Jan 292014
 

By Avis Licht

Mulch

Use mulch, plant drought resistant plants, and drip irrigation

On the west coast of the United States we’re experiencing the worst drought in over 150 years. With more people needing more water, food and goods it is important that all of us do our part to reduce our water use.

Gardeners love their plants and don’t want them to die. I’ll continue writing posts on best gardening practices to help you keep your garden healthy and happy using less water.

Most plants absorb almost all their water through their roots. A well-developed root structure will be your insurance for survival in drought conditions.

 

The best way to get excellent roots is to have loose, friable soil with plenty of humus and organic matter. By working the soil with a fork or rototiller and incorporating compost and/or manure you create the conditions for the soil to be like a sponge that holds and then releases water. Read more about compost here.

Big Mother earth worm

Worms are important for soil health.

A note on roots. When soil moisture varies widely from wet to dry it damages the delicate root hairs that are responsible for taking up moisture. Using mulch is very important to maintain the moisture in the soil by slowing evaporation.

mulched garden

Protect your roots by protecting the soil with mulch.

A note on leaves on the plants. Leaves don’t absorb much moisture but they do transpire moisture; The hotter and more windy the day, the more water the plants lose through their leaves . Row covers or shade cloth put over the plants in hot weather will reduce transpiration rates. You can find row covers and hoops to put them in your garden at this link: Row Covers for the Garden. You can buy shade fabric here: Shade Fabric.

Be sure to sign up on my subscription or feed burner to get notified when I put up more posts. You won’t want to miss any of this great information. I’ll keep writing about drought conditions and ways to keep your garden healthy and happy.

Jan 162014
 

by Avis Licht

Mulch

Good soil preparation and mulching are essential for holding moisture in the soil

In Northern California we’re experiencing a record breaking drought this winter. The rainy season isn’t over – yet, but there is no rain forecast for the rest of January, and reservoirs and streams are very low.

There are a few simple and easy steps you can take to prepare your garden for  drought conditions. And you should start as soon as possible.

1. Cover your exposed soil with mulch or compost. By covering your soil, you allow rain, when and if it comes, to penetrate into the soil and not run off.  There are many kinds of mulch for different conditions.  Please read this post to find out more about which mulch is the right one for your garden.

 

 

 

Sheet mulching is an excellent method to turn water hungry lawn into efficient, beautiful and water conserving plantings.  Please read my description of sheet mulching here.

 

Sheet mulching

Layers for sheet mulching

 

 

2. Check your irrigation system for leaks. Every year your system needs to be checked.  Digging in the beds, gophers, raccoons, plants, freezing weather: all can break or loosen your irrigation pipes and cause leaks.  Those leaks can lose LOTS of water.  Please read this great article by Robert Kourik – drip irrigation expert.

Lettuce planted for winter harvest

In line emitter irrigation pipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Container planting produces great crops with very little water. You might want to consider planting in pots and containers for certain crops. You can control water use easily and get your food and flowers easily. Read here for more about container planting.

the water at the top drips down to the plants at the bottom.  Great use of space and water.

The water at the top drips down to the plants at the bottom. Great use of space and water.

A good harvest in a small place, with very little water.

A good harvest in a small place, with very little water.

Ornamental containers can grow herbs and food.

Colorful pots mixed with herbs, lettuce and flowers are easy to harvest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.Convert high water use plants to native plants. There are many beautiful native plants that can serve the same purpose as your water hungry plants. Winter is a good time to do that planting. Here are a few ideas for native plants in this post: California Native Plants

Manzanita and Ceanothus are easy to grow and use very little water

Manzanita and Ceanothus are easy to grow and use very little water

Oct 302012
 

by Avis Licht

Whether you plant edible crops for the winter or not, there are a few things you can do to keep your garden healthy and protected for the winter.

Clean up under your fruit trees and mulch with compost

 

 

1. Clean out the old beds and if you have room, be sure to compost your old foliage.  There are a lot of nutrients in those plants that  came out of your ground and you can put those nutrients back into the soil. Composting is an important part of garden health.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fava beans make a wonderful winter cover crop

 

 

2. Plant cover crops to protect the soil from erosion and add nutrients as well as humus to the soil.  Fava beans and bell beans can be sown even in cold, wet weather.

 

 

 

3. Sheet mulch to cover large areas to improve the soil, get rid of weeds and prepare for future planting without having to dig the soil.  Sound too good to be true? Well it really works. Here’s an article about sheet mulching in my own back yard.

 

 

 

Mulching around plants

 

4. Mulch the soil around plants. This is one of the most important things you can do in the winter to protect the soil from erosion, hold moisture, protect roots from extreme weather and add nutrient. There are many types of mulch. Leaves, straw, wood chips, compost, and manure are some of the most common and easiest to use. As with everything else in the garden, there’s always lots to learn.  Different mulches  work better in different conditions. Check out my article on best mulching practices.

 

Frost on fallen leaves

Sep 222011
 

Sheet Mulching for the Edible Landscape:

Former Lawn, now vegetables and fruit

Former Lawn, now vegetables and fruit

What is sheet mulching? Simply put, it is putting several different layers of materials on your soil to get rid of your lawn, weeds and unwanted plants.  It consists of manure, cardboard and  mulch.  You can use different kinds of manure and different mulches. The main purpose is to cover the weeds, allow worms to eat them and to create fertile conditions for growing your new plants. Let me tell you how I got rid of my old lawn.

The day I decided I could no longer stand to mow my lawn one more time, I also realized I wasn’t going to break my back digging it up either. Sheet mulching was my solution, and something you can also do fairly easily. Fall and winter is the perfect time to do this.  You can let the covered area sit over the winter and in spring it will be ready for planting.  Follow the simple directions below and you will be amazed at how easy it is turn turn old and in the way into new and the only way to go.

Decide on an area that you would like to replant.  In  many cases, an old lawn really suits the bill. First you mow the lawn, or cut weeds and leave them on the ground. Next, spread manure 2” deep over the whole area. If you live near horse stables, they will usually be happy to give you the manure for free.  Be sure it has composted and is not fresh.  You don’t want to bring in weed seed. If you can’t find local manure, then you can buy manure in bags from your local nursery. Thirdly,  cover the manure with large pieces of cardboard (obtained free from a nearby appliance store).

On top of the cardboard you can lay another 2 inches of manure. Cover it all with six inches of fluffy hay or any other good looking mulch.  Once done  it looks fine. Your next  help comes in the form of hardworking earthworms.  Imported in the manure they make themselves right at home under their cardboard roofs, and over time (that would be Fall and Winter) they turn the lawn into beautiful soil.  I  sheet mulched my old lawn in the fall and when spring came, I planted varieties of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries as well as lilies, roses, herbs and flowers.  It turned into a cornucopia of beautiful food. The best news was that I didn’t have to dig up the lawn at all, the worms just ate it and turned it into perfect soil.

This is really turning your yard into a beautiful Edible Landscape.

P.S. If you prefer to use custom made fabrics for your sheet mulching, Amazon and Gardeners Supply
icon sell some good products. Both of these links I’ve provided will take you directly to fabrics for sheet mulching.

 

Close up view of new area for fruit and vegetables, used to be lawn

Close up view of new area for fruit and vegetables, used to be lawn

 

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