How to Make Your Own Mulch/Fertilizer

How to Make Mulch

First of all, some of you may be wondering “What is Mulch?”

Mulch is a layer of ground/chopped up plant material, like grass clippings, chipped wood, carrot peelings, cauliflower leaves, leftover salad, potato skins, cucumber ends, tree trimmings and/or leaves applied to the top of soil. It’s like an organic “blanket”. Mulch is excellent for conditioning soil and moisture retention.

Mulch becomes compost after it decomposes and happens to be the best fertilizer available. Manure like cow, steer, worm and bat are also very good but you have to buy these. Mulch is free.

So how do we make mulch?

The absolute easiest mulch to make is grass clippings. It’s also the cheapest…basically free. I grow grass and weeds in my back yard for the sole purpose of creating mulch for my garden and yard. I used to pull out the weeds in my backyard but now I let them grow and then mow them down to make mulch. Weeds grow really fast.

Backyard weeds and grass after mowing

Before mowing…or pre-mulch.

Grass Clippings Mulch Pile

Here is a small pile of grass/weed mulch after mowing my backyard with an electric lawn mower.

My backyard used to be dirt because I would pull out every weed that grew. It was an endless chore. Now I water them and let them grow. They make excellent mulch/compost when mowed down. I’m also growing Bermuda grass too. Hopefully the grass will spread over most of my backyard. It also grows fast and makes great mulch/compost.

You can make mulch from just about any plant material except fruit. The best is leaves, grass, weeds and tree trimmings though.

Why Use Mulch?

Mulch is a great soil conditioner. It decomposes and turns into compost which is a great fertilizer with lots of nitrogen. Mulch also reduces water evaporation from the soil which means plants will get more water for a longer period of time. Mulch helps prevent soil from drying out. You have to water less when you cover the soil with mulch.

Here’s another bonus that I discovered recently. If you want to start a vegetable garden from seeds then Mulch is the secret. I tried Jiffy Peat Pots without success. They dried out very fast even though I watered them everyday. So I planted some watermelon seeds in my garden and covered the area with grass mulch. I watered every other day. 7 days later I had watermelon sprouts. It’s like magic.

One more benefit is weed prevention. Mulch will reduce the number of weeds that will grow in an area with mulch.

How to Use Mulch

Mulch is simple to use. You just spread it over the soil in a 1-2″ thick layer. Now water as you normally would but only when the soil under the mulch is dry. Mulch will eventually decompose into the soil so you’ll have to add more as the layer gets thinner.

How to Start Vegetable Seeds Outside

So what’s the easiest and most productive way to start seeds for a vegetable garden?

Is it, in peat pots inside?

Or in garden soil outside?

Or by soaking them in water first and then planting them?

I figured this out the hard way…from experience. I tried the peat pots filled with garden soil. I placed them outside on my patio. I put 3 cucumber seeds in a 1/2 deep hole in each peat pot and watered every other day. They dried out very fast because they are exposed to the air on all sides. I tried to keep them moist but failed. They never sprouted after 2 months.

So did I give up? Nope

I had been experimenting with grass mulch in the yard, I have a 6′ x 4′ area covered with grass mulch/clippings. Mulch does wonderful things to soil. Anyway, I decided to throw the last 10 or so seeds into this area under about 1/2″ of soil and then covered it with grass mulch.I watered every few days for about 2 weeks. And Wah lah. I now have 10 seedlings growing throw the grass mulch.

Cucumber Seedlings growing through mulch

Here is a close up of the cucumber seedlings growing through the grass mulch.

Cucumber seedlings growing

So why did this work?

Well, the grass mulch keeps the soil moist by preventing the air from evaporating the water. The seeds stayed moist and germinated in about 10 days.

 

Natural Bug Repellent for House and Yard

Would you like to keep bugs/inspects out of your house and yard?

…and without using toxic smelly pesticide chemicals?

The truth is you absolutely can. I have been able to keep those noisy crickets away from my house for 3 years now without using pesticides.

So how did I do it?

…Cedar Mulch.

That’s right Cedar Mulch is a great natural bug repellent. I spread Cedar Mulch around the perimeter of my house in a 2-3″ layer. I push the mulch up against the foundation and then spread it outwards about 2 feet. The sap in Cedar is toxic to insects and they avoid it like the Plague.

Cedar Mulch Insect Repellent

Cedar Mulch bug barrier 2

Why do you think Cedar Chests were used to store clothing? Because it repels insects like moths that eat fabric.

Cedar Mulch not only repels insects of all kinds but is also a great soil conditioner. It will help the soil retain moisture and add nitrogen as it decomposes. It also makes the yard smell nice.

Cedar Mulch is much cheaper to use as a bug barrier than any pesticide. Most gallon containers of pesticides are about $30 and that last about 6 months. Cedar Mulch costs about $3.50/2 cubic ft bag at Home Depot. I used about 15 bags to cover the backyard perimeter of my house. That cost me $55.00. These 15 bags will last about 3 years. After 3 years, I start adding to the existing mulch, a few bags every other month.

Worm Castings: What does it do for soil?

