The case against commercial garden soil and mulch

I have learned over the years that commercial (sold in bags or delivered in loads) garden soil and mulch are not the most efficient products to improve the quality of soil in your garden beds.  Every time I have done so, I end up with more weeds in my gardens…

 

 

 

So, if you shouldn’t use the commercial garden soil and mulch in your gardens, what should you use?  Instead of the commercial garden soils and mulches that are available in bags from your local garden center or delivered in truck loads, I currently use the following plan.

In the fall I use shredded leaves as a mulch throughout my gardens, then in the spring, I spread composted manure around all my emerging plants.  Be sure to use well-composted compost or manure in this step to avoid stinking up your neighbourhood. The extreme heat levels in the composting process kills weed seeds too, so is very important.  You could use your own compost pile, but ensure it has matured to the weed free level.  For large volumes, I use this variety (available at Home Depot) of composted cattle/steer manure, particularly because it does smell bad:

compost

This process adds both nutrients and humus to my existing soil, improving its quality immensely.  The proof is in the beautifully healthy looking plants and lack of weeds!

 

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Coupon for Vigoro Products at Home Depot

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Vigoro triple mix, a combination of humus (rich soil), compost and peat moss, is one of my favorite garden products.  It comes in a very manageable size, not too heavy or large to carry or transport in your vehicle,  The staff at Home Depot will load it into your car too.

It is currently on sale here at Kanata’s Home Depot this week for $2.99 per bag, a 25% savings.  Pick up a few bags soon, or for large quantities, print off this coupon and stock up!

Rabbit Poop is great for your Garden!

I have noticed one thing in common in the gardens I have worked in this spring: lots of rabbit poop! There seems to have been an explosion in the rabbit population in my Kanata suburb of Ottawa. I see quite a few rabbits on my evening walks through our neighborhood  so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at the increased amount of rabbit poop in the gardens…

The good news is that rabbit poop is great for your garden. Unlike cow, sheep or chicken manure that is considered “hot” requiring an aging or composting process before use so it doesn’t burn your plants, rabbit poop is “cold” requiring no such process before use.  The other advantage is that it only has a mild smell to it.  The smell actually brings back childhood memories of the pet rabbits my father used to bring home each spring at Easter time.

So, just dig it into the soil between the plants, providing a nitrogen rich fertilizer for your garden. You can also add a pile of poop to your composter as a nitrogen layer, or make compost tea by adding a pile of poop to a bucket of water, stirring well and frequently for a few days and then pouring the “tea” onto your garden.

Any way you use it, rabbit poop is a free and convenient fertilizer for your garden!

Lorieb is the mother of three sons, residing in Kanata, Ontario, Canada.  She is the proud owner of GARDENS4U, and spends most of her time designing, planting, and restoring gardens.  Her other interests include reading and writing.  Please check out her website at www.gardens4u.ca

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s garden is NOT a commandment…

In fact your neighbour would probably be tickled pink if you admired their garden and asked them for advice.  Better yet, use other people’s gardens as your inspiration for your own dream garden…

Fall is the perfect time to plan and start or restore a garden.  If you do not yet have a garden or would like to modify the one you have, follow this back-ache free method.  I have not yet tried this method, but it appears reasonably easy and scientifically sound.  I would be willing to help anyone wishing to give it a try…

First, decide the shape you want: do you like straight edges or do you prefer rounded, curved edges?  An easy way to visualize the shape is to lay a garden hose on the grass where you want your garden to be, adjusting the hose around the perimeter until you arrive with a shape you like.  A general rule of thumb is to have the garden’s width a minimum of one third its length.  In other words, a foot wide garden around the perimeter of your yard will not be as visually appealing as a wider one.  Remember though, it is your garden, use your artistic genius and go with the shape YOU like!

When the shape has been determined, cut the grass short within the designated area.  You are going to be smothering this grass, so short is best.  Next, lay non-glossy newspaper over the area, wetting each layer, until you have a 3 cm thick soggy mess!  Sprinkle the newspaper layer with a dusting of blood meal for nitrogen.  Then add a 4 cm layer of garden soil that has compost added. (not potting soil or top soil)  Your final layer should be 6 cm of organic, hardwood mulch to hold the other layers in place and to keep weeds from germinating.  It must be organic to decompose and enrich the soil.   Continue to water well between layers and after the mulch for the next few months; do not let your creation dry out!

In the spring, when the soil has warmed up, your garden will be ready to plant.  You do not have to disturb your layers, simply dig out a “plug” of mulch a bit bigger than the size of your plant, add the plant, and replace the mulch.  Remember, to prevent your plants from rotting,  keep the mulch away from the crown of perennials as well as the stems or trunks of shrubs and trees…

Lorieb is a freelance writer and an avid gardener residing in Kanata, Ontario, Canada.  Please check out her website at www.gardens4u.ca

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