Imagine citizens paying taxes to have local sanitation departments haul away tons of valuable material. Then those folks rush to garden stores and pay good money to replace that same valuable material. Unfortunately, that’s many of us. Especially during fall, we rake up leaves and pine straw as yard waste while planning to buy bagged mulch at the store later.
Mulch is gardener’s gold. It insulates soils and plants from losing moisture and holds down the weeds that germinate to compete with our plants. As it decomposes, organic mulch builds soil fertility by creating a healthy environment for earthworms and beneficial microbes, while it improves soil texture for better air and water circulation to plant roots. And a fresh layer of mulch neatens the garden’s appearance. So, this fall, consider nature’s own products for great potential mulch. Look at any forest floor carpeted with decaying leaves, pine straw, and plant debris from last autumn. Trees thrive, saplings take root and grow, and delightful wildflowers peek out from a layer of humus.
Rather than collecting our fall leaves or pine straw for disposal at curbside, we can recycle them into garden mulch. Pine straw is an easy mulch solution. Raked into a tarp or garden cart, it can be spread on beds and borders. The network of thin needles allows for moisture and air circulation. And pine needles are relatively slow to break down, so they don’t appreciably increase soil’s acidity. Best of all, their coppery color looks cozy and autumnal.
Fallen leaves are another great mulch source. Rake leaves into rows, and then run a lawnmower with a bag over them, chopping them into small pieces. You can spread the chopped leaves directly around trees, shrubs, flower beds. Or if you already have a nice layer of mulch, use this winter to create leaf mold by composting a bin or pile of chopped leaves. Next spring or summer, the processed leaf mold can supplement your mulch.
Bagless mowing over fallen leaves on your lawn creates excellent mulch for your turf. Mow frequently, based on leaf fall rather than grass length. The thin layer of finely chopped and re-chopped leaves will filter down to the soil and decompose to nourish your lawn. Of course, in spreading any mulch be sure not to pile it around tree and shrub trunks, as this creates the potential for pests and diseases to develop. For more great ideas on the value of NOT blowing your autumn leaves into a pile for waste disposal, check out the Leave Leaves Alone! website. These Bedford, NY, residents and Master Gardeners have seen the environmental problems caused by leaf blowing and tell us “Nature is there to do most of the work for us. Fall leaves are a great natural resource that should be valued.”
Written by: Vicki Kennedy, Extension Master Gardener volunteer
So you’re preparing for winter: cutting back dead growth, raking up fallen leaves, cleaning garden tools. While these are valuable tasks for gardeners as daylight dwindles and crisper temperatures prevail, you don’t have to settle for practical garden maintenance. Create a “pocket garden” for color, texture, and satisfaction through the cold weather.
A “pocket garden” uses small-scale planting in a tucked away space. Think of classic 18th and 19th century dooryard gardens. These planting areas near a home’s entry typically faced south and benefited from the protection of brick walls and outbuildings. They focused on utilitarian plants: herbs for cooking and home remedies, flowers for dying or soap making. But dooryard gardens also dressed up an entrance with visual delights on cold windy days.
Your pocket garden might be in a container or one or two square feet of open ground. Pick a spot that gets a good dose of midday sun in winter. Near a building wall is best. Make it somewhere you pass frequently, or a spot right outside a much-used window. (What’s the point of an attractive pocket garden in a rarely seen corner?)
Then decide on a container or plant directly in the ground. Pitt County Master Gardener Volunteer Teresa Surratt recently prepared several large containers at the County Arboretum for winter. Here are a few of her plant suggestions.
Traditional pansies and violas are dependable winter bloomers. But you can try snapdragons, which are winter hardy in our zone if planted in a sunny protected area. For upright interest, you can rely on euphorbia martinii. Its dense clusters of chartreuse flowers with dark centers emerge in late winter or early spring. Dusty miller can provide beautiful gray-silver foliage through the winter. And Heuchera, with its deep red or lime green leaves, is another choice for center interest. For a trailing ground cover, two good choices are sedum (such as golden creeping stonecrop) or creeping jenny. Both maintain vibrant color through the cold season.
Teresa and her Master Gardener team also have two new winter container plants: wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) has small glossy dark green leaves and bright crimson berries, while wire plant (Muhlenbeckia complexa) has a dense network of small dark green leaves that make a pillowy effect.
Plan now to make a “pocket” of winter interest you’ll enjoy for many months.
Written by: Vicki Kennedy, Extension Master Gardener volunteer
HomeFest is an annual event in Greenville hosted by Greenville-Pitt County Home Builders. With builders, lenders, remodelers, landscapers, roofers and more available to visit it is a one-stop shop for all the resources you need during the home building/buying process.
Each year, our Extension Master Gardener volunteers with the generous donation of plants from Carolina Seasons Nursery setup a display and prepare to answer common questions from homeowners and professionals alike throughout the day.
This is a perfect opportunity for our Master Gardener program to reach out to the community and educate them on all that Extension has to offer when it comes to resources concerning gardening, landscaping, lawns and more.
If you missed this year's show be sure to join our e-newsletter list to stay up-to-date on all our upcoming events!
The time came last week for our Extension Master Gardener volunteers to begin potting plants for our May 16th sale! With the generosity and help of Carolina Seasons, a few of our EMGVs chose and potted up an exciting assortment of plants. Be sure to plan for our May 16, 2020 plant sale to see the results of their hard work!
A sunny but cold day brought Master Gardeners to Carolina Seasons Nursery to pot up and propagate a variety of plants. (Pictured left to right: Andrea Pike (Carolina Seasons), Mary Jo Larkin, Know Chadwick, Linda Tyndall, and June Graves.)
A big thanks to Carolina Seasons for sharing their expertise and greenhouse space to help Master Gardeners propagate! (Pictured left to right: Linda Tyndall, Knox Chadwick, Andrea Pike (Carolina Seasons), Mary Jo Larkin, Louise Hamilton, and June Graves.)
Who says playing in the dirt isn't fun?
(Pictured left to right: Knox Chadwick, Linda Tyndall, and June Graves)
Photos by: Vicki Kennedy
There is just something special about unbothered snowfall across the gardens. We hope you enjoy some views from the arboretum! :)
While you really had to be there to get the full effect, here's a quick summary of the important points Dr. Chalker-Scott covered during her lecture; There IS a difference between science-based information and popular or trendy information. When evaluating resources always use the 'CRAP' test:
Fact sheets relevant to this presentation:
Epsom salt – https://pubs.extension.wsu.edu/epsom-salt-use-in-home-gardens-and-landscapes
Native vs. nonnative plants-https://pubs.extension.wsu.edu/are-native-trees-and-shrubs-better-choices-for-wildlife-in-home-landscapes
Scientific literacy -https://pubs.extension.wsu.edu/scientific-literacy-for-the-citizen-scientist
Wood chip mulches -https://pubs.extension.wsu.edu/using-arborist-wood-chips-as-a-landscape-mulch-home-garden-series
Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott
WSU Associate Professor and Extension Horticulturist
URL: http://www.theinformedgardener.com (white papers on many of these myths)
Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/GardenProfessors/
WSU Extension publications: http://gardening.wsu.edu/(peer-reviewed fact sheets)