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MASTER GARDENER: Compost and mulching are good practices for all gardens

June is my favorite gardening month. The peonies are blooming, I’m planting flowers and vegetable seeds and envisioning the fresh vegetables that will grow and the flowers that will bloom.

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June is my favorite gardening month. The peonies are blooming, I’m planting flowers and vegetable seeds and envisioning the fresh vegetables that will grow and the flowers that will bloom.

The world is green and colorful where it once was all white. This year, June in northern Minnesota has been sunny with good rain for our gardens. Seeds have germinated and young plants are growing quickly.

The soil in my garden is sandy and needs regular watering which can become quite a chore when it doesn’t rain.

Something that helps my garden soil retain water so plants don’t dry out too much between waterings is mixing compost into the garden soil before I plant.

It also works to add a layer of compost as a top layer around your plants after germination. In addition to helping the plants retain water in the sandy soil, the compost adds nutrients for the plants.

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Compost can seem like a complicated and mysterious thing, but it doesn’t have to be. At my house, we have a bucket underneath the sink that we use to collect fruit and vegetable scraps.

When it is full, I take it out and dump it in a bin outside that is about a four-foot square and has a lid. When I dump in the vegetable scraps, I cover them with dead leaves which we collected and bagged the previous fall. Then I mix it with a pitchfork and let it rot.

When the bin is full, I start a new pile and let the previous mix “mature” which means making sure that everything is fully decomposed before adding it to the garden. For more details and specifics about composting, check out the University of Minnesota Extension website.

Another strategy that helps plants retain water in sandy soil is mulching around your plants. Mulching is fantastic because it keeps the weeds down and can also be a type of compost.

There are many types of mulch you can buy. In my vegetable garden and around my strawberries, I use pine straw, which is plentiful and free at our house.

When we first apply, the mulch looks messy and awkward, but with a little time and foot traffic around the garden, it settles down and looks very pleasing. Compost and mulching are good practices for all gardens, whether the soil is sand or clay.

As the enjoyable gardening month of June wraps up, remember that you can get assistance with your gardening questions by posting your question or sending a message to the Beltrami County Master Gardener Facebook page.

You can also get your questions addressed by contacting the Master Gardener helpline at (218) 444-7916 and leaving a message that will be returned by a local Master Gardener.

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The following link will give you more information on how to take a soil sample and where to send it for testing: "Test your soil and take the guesswork out of fertilizer recommendations | UMN Extension."

Growing your own food and sharing with your neighbors or donating to people in need provides for healthier people and a healthier community and in turn a healthier planet. You can never have too much zucchini, right?

These local garden articles will reach you each week throughout the gardening season, but gardening information can be found year-round by clicking on "Yard and Garden” at the University of Minnesota Extension website, www.extension.umn.edu, or by visiting our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Beltramicountymastergardeners.

Local Master Gardeners will respond to questions via voicemail. Call (218) 444-7916 and leave your name, number and question.

Related Topics: GARDENING
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