A chant for a good garden

Sometimes I like to garden while doing a little chanting.
Ship-faring men of yesteryear used to have seamen’s chanteys while
they pulled anchor, dropped sail or shivered their timbers. Their
mantras gave them something to focus on and keep them centered
while they worked.
Sometimes I like to garden while doing a little chanting. Ship-faring men of yesteryear used to have seamen’s chanteys while they pulled anchor, dropped sail or shivered their timbers. Their mantras gave them something to focus on and keep them centered while they worked.

I kind of do the same thing when I’m working in the garden. My mantra goes something like: Weed, feed, water, mulch. Weed, feed, water, mulch. Weed, feed, water, mulch.

And when you think about it, following my mantra will go a long way toward successful gardening. Mulching is an important part of a successful garden. But what exactly is mulch? And how about watering, fertilizing and weeding a garden?

Mulch can be anything from compost, organic matter, redwood soil conditioner, peat moss, leaf mold or even planting/potting mix. Basically, almost anything you can add to your garden – with the exception of fertilizers or plants themselves – may be considered a mulch.

Organic matter can also be used as a mulch. Organic matter can range from well-rotted homemade compost to bags of organic compost you can buy at the nursery.

Mushroom compost, steer manure and chicken manure are other forms of organic matter. But be careful how much you use of these, especially in hot weather. Also, avoid adding sand to your garden. For one thing, sand from the beach will be very high in salts. Even clean sand purchased in bags aren’t good with our soils since they tend to be very high in clay. Clay plus sand equals cement.

Mulch is usually used as a finished cover over bare ground or plantings in your garden. Spreading a four-inch layer of mulch will save water by preventing evaporation and keeping the soil moist longer. Mulch will also help to prevent so many weeds from sprouting. Mulch will also benefit root growth since the mulch will eventually make its way toward the roots. Finally, a finishing layer of mulch makes the garden look better aesthetically. If you want, you can dig or rototill mulch into your garden as well.

Keeping your garden weeded will not only make it look better, but you’ll save water, too. Weeds love water, and they compete with your garden for it. You can hand-weed, hoe or spray using contact herbicides like RoundUp.

As for watering, even though it’s winter, remember that you should never be wasteful when watering in the garden. In order to save water, install drip irrigation or use soaker hoses in place of traditional sprinklers whenever possible. Soaker hoses are ideal for trees or landscape shrubs, while pop-up sprinklers still are best for lawns. Form water basins around individual plants, such as roses and trees. During warm weather, try to water in the morning.

Finally, give your entire garden a boost by fertilizing. You can use granular, all-purpose fertilizers or liquid forms, such as Miracle-Gro. Remember, too, that liquid fertilizers can be used as a foliar spray where the nutrients can be taken in through leaves and stems, as well as roots. Timed-release pellets like Osmocote are also an easy way for plants to get a little bit of fertilizer at a time over a long period.

Keith Muraoka lives and works in Gilroy. E-mail him at [email protected]

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