On Gardening: Seasonal projects in the backyard

Today’s column compiles brief discussions on selected topics current in my own garden. While we usually focus on one topic each week, the multi-faceted nature of gardening inspired this column.

Controlling weeds

Every garden has weeds, perhaps just a few or sometimes many. They arrive through seed drops, wind gusts, imported plants, or avian flyovers. Close spacing of desired plants could be the best strategy for weed control: it denies the inevitable weed seeds the sun exposure they need to grow.

Plan B is to notice and remove weeds before their seeds mature and spread. Annual and perennial weeds must be tracked for this approach to succeed.

Then, we have mulching with the objective of blocking the sunlight from the weed seeds. Some gardeners like inorganic mulches (pebbles, plastic, weed fabric, etc.). These items can be effective, but organic mulches (shredded leaves, wood chips, etc.) are cheaper, consistent with a commitment to natural gardening, and decompose over time to add nutrients to the soil.

Sheet mulching involves covering the garden surface with recycled cardboard cartons and adding a layer of organic mulch material. This practice disposes of the boxes that are delivered to our homes and can smother weed growth. The cardboard also will decompose and enrich the soil.

I have recently learned about mulch research by Washington State University Professor Linda Chalker-Scott. A very brief summary of her findings is that wood chips alone are better than sheet mulching because the cardboard smothers the soil as well as the weeds. For the full story, view her talk, “Mulches: The Good, The Bad, and The Really, Really Ugly.” Browse to and search for “Chalker-Scott mulch.”

Controlling pond algae

My patio includes a small above-ground pond that is the home of numerous very small fish. They are likely Common Minnows (Phoxinus phoxinus). The pond sometimes has interesting pond plants, but it now has a bumper crop of Filamentous Algae, which resembles a cloud of green wet wool. This weed, which could be any of a few different plant species, grows on the bottom, attaches to rocks or other objects, or floats close to the surface.

After laboriously scooping algae from the pond, I searched for a targeted herbicide. Several products claim to be safe for fish and pond plants (that’s important!), but some safe herbicides oxygenate the water while others remove oxygen and require constant fountain action to aerate the pond and keep the fish alive.

My quick survey of available products identified Mizzen as a good option. This product is a liquid, chelated copper-based algaecide. When I tried to order it, would not ship to California! Lake Restoration, which produces Mizen, told me that California’s regulations guard against allowing chemicals to enter the natural waterways. My pond is isolated from waterways, so Lake Restoration is sending a pint for my trial uses. I’ll report my Mizzen experience in a future column.

Protecting Salvia Apiana from poaching

The California Native Plant Society’s very special Spring 2022 issue of its magazine, Flora, is dedicated to the issues surrounding White Sage (Salvia apiana), …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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