Feeding Your Plants

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Practical Solutions

Man-made mulches offer many benefits. Weed membrane or landscape fabric is a semipermeable material that blocks out light but allows moisture through. Use it on low-maintenance beds, or on weed-ridden ground. Lay it before planting and cover with a natural bark or gravel, or a decorative mulch. Black plastic does not allow moisture through, but it warms the soil and kills off weeds when laid over vegetable beds in spring.

Straw insulates the soil, and protects tender plants in winter. It is also used to raise crops, such as strawberries and zucchinis, off the ground, reducing fungal and slug problems. A think layer of straw will protect the roots of vulnerable plants from frost.

Spread landscape fabric over the soil prior to planting to prevent weed growth (image 1). Use straw to keep strawberries clean and dry (image 2).

Decorative Options

Mulches that don't decompose are useful as decorative garden surfaces. They are particularly effective when laid over landscape fabric or membrane, which reduces weed growth and helps prevent soil mixing in with the mulch and spoiling the effect. For a modern feel, try colored crushed glass or slate shards. Cover small areas, like the tops of pots and containers, with beads, crushed and whole shells, or polished pebbles. Natural pebbles blend well with gravel over larger areas, and can create a beach effect when laid in swathes.

Pebbles (image 1) come in different colors and sizes. Ask to see a sample out of the bag, wetted to show the true color.

Crushed glass (image 2) is usually a recycled product, milled to take off the sharp edges. Use bright colors for design highlights.

Slate chips (image 3) in various grades and subtle shades of dark gray have sharp edges, so they are unsuitable for children's areas.

Crushed shells (image 4) are recycled from the seafood industry.

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Excerpted from How to Grow Practically Everything

© 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

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