Garden Supplies

Garden Ramblings, Issue #067



March 2010


Monthly Musings on the Garden Scene

In this issue:

- Letter from the Editor
- Guard Against The Dangers Of Toxic Mulch
- The Different Colours In Your Garden
- How To Keep Cats From Wrecking Your Garden
- The Least Favorite Vegetables To Grow In The Garden
- Tailpiece


Welcome to the March issue of Garden Ramblings. This will be the last issue of the newsletter which has been published every month since 2004. Unfortunately the number of subscribers has reduced recently and this has been mainly the result of several changes in my autoresponder service.

As regular readers will know the newsletter has relied on guest authors for much of the content over the last year or so and I have tried to bring you useful articles on various gardening topics. Although this newsletter will no longer be published, I plan to increase posts to my blog Garden Supplies News to include guest authors whenever I find interesting articles. I have added a subscription form to the blog so you can sign up and receive an email each time there is a new post.

On to this month's issue where I have included articles by four guest authors. First comes a warning from Abel Jones about the dangers of toxic mulch. This is clearly a significant problem and something you need to be aware of when buying chipped bark for mulch.

Our second guest is Jeffry Bullock who writes about "The Different Colours In Your Garden". His article looks at the way that color can be used to create a mood in the landscape. He discusses the effect created by different colors and suggests plants that can be used for each.

Next Geoff Wolfenden gives us his ideas on "How To Keep Cats From Wrecking Your Garden". This is a constant problem for many of us and Geoff has some useful tips.

Finally Mike Podlesny writes about "The Least Favorite Vegetables To Grow In The Garden". This is the result of a poll he carried out with his subscribers and you may find the results surprising.

As usual we start with a video which is looking forward "Primavera - Spring is Coming".

Enjoy the issue.

Hugh Harris-Evans


Primavera - Spring is Coming


Guard Against The Dangers Of Toxic Mulch
By Abel Jones

Mulching beds has become extremely popular these days, and mulch can be really beneficial to your plants and the soil in your planting beds, but there are things you need to watch for.

Here in Ohio the most popular type of mulch that people use is shredded hardwood bark mulch, which is a byproduct of the timber industry. When they haul the logs into the sawmill the first thing they do is debark them. Years ago the bark was a huge problem for the mills because there didn't seem to be a useful purpose for it, until people realized the hidden benefits that it held. Still to this day, the bark is a headache for the saw mills, and they don't always understand how to properly handle it.

They like to pile it as high as they can so it takes up less space in their yard. The mulch really tends to back up during the winter months because there is little demand for it. In order for the mills to pile the mulch high, they literally have to drive the large front end loaders up onto the pile. Of course the weight of these large machines compacts the mulch in the pile, and this can become a huge problem for you or I if we happen to get some mulch that has been stacked too high, and compacted too tightly.

When the trees are first debarked the mulch is fairly fresh, and needs to decompose before we dare use it around our plants. The decomposition process requires oxygen and air flow into the pile. When the mulch is compacted too tight, this air flow cannot take place, and as the mulch continues to decompose it becomes extremely hot as the organic matter ferments. Sometimes the extreme heat combined with the inability to release the heat can cause the pile to burst into flame through spontaneous combustion.

In other cases the mulch heats up, cannot release the gas, and the mulch actually becomes toxic. When this occurs the mulch develops an overbearing odor that will take your breath away as you dig into the pile. When you spread this toxic mulch around your plants the gas it contains is released, and this gas can and will burn your plants.

It has happened to me twice. Once at my own house, and once on a job I was doing for a customer. This toxic mulch is very potent. We spilled a little mulch in the foliage of a Dwarf Alberta Spruce that we were mulching around, and just a few minutes later brushed the mulch out of the plant. The next day my customer noticed that one side of the plant was all brown. The mulch had only been there for a matter of minutes.

Not only did I have to replace the Dwarf Alberta Spruce, but the mulch also damaged at least 10 other plants that I had to replace. I once saw where somebody ordered a truck load of mulch, had it dumped in their driveway, and as the toxic mulch slid out of the dump truck onto the asphalt the toxic gas that was released settled on the lawn next to the driveway.

