Sunday, June 5, 2011

Mulch and Beans

First, the beans.

It's time to plant them if you haven't already. There is enough heat to get them germinated. Besides, you want beans before the summer's over, so they gotta git growing.

Quick beans

Soak your bean seeds in a bowl of water on the counter before planting them. Overnight is best. They should be plump and smooth-skinned when fully soaked.

Soaked beans pop up in a few days. Dry beans take a week longer.

Free seeds

There are free bean seeds in the shed. Royal Burgundy is a sturdy purple-podded bean that can tolerate some cool temperatures. Save the seeds for next year. Tendergreen is another seed-saver with some cool tolerance. Both are also good for planting in early August for an early fall crop. There are also two packages of Pinto beans from the Sisters of Providence -- pick them when they're dry and make chili.

Okay, now the mulching

Mulching means covering every square inch of exposed soil with wood chips, grass trimmings, shredded bark, or dead leaves. A one- to two-inch blanket of wood chips will do it. Mulch around seedlings and sprouted seeds, right to the edges of the bed.

We still have tons of wood chips, for free, so it's handy. Get your beds mulched as soon as possible, since rains in June, July, and August tend to be far apart.

Why mulch?
  1. Carrying watering cans to your garden every day is a drag. Heck, your arms will be six inches longer by October! Every day? Are you nuts? Who wants to do that? Mulch well just once, and you'll get away with watering once or twice a month for the rest of the summer.
  2. The rain barrels are small, and we have a lot of garden. If every gardener waters every day, we'll never have enough water. Once the barrels are dry, you're carrying water from home. Unless you mulched.
  3. Rain percolates through the wood-chip blanket. It leaches some of the nutrients into the soil and provides a mild fertilizer. But only to gardens that have been mulched.
  4. Mulched soil is soft and moist. Our clay soil turns to concrete in the sun, and nothing can grow in concrete. But the sun can't reach through mulch, so it doesn't dry out or form a crust.
  5. The sun's rays break down the wood chips over the summer. By late fall, they'll be dark charcoal-coloured, and some of it will have already composted itself into the soil. At this point, we can rototill the wood chips into the soil for next spring.
Where else can you find something that's FREE that does so much?

Please mulch your garden.

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