View Full Version : Need Gardening Guidance Please

05-11-2004, 09:27 AM
Help! Just finished planting my first perennial gardens, and am looking for good advice on the type of mulch I should use to protect them. There are too many types, and I don't have enough experience to make the right choice, so I'm hoping there's some experienced gardeners out there who can point me in the right direction! Thanks!!!

Rattlesnake Gal
05-11-2004, 11:03 AM
It all depends on the look you are going for. Do you like red, dark brown or light brown? Does the smell of one bother you more than another? They all vary in price, but accomplish the same thing. Your initial four inch application should last for many years. Each year you add a sprinkle of new mulch on top to make it look nice. I happen to like hemlock. In the last couple years there has been a very dark, soil looking mulch that is very popular. Not sure of the cost. Again, it is all about what appeals to you. Good luck!
Good article on bark mulch (http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/martin/newsletters/newsarticles/twigs/barkmulch.html)

Another site with descriptions of different mulch (www.rexius.com/eugene/prod/mulch_ground.html)

Spider Girl
05-11-2004, 12:49 PM
Just as important (more) is what you're trying to accomplish with the mulch? Grass clippings (provided that they haven't been indundated with pesticides) about 4 inches thick are very effective at keeping weeds down, cheap, and compatible with all plantings. Salt marsh hay is good because it lets water through easily, but it can be hard to come by in some areas. Bark mulch is attractive, but costly (depending on the size of your garden) as well as acidic and tough for some of your more sensitive plants. A good way to get more out of bark mulch is to layer plain old newspaper underneath (it's very effective at keeping weeds down and disintegrates nicely).

Bottom line -- you need to understand the plants in your garden and what you are trying to accomplish with the mulch.

Rattlesnake Gal
05-11-2004, 03:00 PM
Spider Girl gives good advise, but rotting grass doesn't smell so nice. :eek:

05-11-2004, 10:10 PM
Holy Smokes - so much to learn! Thanks girls, for your answers! Now I guess I better tell you what I've planted, so Spider Gal can advise me if any are sensitive. Also, I'm more concerned with keeping the soil moist with the mulch - don't require mulch to look fancy, just provide protection. Hopefully the flowers will be so beautiful that no one will see the mulch anyway! Here's what I've planted - mostly transplanted gifts from a friend:
Bee Balm, Bearded Iris, Primrose, Phlox and Daylily. Also planted some Gladiola bulbs (two kinds). Anything I need to be careful with? Also, with regard to the newspaper layer - should I shred it or just lay it out flat? Rattlesnake Gal, I'm gonna go check out the links you provided, and after that I may just end up with even more questions. I may be behind the eight-ball now, but I'm not giving up! ;)

Spider Girl
05-14-2004, 10:28 AM
The plants you've described are pretty hardy and not particularly sensitive. If you are just looking for mulch to keep the moisture in and the weeds down, I'd go with a combination of newspaper and grass clippings. Layer the newspaper (no need to shred it) as thick as you like, and then top it off with grass. This way you'll need less grass (and avoid some of the rotting smell which in my mind is fairly innocuous) to hide the newsprint. Just add to the top layer of grass intermittently over the summer, and you should be all set. As a "frugal" New Englander, that would be my approach.

RI Swamp Yankee
05-14-2004, 08:05 PM
Just to add my 3.5 cents to the good advice above, I hear you should stay clear of using those little white or colored stones as mulch. They looke nice (sometimes) but I have been told they trap the heat and can cook your plants. Remember a garden is never done, it just keeps changing it's stage of development over the years. ;)

05-14-2004, 11:26 PM
I am so grateful for all the good advice everyone has offered here! I've decided to go with a good layer of newspaper, and then a layer of fine mulch, topped with a later of coarser mulch. After visiting the websites recommended by Island Girl, and really reading all the information, it appears that this will be my most effective combination, and will also offer some much needed nourishment to the soil in the gardens. The only reason I'm staying away from the grass clippings is the incredible volume of weeds in our grass - and the fear of dumping weed seeds in my newly weed-free gardens. Thanks again for all this wonderful help! You guys are great! :)

05-19-2004, 09:30 AM
Well, I spent all day Monday following the advice of my fellow posters, and the job is now complete! The gardens look beautiful, with the donated perennials now beginning to fill out and shoot up. I'm eagerly awaiting the first sign of life from the many others I planted. I was very careful to place a mound over each one, and avoid covering the mounds while I mulched. I'm delighted to discover that last nights torrential rains did not dislodge any of the mulch - not even the top coat of nuggets. I am a happy gardener! I discovered I had extra time at the end of my mulching, and even began a compost heap - using the grass clippings, old leaves, some not-so-great soil I had removed from the gardens, and some left-over newspaper. I presently have it covered with plastic, with a very light coat of leftover shredded cypress mulch. My mother used to add all sorts of household waste to hers, and I'll be doing the same and hoping for the results that she once got - rich soil! If I recall correctly, she used to be particularly vigilant about adding eggshells, coffee grounds, vegetable peelings, potato skins, melon rinds and peanut shells. Anybody have any other hot tips for my new heap? Also, I have a bizarre question. I have a blue and gold macaw who creates her own variety of potential add-in and I need to know if it's safe for me to use! Her cage bottom is lined with crushed walnut shell - a product purchased at the pet store. I use a special scoop to remove debris from the bottom of the cage. Is it a good idea to start adding what I remove to the heap? It will contain her droppings of course, but also dropped feathers, and various foods she's dropped, including banana peels, nut shells, toast bits, various pieces of fruits, pasta, vegetables etc. Plus the remains of her bird-toys which are usually constructed of various types of ropes, woods, braided palm, paper, leather strips and sea coral. To my uneducated mind, these would all be good candidates for decomposition, but I could be way off, so I need some more expert advice. Any ideas? Thanks in advance! Hope you all have a wonderful day! :)

Rattlesnake Gal
05-19-2004, 09:55 AM
I was going to suggest a mulch pile, but didn't want to over whelm you. It is very rewarding to end up with beautiful, rich soil. I have done just a mound that would get shifted back and fourth as it gets mixed. Also bought a plastic bin type thing through the local garden club. Much preferred the old fashioned first way.
Read recently that coffee grounds are very acidic, which rhododendrons and evergreens like. Not sure if it is good to put in the pile for general use. Spider Girl might know the answers to your other items you asked about.
If you really want to get into the mulch thing, red worms are a great way to go. Very quick. Bought some of those, but ended up releasing them in the yard. (Too much going on for me at that time to worry about it.)
Congratulations on your new hobby! Sounds like you are on the right track. Just be careful that you don't bite off more than you can chew and get too much going on. Keep it fun, not dreaded work!
Good gardening web site (http://www.gardensalive.com/index.asp?bhcd2=1084974370)

05-19-2004, 10:02 AM
RG - once again more good advice! I've put all three websites into my favorites, and I'm learning, learning, learning! :D I'm trying to keep it small, as you suggest, as I have so little time for this new hobby! :( Thats the reason I've started with perennials, so at least I've got a good base each year, without reinventing the wheel on an annual (no pun intended) basis. If I can figure out how to do it, I'll post some photos in the photopost section once the gardens start to show pretty stuff! In the meantime, I sent you an e-mail, keep your eyes open for it. Have a wonderful day!