they have no foliage and trigger the process of making more to replace what was lost.
Slow killers generally inhibit the plant's ability to process sunlight forcing them to use up their stored energy reserves to sustain the foliage. Once the reserves run out the foliage dies. Without the stored energy reserve and no foliage to make more, the roots croak too :) That's the basic theory anyway :) Some plants defy this becasue of a "network" root structure.. You spray a slow killer and only crash one PC on the network leaving the rest of the 'net alive and well :) Poison Ivy and Bindweed are two common examples. More on this another time :)
Here's some general applications and desireable qualities of various mulches...
Color - deep brown bordering black when wet
The big plus with this one from a horticultural point of view is it's biodegradabilty. Put simply it breaks down real quick. This a big help for crummy soils that lack organic material. After a period of several years of this hardwood mulch cover you start building a layer of new topsoil in the same way that nature laid down soil in the forests that settlers chopped down and burned to make farmland out of the midwest.. The ancient hardwood forests that lived and rotted for millenia gave us our fertile farmland as layer after layer of rotting hardwood will do for your garden :)
I guess we can safely say that Hardwood mulch is basicly dirt in it's infancy.. hmmm.. baby dirt? :)
Drawbacks - The same properties of quick breakdown.
It often doesn't last an enitre season and as with the rotting of all flora and fauna draws the pests and diseases common to the rotting of things organic. I have often seen white crops of fungi and termites or carpenter ants feasting on this scavenger's delicacy :) Weed seeds like it too. Keep some fungicide, insecticide and herbicide handy :)
Color - light tan sometimes with reddish cast when wet
The big plus with this one is durabilty. It's slower to break down and thus will last an entire season with ease. Often only a topdressing of fresh mulch is nescessary the following season to replenish the coverage.
Our greenhouse rafters are made of cypress and were milled around the turn of the century. They;ve been exposed to high humidity and blasting sun for 90+ years and less than a handfull have ever needed to be replaced. Says something about the durabilty of cypress huh? :)
Drawbacks - It doesn't do much for the soil. It will break down over time but is perhaps best used over ammended soils that already have a good organic content.
Color - red/brown. bordering dark brown when wet
This one has perhaps it's most significant horticultural use in it's natural acidity.
It is an absolute MUST for acid loving plants!
If you grow or, would like to grow, Rhodos, Azaleas, Mountain laurel (Kalmia sp.), Andromeda (Pieris sp.), Wintergreen (Gaultheria sp.), or would like you Nikko Blue Hydrangeas to be really blue instead of a lavendery pink color use a LOT of peat moss in your soil and topdress with Pine bark!
This one is also VERY durable and will last the entire season. I have seen it even used in the lawn pits that kid's swingsets and jungle jim's inevetiblely create. It works well in these applications also and gives the kids something besides mud that's soft to fall into :)
Another big thumbs up with pine bark is the variety of chunk sizes available. The bigger the chunks the longer they last. We use the "nuggets" in our nursery walkways and they hold up well to the cart and foot traffic in a busy nursery. They are very well suited to garden paths where you would like a more natural effect than stone, concrete or paver blocks. Pine needles are also useful. If you're fortunate enough to have some established pines rack up the needles and use them to mulch your garden! Pine also does a superb job of holding down weeds. You'll seldom see a healthy crop of weeds under an established pine tree.
Drawbacks - Here, as with cypress it doesn't turn into soil quickly but the finer grades can be mixed with soil to provide structure and acidity. It is light in weight and can be floated away if placed in an area where rainfall causes washout.
The acidity could be a drawback if a plant needed extreme alkalinity. I havent found one yet here in Cincinnati that was adversly affected since our city water can run as high as PH 9 to 10 due to the chemicals added during the filtration process.
Color - dark reddish brown
Perhaps the "Caddilac" of mulches with all of the class and style of the aformentioned automobile :)
The texture is a fine dense matted shred which makes it stick to slopes and flat alike. This charachteristic also makes it great for weed control. It's just hard for weeds to germinate in it or grow through it. Durablity is excellent! I've used it in display beds here on the range and it was still there in the same shape the following spring.
Drawbacks - It doesn't do much for the soil and perhaps price, since it tends to cost about a $1 more per 3 cubic foot bag more than Cypress or Pine. Well worth the extra buck in my opinion :)
That's my mulch dissertation for today :)
I'm sure there's something I overlooked but it should cover "mulches 101". After all, something needs to be left for the 200 level classes right? :) Eucalyptus and shredded rubber tires maybe? :)
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