Mulch Time

By Roger Erpelding
Contributing Writer

 Many of the garden tasks for late June involve repeat endeavors. This is true for weeding the apple tree and pine tree gardens, and weeding the cold weather crops on the east side of the garden. Fortunately, weeding these vegetables was easier this time, as they had a chance to grow between the first and second weeding. Unfortunately, they need to be weeded again. The cold and wet weather have been great for the lettuce and spinach plants, and their once-weekly picking continues.

Since it has been too wet to work in the garden this week, it is a great time to monitor other plants around the property. The milkflowers (asclepias syriaca) are now in full bloom. When I am in the hammock listening to baseball games in the evening, their fragrance radiates throughout the back yard. There is a patch of oriental lilies (lillium orientalis) on the north edge of the garden that is competing for fragrance time. Along the south fence a large clump of maroon delphiniums is in full glory. The cultivar is “Pacific Giant” and although they are not as tall as last year’s clump, they are definitely holding their own.

This weekend was also a perfect time to weed what I call “the wild north end.” This area is home to several pine trees, a few hosta, some rhubarb, and ostrich ferns. I was extremely pleased to see how the ferns have spread to the north, south and east; a large compost holder will keep them from expanding to the west and into the rhubarb. It probably took about fifteen minutes to weed this area, and since the trees and plants are very well established, the weeds were easy to find. The rhubarb has thick stems and huge leaves. The ferns are tall and slender, with a strong central midrib, and several parallel leaflets on either side of this stem. Perhaps late this fall or early next spring I’ll transplant a few to the north east area of this north area to encourage their spread. Of course, the pine trees are easy to spot, and the hosta–being in the lily family–have parallel veined leaves.

On schedule, the elephant garlic is dying from the bottom up. This is a welcome and normal process for late June. Their bottom leaves are pretty well “crispy” but their tops are just starting to flower. Perhaps another couple of weeks and I’ll be digging up a new crop of these tasty herbs. Due to plentiful rain, the chives are still upright, tender and tasty–despite the fact that their flowers are now setting seeds. I almost have enough basil for a basil salad, and the cilantro is ready for harvest.

Despite the damp ground, Beth and I finished our weeding of the two newest gardens–apple tree and pine tree–on Sunday morning, so it was time to begin the mulch process. Earlier in the week, she had purchased 4 bags of cocoa bean mulch. This is a perfect mulch for these beds. We place a 1-2 inch layer of mulch on any vacant space in the bed. This will keep the weeds down, and by next spring the mulch will degrade enough so annuals like poppies can still break through. I unload and carry to the flower bed, then place mulch in two large pots for Beth to place in the beds. This is a job a blind person can easily do, but it is faster for Beth to twist around the plants to mulch. I will get my share of mulch time as the season progresses.  We placed two bags in each bed–perfect planning–by accident of course.

After pulling the biggest weeds from the west side of the garden, I carried 4 bags of leaf mulch, which we gathered last fall, to that space. We spread this about 6 inches thick. We got part of the old perennial bed done. Hopefully over the Fourth of July weekend, I’ll finish this task.

When looking out the picture window on Saturday, Beth noticed that the apricots were turning orange in the tree. We picked a couple of them later that day, and discovered that they weren’t ripe enough yet. We used two factors to determine this–both of which are blind person friendly. I noticed that the apricots were still very hard, and Beth noticed that they did not come off the tree easily. This is unfortunate, because Sunday night we had a heavy thunderstorm with 60 mile an hour winds. Between the hailstorms and the wind, we’re not sure if we’ll get a crop. But with a week of dryer and warmer weather ahead, there is still hope. I checked on them Monday night and found them hard to the touch, and not eager to leave the tree. There are several of them in reach, so feeling along the branches was an easy way to find them. As is usual with fruit trees, most of the fruit is near the top. Hopefully, a tall ladder, a fruit basket and good weather will result in at least a few fruit soon.

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