Tag Archives: mulch

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What is a weed?

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What is a weed?

May is planting month – and the beginning of weeding season. Gardeners take the good with the bad. Off we go digging, planting and weeding.

We enjoy weeding, for the first couple of weeks of spring. But their persistence gets to us after a while and we begin looking for short cuts. How can we control weeds with as little commitment to time and effort as possible?

Fortunately, our years of gardening experience have taught me a few things about this.

Here are our top weeding tips:

BE AN EARLY BIRD. The early bird does, indeed, get the weed. Knock a weed down while it is a baby and you have removed future work 10-fold. How is that? The root of a weed gives the top half of the weed life, vigor and speed. Cut a weed off with a sharpened hoe and you remove the ability of the plant to photosynthesize. This either starves the poor darling to death or, at the very least; it pushes the ability of the weed to re-grow backwards for a spell. The secret: Sharpen your hoe with a file each time that you use it. Spray it with a little oil to help it move effortlessly through the soil. And do it early in the season before the root gets too deep. Like now. Tip: for the most effortless weeding use a Mark’s Choice Back Hoe. Home Hardware.

MULCH. The miracle of bark mulch is that it is non-chemical, easy, fun to spread (it smells nice!) and it can eliminate up to 90 per cent of weeds before they become established. The secret is to use at least six cm of shredded cedar or pine bark mulch to prevent most annual weeds from popping through the soil in the first place. The sooner you do this, the better.

BLACK PLASTIC. Place thick (at least six mil) black plastic over your lawn or garden and anchor it with something heavy. Wait for a minimum of six to eight weeks and you will kill just about everything under the plastic membrane. Other than some stubborn hard-to-kill weeds like horse tail or Phragmites (the new imported curse) you are good to go once you have cooked the weeds beneath the plastic. While the process takes time, it is thorough, and no chemicals are involved. This process works best in bright sun.

Weed control does not have to be onerous. In fact, we find some recreation in the activity of hoeing weeds down in the garden and pulling them from the lawn.

Lawn Weeds

The most frequently asked question we hear is, “How do I kill lawn weeds?” And the answer is simple: Compete them out of existence. Here is our fourstep recipe for a thicker, greener and (for the most part) weed-free lawn.

  • Rake the area of thin or tired grass gently using a leaf rake, removing all loose debris and getting grass blades to stand up on end.
  • Spread lawn soil (or triple mix) about three to five cm thick and rake this smooth.
  • Hand-broadcast quality grass seed on the area.
  • Rake this smooth, step on it to bring the seed in firm contact with the soil and water until germination occurs. Keep it damp during hot, dry spells and fertilize with quality, iron-based lawn fertilizer containing slow release nitrogen.

Mark Cullen is a Member of the Order of Canada, and provides gardening advice to more than two million Canadians each week. Ben Cullen’s specialty is food gardening. markcullen.com; Facebook @MarkCullenGardening and Pinterest @MarkCullenGardening.

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In The Garden: Stay-Cool Gardening

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In The Garden: Stay-Cool Gardening

Whether you follow the farmers’ almanac, the pundits of global warming, or listen to the long range forecast, this summer is bound to be a hot one. So, the burning question is, “How do you enjoy a great-looking garden in the heat?”

You can train plants to expect water only when the soil around their roots dries to three to five centimetres below the surface of the soil. Of course the amount will vary from plant to plant, but the point is that if you water your garden a little bit at a time, the roots stay up near the surface of the soil and wait for you to stand at the end of your hose each evening. It may be water therapy for you, but its bad training for your plants. This rule is equally true for perennials, annuals, veggies, and even the shrubs and trees on your property – not to mention your lawn.

Plants that are watered infrequently, and deeply, will send down roots in search of moisture.

Plants that are watered infrequently, and deeply, will send down roots in search of moisture as the temperature rises, and the timing between summer rainfalls stretches from days into weeks.

THE LAWN

Don’t water your lawn at all in a drought situation. Save yourself the time, expense and the resources that are required to cut your lawn when its actively growing. Yes, it will become brown and dormant, but it will not die. Dormant is the equivalent of sleeping.

Come mid-August your lawn will wake up as days get shorter, evening temperatures fall and the morning dew increases. This is the reason why every sod grower in the province (and there are many) sow their seeds for the next crop between the middle of August and the end of September.

THIRSTY TREES

Trees need water too – more so when you think back to the weeks of below normal rain fall that we experienced last summer. Apply water to the root zone of both young and mature trees by placing a hose at the base of the tree with just a trickle of water coming out. Leave it there for three to four hours.

If you have trees on your property that were planted within the last three years, watering them is critical at this time of year. A mature, 20-metre-high maple tree transpires more than 500 litres of water on a hot day, so its important to get water down to its roots. The tree that grows on the boulevard also needs water. Even though it may be owned by the municipality, consider it your responsibility and give it healthy drink.

THE MIRACLE OF MULCH

A six- to eight-centimetre layer of finely ground cedar or pine bark insulates the soil from the drying effects of the sun and the wind. This layer of mulch can reduce the need for water by up to 70 per cent, and is one of the best monetary, and timesaving, investments that you can make for your garden.

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author and broadcaster. Check out his new book The New Canadian Garden published by Dundurn Press. Follow him on Twitter @MarkCullen4 and on Facebook. Sign up for his free monthly newsletter at MarkCullen.com

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