Saturday, June 19, 2010

Mulch Madness

Most gardeners become “mad about mulch” because it saves many hours of back-bending labor.

Mulch has so many benefits:

  • · Mulch reduces weeds by making it hard for weeds to sprout and emerge
  • · It retains moisture in the soil and helps water slowly and steadily get to the roots
  • · Mulch prevents soil from splashing on plants. This helps reduce the spread of soil-born diseases and keeps your vegetables cleaner
  • · Mulch helps prevent soil erosion (we’ve seen this in Kansas City gardens recently with heavy rains)
  • · Mulch can lower soil temperature by as much as 20-25 degrees which helps cool season plants keep producing.

We spread 2-3 inches of straw as mulch throughout the Harvesters Demonstration Garden this month. You can also use shredded leaves or newspaper as mulch in vegetable gardens. Grass clippings work well as long as you avoid grass full of seed heads or clippings treated this season with a herbicide. (Don’t spread grass clippings more than 2 inches thick as they are likely to stink! They're also unpleasant if you don't spread them within about a day after cutting the lawn.)

In the container gardens at the Harvesters Demonstration Garden, we use wood chips as mulch because wood chips stay in place better than straw. Avoid using wood chips in areas which you’ll till next season since they don’t decompose quickly.

Apply mulch after the soil warms up and plants are 4 inches or taller. Late May or June are great times to put down mulch in our climate so you minimize weeding and watering.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Salad Days: Greens Galore!

Early June in Kansas City is prime harvest time for greens planted in March, including lettuce, swiss chard, spinach, mustard and beet greens. Here's part of our harvest today from the Harvesters Demonstration Garden.

To harvest lettuce, you can harvest the entire lettuce plant or cut off the leaves so it will grow again. You can harvest only the outer leaves, but it's faster to just grab the lettuce and cut off everything above the lowest leaves. If you leave some lettuce just above the root, everything will grow back. You can do this several times until the leaves start to taste a little bitter, which starts to happen with hot weather. At that point, it time to pull up the whole plant and put in the compost.
DST employees harvested lettuce last week at their group garden at 10th and Jefferson in downtown Kansas City. Approximately 100 DST employees volunteer to tend over 50 raised beds in the garden.

The DST garden produces nearly a ton of donated vegetables each season to feed the hungry through the Kansas City Community Kitchen at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral.

The group garden at St. Peter's Catholic Church in Brookside is bursting with greens this week, including lettuce and swiss chard. The garden provides fresh vegetables to families in need through the church's food pantry.