The gas, not the mulch, turned the grass brown next to the mulch pile. This same person spread several yards of the mulch around their house before they realized the problem, and it ruined many of their plants.

Now here's the hard part; trying to explain to you how to identify toxic mulch. It has a very strong odor that will take your breath away. But then again almost all mulch has a powerful odor. This is very different than your typical mulch smell, but I can't explain it any better than that.

The mulch looks perfectly normal, maybe a little darker in color than usual. If you suspect a problem with the mulch you have, take a couple of shovels full, and place it around an inexpensive plant. Maybe just a couple of flowers. When doing this test use mulch from inside the mulch pile and not from the edges. The mulch on the edge of the pile has more than likely released most of the toxic gas that it may have held.

If after 24 hours the test plants are okay, the mulch should be fine. The
purpose of this article is not to induce panic at the mulch yard, but toxic mulch can do serious damage. At my house it burned the leaves right off some of the plants in my landscape, and burned the grass next to the bed all the way around the house. It looked like somebody had taken a torch and burned the grass back about 2" all the way around the bed. If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I wouldn't have believed it.

By: Abel Jones

To read about umbrella thorn acacia and acacia honey, visit the Acacia Plant site.


The Different Colours In Your Garden
by Jeffry Bullock

Colour affects our emotions, moods, physical, and spiritual well-being. It has a significant effect on everything we eat, drink, and touch and influences our physical environment including our home, office, and garden. Colour reflects our personalities. The colours we prefer for home interiors carried out to the garden, provide continuity between our interior and exterior living spaces. Colours are a useful tool in creating different moods in the landscape. In order to effectively create with colour it is important to understand the meaning of the different colours.

Red creates vitality. It tends to command attention and will make areas seem smaller. It is a good colour for dining areas as it increases appetite. It creates a feeling of warmth, movement, and drama. For those who may find it too stimulating, use pink instead. Red plants to use in the shade include begonia, coleus, and impatiens. In sunny areas use salvia or verbenas. To augment your plantings use glazed pots, red sandstone gravel, red clay bricks or tiles will bring that vitality to your landscape.

Orange means optimism. It is primarily the colour of joy. It is warm, welcoming, just bursting with earthly energy. Orange flowers have been known since ancient times as a cure for depression. It is a good colour to use when you have experienced trauma or loss. Plants to try in the shade include begonia, coleus and impatiens. For sunny areas try honeysuckle and marigolds. Materials to augment plantings include terracotta pots, ornaments, rusting metal, golden gravel, and clay bricks.

Yellow means contentment. It represents the power of the sun, increases the feeling of space. It brings a sense of well-being to the garden even on grey, dull days. Golden foliage will often scorch in full sun so plant in dappled shade. Many of the grey or silver-leafed plants have yellow flowers. Plants to grow in shade include begonias, coleus, and hostas. For sunny areas try day lilies, potentilla and yarrow. Materials to augment plantings include reconstituted stone containers, ornaments, golden sandstone gravel, and buff paving.

Green means growth. It is a primary healing colour. Green foliage on its own will create a tranquil impression. It is restful and relaxing as it offers sanctuary from the outside world. Using foliage colours and architectural leaves gives structure and form to any garden space. Plants for shady areas include coleus, ferns, and hosta. Use junipers, grasses and conifers in sunny areas. To augment plantings use green wood stain on fences and buildings. It is a popular colour for garden furniture, umbrellas, glazed pots, garden ornaments.

Blue means spirit. It is very conducive for meditation. It conveys the peacefulness of sky and ocean. It combines well with many other colours. Use this colour for modern-day stress and anxiety. Blue flowers add depth and strong healing vibrations to a border filled with pink, lilac, and white flowers. Plants for shade include campanula and columbine. For sunny areas, delphinium, lobelia and morning glory. Materials to augment planting include deep blue-grey slate, paving, granite and ceramics with vivid blue glazes.

Violet means calm. It brings a feeling of self-worth. It sometimes appears dull unless plenty of contrast in texture, form, and tone are used. Flowers are particularly useful for protection and for the cleansing vibrations they give out. It is a rich regal colour that indicates knowledge, self-respect, spirituality, nostalgia, dignity, and wealth. It will help soothe the mind if you are tense. Plants for shady areas include coleus and impatiens. For sunny areas use aster, butterfly bush and salvia. To augment the planting use glazed pots, dyed fabrics used on garden furniture and umbrellas.

