April 12, 2010

Garden Lesson Learned #1 – Using the Appropriate Mulch

Garden April 8 2010 007

We’re growing food in the potager garden this year.  It’s a bit of an experiment.   Generally, we go heavy on the flowers and herbs and extra-light on the veggies, but this year we decided to change it up a bit.


I’ve been focusing on the four quadrants in the middle of the garden, filling them with all sorts of different things.  There’s strawberries, spinach and sugar snap peas in one.  Another quadrant has Swiss chard, cabbage, leeks and a variety of lettuce.  The third is still a work in progress.  So far carrot and radish seeds have been planted.  


Two  weekends ago  we purchased mulch and I carefully surrounded each and every little plant.  Things seemed to really perk up and the contrast between the black mulch and the bright green plants was stunning.  And then I started wondering.  Hmmm….what’s in that mulch and how will it affect my home-grown veggies?  And then I did what I always do.  I Googled it.  I learned that sometimes pressure-treated wood is used in the mulch and the dark dye disguises it.  Also, there are different schools of thought on the safety of the dye itself.  Some say that carbon is used to darken the mulch and that it’s perfectly safe for humans and pets.  Others say it’s toxic and shouldn’t be used on vegetable garden beds.  I realized that the mulch we’ve been using year after year is not an appropriate choice for our edible garden.

Veggie Bed

I asked my Master Gardener friend for advice.  She pointed me to our extension service website.  Wow!  There’s a wealth of information there.  Yesterday I removed all of the black mulch and laid straw in it’s place.  I’m trying to like it but it’s a very different look :: a little messy and not as pleasing to the eye.  Silly as it sounds, I’m really struggling with that.   I’ll show you a photo later this week.  Until then, here’s a photo of our phlox in full bloom:


Gardening Lesson #1 – Use the appropriate mulch for the job.  Compost, paper, leaves and straw are all good choices for the vegetable garden because they are easily removable and they decompose rapidly.