By Brent Gray
Fall is a good time to re-apply mulch. As you begin to tidy up the garden, removing old foliage and seed-heads, consider putting down a fresh layer of mulch—particularly if you did not apply mulch to your beds this spring.
The benefits of mulching just cannot be stressed enough. Although getting it hauled in and applied to all landscape beds is one of the more strenuous garden activities, it is well worth the effort involved. It makes everything look fresh and “sets off” or “frames” your plants. I don’t know of anything that gives the impression your garden is well tended than a fresh application of mulch—even if it is not! Besides all the esthetic benefits, it retains moisture, moderates soil temperature and helps control weeds.
Mulch should be 4 to 6 inches deep in most cases. Do not pile the mulch directly next to the trunks of trees or shrubs or the crowns of herbaceous plants. Shredded bark or pine needles work best where rain may tend to wash the mulch, as these types of mulch tends to stay in place. For other more level areas, pine bark, chips or other types could be used. I prefer organic mulches as these over time will decompose and add to the organic content of the soil.
Do not mulch beds where you rely on reseeding plants, such as spider flowers, poppies, larkspur, hollyhocks, to repopulate the beds.
There are a couple of new cultivars that you may want to try in your cool season garden. Happy Rich is an appropriate name for a plant that no one seems to be able to pigeon-hole. It is called broccolinni, broccoletta, rapinni, mini-broccoli, gai lan or Chinese kale in various places. This is a brassica that forms small heads similar to the side shoots on normal broccoli. The leaves are the bulk of the edible part. The taste is not as strong as collard. The other cultivar is Shiro pac choi. This is a quick growing small plant with very dark green leaves and very white midribs. Stir fry and egg roll cooks will really enjoy this plant. It is ready for harvest at the baby stage in about thirty days and is full sized at forty-five days.
Don’t forget the Truck Crops Fall Flower and Garden Fest in Crystal Springs on October 17 and 18.
The recent cool, dry weather provided a window for getting the soil prepared for cold weather crops. October is seeding time for leafy greens like Swiss Chard, collards and kale. It is time to seed beets and carrots. Onions should be seeded before the end of October to allow the slow growing seedlings to emerge and get established before temperatures drop below 25 Fahrenheit. Large onion fans should try Western Giant seeded before October 15.
Watch the weather forecast and have your protection ready for the first time temperatures drop below 35 degrees. Cover peppers, eggplant, okra, beans and tomatoes before the sun goes down on the night the cold snap is predicted. We generally don’t have another cold spell for a couple of weeks and that one night’s cover can allow two or more harvests.