The word is out about the importance of mulch, but questions arise about what to use, how much to use when and where to put it on. Understanding a bit of the scientific reasoning makes that task simpler. Mulch keeps soil cool and moist, reducing the need for watering. Organic mulches (material from plant sources) break down gradually, releasing nutrients into the soil. Rocks heat the soil and plant roots. Last year's leaves are great. Mulches also prevent light from hitting the soil, inhibiting germination of many annual weeds.
Pollinators, whether managed bees or the myriad native insect pollinators, are declining in numbers, some at alarming rates. These workhorses put every third bite we eat into our mouths. A number of causes are to blame and the science is not yet concrete in its conclusions. A chemical that was introduced and has been widely used since the early 2000s has been implicated in the reduction of pollinator numbers. New directives by the Environmental Protection Agency and by Minnesota Statute 18H.14 of 2014 are being put into effect that will address part of the problem.
Cool breezes coming through the windows create strange dreams. The other night, the dream was that it was 56 below and I was rushing out to move hostas. Thoughts of the approaching snow and cold did lead to serious thoughts of the upcoming holidays and gift-giving for the gardeners in my life. Now is an exceptional time to do some of that shopping. There are end-of-season bargains in the stores and great opportunities for gleaning in the outdoors. A dirt shovel with soil-biting teeth is on my list and I have found it on sale!
In spring, gardeners always imagine how good their landscapes, gardens and planters can look, especially when the seed catalogs and magazines present images of glowing successes. About this time of year, we come face-to-face with the reality. Sometimes we have achieved just the look we want, or have found plants that have succeeded in our climate and soil conditions, but other times not so much. Now is the time to evaluate, make notes, plan plant lists for next year and note how we reached good and bad results, then figure out how to make the changes.
Ditches, many hay fields and untended fields are bright with oxeye daisies and bright orange and yellow hawkweed flowers. Indeed, it is a pretty sight but there is more to it. Both of these are extremely invasive and they will soon be joined by lovely lavender spotted knapweed. All of these European imports displace native plants needed by our native species.