About the author:

Information on celosia cristata can be found at the Celosia Flower site.


How To Keep Cats From Wrecking Your Garden
by Geoff Wolfenden

A cat in the garden can present a pretty picture—but cats can also be serious garden pests. Here are a few tips to help your garden and your cat coexist peacefully.

Plant a cat-friendly corner. It may be effective to plant an area of your garden specifically designed to attract cats, with plenty of catnip, open soil and shade.

Get a motion-activated sprinkler. Install a motion-activated sprinkler set to go off whenever it senses motion near your plants.

Protect young trees. Cats love to scratch, and while mature trees can take it, younger trees are often damaged by kitty claws.

Clean up droppings. Cats know where the bathroom is by the smell—and once they use your garden as a bathroom once, they’re likely to keep doing it.

Replace cat smells with human smells. Placing a jar containing orange peels, vinegar, coffee grounds or moth balls around your garden obscures the scent of cat droppings.

Put screens over vegetables. Cats love to leave droppings in gardens. And that’s the last thing you want to find in among your lettuce and carrots.

Stop cats from digging. Cats love to dig. Keep your kitty from digging up your garden by mulching exposed soil as soon as you can.

Use a fence. If you want to keep cats out of your garden entirely, the only surefire way is to put a fence around it—and even then, it may not be completely effective.

Cats can be a nuisance in the garden. But it’s possible to reduce the damage they cause by taking a few steps to discourage them from damaging behavior. If you do this, you have a chance of letting your cat enjoy your garden without damaging it.

About the Author

G Wolfenden is a director at LBS Garden Warehouse. For more information on discount gardening equipment and supplies visit


The Least Favorite Vegetables To Grow In The Garden
by M.C. Podlesny

Vegetable gardening, just like anything else in life, is comprised of people from all walks of life and culture and because it is so vast, we wanted to get a better handle on what people grow and more importantly what they don’t grow. So we went ahead and asked our thousands of subscribers on our vegetable gardening fan page on Facebook this specific question. What is your least favorite vegetable to grow? One that you avoid like the plague and can't understand why anyone else would want to grow it in the first place

We received a tremendous amount of responses, some of which were a surprise to us since we grow that vegetable ourselves and some we never heard of. Here is a portion of that list.

The biggest surprise on the list to us was zucchini. We absolutely love zucchini. You can make breads with it, soups, steam it, you name it. But apparently as one Facebook member put it, “it grows like a weed”, it is not as popular with others.

This next vegetable we agree with and that is brussel sprouts. We do not grow them ourselves and as one Facebook member put it, “lots of plant for little return…takes up space that could be better used for something {else}”. But dot not fret sprouts fans, there were plenty of defenders of the veggie, we just weren’t one of them.

Another shocker to us was eggplant. Many wrote not liking it more for the texture of the vegetable when you eat it rather than growing it. We shared some recipes for eggplant parmesan in hopes that those members that are against it would change their minds. We shall see.

Cabbage, hot peppers, chicory and mustard, were about a tie but mostly because some didn’t like the taste of cabbage, others did not know what to do with cabbage once harvested, many do not like the heat from hot peppers and one person was allergic to mustard, which we found unique.

With all that said, the number one crop that people “avoid like plague”, drum roll please, is okra. One person wrote in saying it gave him nightmares from his childhood when the school lunch cafeteria person would put it in everything and tasted horrible, to another person that says growing okra made her “itch like crazy”. The bad results for okra came in like wildfire that we started feeling sorry for it.

The poll, albeit unscientific of course, was a fun question to ask and gave us real insight into the vegetable gardening world of what vegetable gardeners won’t grow.

About the Author

Mike is the owner of Mike the Gardener Enterprises, LLC where you can sign up for their Seeds of the Month Club and receive 4 packs of vegetable, fruit and herb seeds every month.



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That's all from Garden Ramblings, but in future there will be plenty of articles on my Blog Garden Supplies News



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