Friday, June 10, 2011

Recycling in the garden

I saw this today and thought it was brilliant. The quick explanation is that someone used their cut bulb foliage as mulch for their freshly planted veggie garden. Knowing how recycling your cuttings can give back to your soil and your plants essential nutrients that they need to strive through these hot summer months, priceless.

the longer train of thought goes like this:

Often I don't think your average gardener is educated enough about recycling in the garden. When we cut and remove green foliage from the garden because we are tired of it we have to remember that the garden can still use that "garbage". When you study professional turf management (a bit of a tangent, I know...) you learn the real value of Nitrogen, the macro-nutrient that plants need to survive that keeps their foliage green and plush. Everyone wants a rich green lawn that looks and feels fabulous, let's face it, it's a great thing to have. So you do the right thing and in the spring you over-seed if necessary and apply the right fertilizer with 25% water soluble Nitrogen for the quick shot and 75% water insoluble Nitrogen which is going to slowly breakdown and give your turf a nice steady feed through the summer months. Maybe you spoon feed your lawn a bit around July 4th, but ultimately you are set until the fall and can go on about the rest of the yard. You get into your summer mowing schedule and if you are most people you pick up and remove the grass clippings. But have you ever thought about the nutrients you are removing in the form of those rich green clippings? What most people don't know is that grass cuttings can be left on a lawn and refeed those thousands and thousands of plants with an unbelievable amount of nutrients. Yes, over time you have to then learn about the "thatch" that dense turf creates and you will have to incorporate aerating your lawn into your spring protocol, but you can maintain a much more self-sustaining and healthy lawn in the long run. You'll be psyched and your neighbors will wonder how you do it.

So take that thought and revisit the cut bulb foliage used as mulch. Yes, ideally you want to leave bulb foliage attached to the plant for as long as you can stand it after the flower is past until the foliage is totally yellow and no longer photosynthesizing. However, let's face it, you look at your daffodil and tulips leaves for so long and they begin to look pretty tired and your patience is gone, it's time for them to go. It's time to make way for the other perennials emerging. But if those cut leaves are still green then they still have valuable amounts of Nitrogen and other nutrients that can be recycled back into the soil. The only thing that I would change is that I would try and grow a lot more bulbs so I had even more foliage to lay as mulch, which would allow for really making a great look out of the long strands. You could lay a lot down and give the mulch a greater sense of movement and design. Weeks later I would see that the woman also used cut iris foliage, which is big and flat and gray-green and beautiful and she had enough of that to lay out a great looking pattern below the brightly colored swiss chard at the other end of her genius mini veggie garden. I love being impressed by the things people come up with in the garden when you think a little bit and go with your own creativity. Makes me wish I came up with the idea! You're mulching which is one of the best things you can do in summer because you are regulating the soil temp, keeping moisture in, and helping to keep the weeds suppressed. Not to mention you are recycling valuable nutrients and making your soil better so you can grow whatever you want to try. And you're not spending anything more than time in your awesome garden, making the earth that little bit more green. Like I said, priceless.

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