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Gardening Tips and Tricks

Gardening tips and tricks to grow more, grow better, save time, reduce use of chemicals etc.

1. Why use grass clippings as a mulch ?

    I use grass clippings (after lawn mowing) as an organic mulch for all my plants. Use of grass clippings - or hay - is beneficial for garden in many ways, but there is one condition to it the thickness of the layer must be at least 2-3 inches, the more - the better.

Reasons it is good for your garden:

    a) significant reduction of weeds - they just die under the thick layer of mulch, and those grown thru are very weak and are pulled easily by hand.

    b) significant water saving - soil does not dry out as quickly under the layer of mulch, keeping roots of your plants moist even in hot days.

    c) grass clippings provide constant organic feed for your plants as they are rotten slowly from the bottom up, and providing shelter and food for "good" microflora in the soil.  

    d) grass clippings keep your harvest clean: strawberry fruits, tomatoes, cucumbers - without touching the bare ground they are nice and clean.

    e) when used as a ground cover between rows - it becomes a carpet you can step on even in muddy rainy days to pickup greens for salad and have your feet clean

    f) this kind of much improves your garden year after year returning the valuable nutrients back to the soil without adding any chemicals, that essentially increases your harvest and keeps your food safe.

    g) grass clippings are free and often are thrown away, so you can pick up tons of them from curbside on garbage collection day - all nicely packed in paper bags by you neighbors.


2. Why stay clear from commercially sold mulch products ?

Commercially sold mulch is usually are wood processing sub-products made of wood and bark chips and/or sawdust mixed together and colored in different colors. Then it packed in plastic bags and sold in stores.

Reasons it is not good for your garden are:

    a) It is expensive. You would probably think twice before using it freely in your garden. Comparing to grass clippings that are free.

    b) It is not safe to use in edible vegetable garden. The chemicals that are used in production of commercial mulch (such as colors and carpenter glue from sawdust) may get into your veggies.  We have seen dill plants become purple color because of the colored commercial mulch was used around the plants. Mind what you eat !

    c) It takes much longer for wood sub-products to rot enough to turn into valuable nutrients for your plants, after several years you may still see wood chips in your soil . Whereas grass clippings become part of soil over the winter.

3. How to control unwanted plants in your garden

I recently wrote a blog about using organic solution for weeds control as well as you can find lots of other information on web on same topic.  I do not use Roundup in my garden, even though it does kill plants more effectively (though take longer to take effect than my solution).

I use a mix of one gallon of vinegar (5-10%),  200g of salt, a half bottle of dish soap. Mix together well. Then generously spray (not pour) on leafy weeds in hot sunny day.

The difference from Roundup  method is:

(a) vinegar does not kill roots, but only leaves or parts of the leaf that it came in contact with, so unlike Roundup which one little drop is enough to kill the whole plant, with vinegar you need to make sure all leaves are covered with the solution;

(b) as soon as you see regrowth from roots you better quickly - before it re-establishes itself - spray the vinegar solution again - making sure there is no live leaves standing - then roots will eventually die without leaves;

(c) if you accidentally spray on a branch of your "good" plant - this branch will most probably die, but the plant can come up growing again - if no more damage was done. Unlike Roundup - if one drop is accidentally got on a good plant - you can "kiss it goodbye".

Using more salt in this solution makes it a stronger killer, but caution is needed here as lots of salt - as well as vinegar actually - can change the PH level of your soil. If you don't care about that - then go wild and use as much salt as you want.  And this problem - if ever occurs - can be corrected by adding other ingredients (like limestone) to neutralize the soil again.


4. How to make your own seedling pots from scrap newspapers

See my blog with a short video here.