Gardening Q & A: What Is Mulch Paint and more
Master gardener Paul James takes questions about gardening from his audience.
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Master gardener Paul James takes questions from his audience:
Question: Paul, I saw a gigantic wasp in my yard and it disappeared into a hole in the ground. What was it, and is it dangerous?
Answer: Based on your brief description, I'm guessing that what you saw was a giant cicada killer (figure A), which is indeed one of the largest wasps in North America.
The cicada killer is found all over the country but is most common east of the Rocky Mountains, in areas where annual cicadas are prevalent. It flies about in search of— you guessed it — cicadas, which it paralyzes with its sting, then takes into its subterranean lair, the entry to which is a small hole in the ground.
Once there, the cicada killer lays an egg in its prey and in no time at all the egg hatches, and the developing larva feeds on the cicada.
By the way, although the cicada killer isn't particularly aggressive, it will sting if provoked, and its sting can be extremely painful — not unlike that of a giant wasp.
Question: You mentioned once that you inoculate your ponds with bacteria. What kind of bacteria?
Answer: There are several different strains of bacteria that can be added to ponds, but rather than rattle off a bunch of strange Latin names, let me just say that I think it's a good idea to experiment with several, because some are better at reducing algae, while others do a better job of breaking down organic matter such as fish waste.
I add the bacteria once a week, and as a result I never need to add chemicals of any kind to maintain good water quality.
Question: How do you water newly planted seeds without washing them away?
Answer: Carefully! The problem with most hose-end sprinklers is that they're too forceful, so the water winds up disturbing the soil too much and washing seeds away.
One solution is a special fitting designed for misting (figure B). It's gentle on the soil and the seeds.
Another is a wand used by professional growers (figure C). These aren't cheap, but they work great and they last nearly forever.
Question: Have you ever seen a weeder that uses water to loosen weeds?
Answer: This wand tool (figure D) uses water to loosen the soil, thereby making weeds easier to remove. All you do is connect the unit to the hose, stab it into the soil near the base of the weed, squeeze the trigger to release the water and remove the weed.
These babies work best on weeds with deep taproots, in particular dandelions, pokeweed and thistle. For smaller weeds, you're better off using a hoe or some sort of weeding tool.
And speaking of weeding tools, there's one whose design is simple and straightforward (figure E). It works like a champ, and its designed for left- or right-handed weeders.
Question: I use five-gallon plastic buckets for all sorts of gardening stuff, but the lids are really hard to take off. Any tips?
Answer I, too, use a lot of buckets like this and find it difficult to remove the lids.
The solution comes in the form of a new lid designed to fit these buckets, and it's extremely easy to install. The rim part of the lid (figure F) forms an airtight and watertight seal, and it's a piece of cake to remove (figure G).
When these buckets are full of heavy stuff like fertilizer or tools, the wire handles really dig into your hands. This little device (figure H) makes all the difference in the world. Just slip it under the handle.
Question: Paul, have you ever heard of mulch paint?
Answer: I'd heard of it but never used it, so your question prompted me to buy some and see how it works. The idea behind it, of course, is that mulch tends to lose its color and fade over time, and painting old mulch is much cheaper than buying new mulch.
The dye mixes readily in water (figure I) — three to four tablespoons per gallon — and can be applied using any sort of sprayer.
For even coverage, it's best to work side to side, then up and down. And the longer you spray a given area, the darker the color will be.
According to the manufacturer, this stuff lasts up to six months. But keep in mind that it can also stain certain surfaces, so be careful when working around plants and paved areas. Oh, and by the way, it comes in various colors, from light brown to red.
Question: Help! Water gushes out of my gutter drains and into my beds, washing away the soil.
Answer: Consider one of these options:
Answer: More than likely, yes. Ideally, peppers need more like eight hours of sun a day, and without it they may not develop fully or, in your case, may not develop much in the way of heat.
But for what it's worth, jalapenos aren't that hot to begin with when compared to other hot peppers.
On the Scoville Scale, which measures the pungency of peppers, jalapenos range from 2,500 units to 10,000 units. So it's also possible that the ones you're growing are at the low end of the scale in terms of heat.
misting attachment (Dramm Seedling Brass Nozzle) - Backyard Style
water-powered weeder, bucket handle grip - Lee Valley Tools & Veritas
weeding tool - Garden Bandit
bucket lid - Healthy Harvest
mulch paint - A. M. Leonard
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