Sylvia And Her Group

Picture 1119 Every year Fernwood gets a visit from Sylvia Correia and her gardening group from Connecticut. They travel to the state of Maine to attend the Camden garden tour, visit the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, and then check out some local nurseries. We always look forward to them coming, all being enthusiastic and knowledgable gardeners, they’re interest and conversation is always a pleasure.
Sylvia asked about the mulch in our display beds, with a suggestion that we do a blog on it. We mulch our beds to control weeds, retain moisture, modify soil temperature, and feed the plants. No mulching is done to protect the plants in winter. One of our favorite mulches to use is leaves. The shade here at the nursery is provided by trees, not shade structures, so we have an abundance of them in the fall. We gather them up to be used either as mulch (uncomposted) or left longer in the pile so that they break down for soil amending. Leaves that fall directly into the beds are not removed, ever. This is natures way of building soil and feeding the plants, including the trees themselves.
The other mulch we use is the grass clippings from our lawn. These work very well as they break down fairly fast and form a tight mat that suppresses most weeds. They have more nitrogen in them than the leaves do. One caution. Do not use the clippings for mulch if you are mowing the seed heads of weeds on your lawn as well. For example, we do not use them when the dandelions are up, because that would amount to sowing the beds with dandelion seeds. When we are mowing grass with lots of dandelions present, we compost the cut grass.
When do we mulch? We mulch as needed and throughout the growing season, from spring to fall. Can mulching inhibit seed germination with relation to plants naturally seeding out beneath or around them? Perhaps you are hoping for seedlings to transplant next season and are concerned about this. My thought is, if you are not going to collect the seed, to mulch just after the seeds fall may very well smother them. You may want to pay attention to the specific plants that you want to have seed out, being careful to not mulch heavily when they are dropping seeds ( at least around that plant). If they fall into the mulch, and work their way down into it, by wind, rain, etc, they might have a better chance to germinate. We recommend collecting the seed from your favorite plants and germinating them in a protected area. Many of the plants here at the nursery do seed out in the ground, and we are always finding new foxglove or ginger or other little seedlings that germinate right where they fall. Some plants, regardless of mulch, seem prolific in seeding out… Senecio. Still, if you are intent on getting seedlings from a particular plant, we suggest collecting the seed to ensure better results.

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