Worm Castings: What it does for soil

Worm castings are simply the absolute best fertilizer for gardens, grass, flowers, trees and shrubs. Worm castings are 100% natural and can never harm any plant no matter how little or how much you apply to the soil. It’s Fail Safe fertilizer.

Worm Castings will enrich any soil and enable plants to grow faster, healthier and produce more fruit. You can see the difference in days. It’s remarkable.

Now let’s talk about What Worm Castings are.

Worm Castings are simply the waste product from worms. Worms eat dead plant matter and digest it. Bacteria in the worm’s digestive track break down the plant matter. The waste that doesn’t get absorbed by the worm is high in Nitrogen and serves as fertilizer for plants. There are also enzymes in the waste that make it even more nutritious and easily absorbed by plants.

How to Use Worm Castings

First aerate or loosen the soil in the area you would like to fertilize like the garden or around trees. When the soil is aerated or tilled, it’s easier for the nutrients in worm castings to penetrate the soil when watered. Plant roots will be able to absorb the fertilizer faster and easier when using this fertilizing method.

Now apply as much worm castings as you want to the top of the loosened soil. I usually add about 1 ” of worm castings to my garden and around my trees. Then I use a trowel or hand rake to mix the castings into the loose soil. I then add a little more to the top of the soil.

You can also just apply the worm casting on top of the soil and do nothing else. I have done this when the soil is rock hard and difficult to aerate. It works very well this way too. I apply about 1″ on top of the soil above the root line of trees and plants. Don’t apply it around the base of any plant. That’s not where the roots are.

How to Store Worm Castings

The cardinal rule of storing worm castings is to never let it dry out. Keep it moist in a container with a lid. Store the container in a dark, cool location.

Where to Buy Worm Castings

You can usually buy worm castings locally. Worm farmers will sell castings and worms. I found a local worm farmer in Phoenix, AZ. The worms and castings are pretty cheap. You can also find online stores that sell worm castings in bags. Here is a link where you can buy worm castings…Buy at Amazon.com.

worm castings 5 lb bag

Are Electric Lawn Mowers Any Good?

Are Electric Lawn Mowers Any Good?

The short answer is YES.

I’ve had 2 corded electric lawn mowers and both were very good. I would buy them again if I needed to. I currently have an American Lawn Mower Co. 50514 14″ corded electric lawn mower. I bought it for just over $100 delivered to my front door.

Electric Mower 14"

Why Buy an Electric Lawn Mower?

  1. Cost – corded electric lawn mowers are very inexpensive compared to a gas lawn mower. The price range is $90 – $300 depending on the make and model.
  2. Low Noise – I enjoy peace and quiet and so a loud lawn mower would not make me happy. It’s bad enough I hear the neighbors landscapers running gas powered weed wackers early on Saturday morning. It’s annoying! Electric lawn mowers are pretty quiet.
  3. Light Weight – I think my lawn mower weighs about 20 lbs. I can pick it up with one hand and carry it around. It’s also very easy to push.
  4. Compact Designs – electric motors are smaller than gas engines which makes them more compact and easier to store. I can store mine inside a trunk on the patio.
  5. No Gas or Oil – gas and oil are not human friendly chemicals and they are also flammable. I prefer to not have them around the house.
  6. No Exhaust Fumes – I can do without that blue oily smoke that comes out of a 2 cycle gas engine.
  7. Powerful – electric motors can produce as much power as gas engines. My electric lawn mower has a 11 amp motor and mows down grass and weeds easily. It mulches the clippings up nicely for the compost pile.
  8. Low Maintenance – just about zero maintenance for on an electric mower…just sharpen the blade and clean it off. Gas lawn mowers need the oil changed, spark plugs replaced, air filter replaced or cleaned and a gas/oil mixture for fuel. If water gets in the fuel tank, then you have to flush the fuel system. That’s not fun at all.

Bottom Line: a good electric lawn mower will perform as well as a gas mower. You don’t need to sacrifice anything. Your ears will thank you. Check out the Best Inexpensive Lawn Mower.

What is the Best Inexpensive Lawn Mower?

What is the best inexpensive lawn mower?

It depends on whether you want a gas powered lawn mower or electric. Keep in mind that electric lawn mowers are cheaper than gas powered.

I’ll tell you what I bought but let me give you a little background information first. Just a sneak peak…I bought an electric lawn mower for a little over $100.

I recently started growing grass in my backyard again after having dirt for about 5 years. So now I have some grass and a lot of weeds. I tried to pull the weeds out but this seemed to be a never ending chore and it was not fun.

So now I decided to regrow Bermuda Grass in the backyard to cover the dirt and choke out the weeds. The grass that is already there is growing tall along with the weeds, so I needed a lawn mower. I have been wanting to compost for a long time and now this will provide the material. It kills 2 birds with 1 stone.

Backyard overgrown weeds and grass

Here’s my backyard. The weeds and grass are really overgrown. The American Lawn Mower Co. 50514 did a great job of turning everything into a nice mulch.

I looked at electric lawn mowers because they are quieter, lighter weight and generally cheaper. Plus I don’t have to deal with gasoline and oil.

There are quite a few good ones but the price can get to $250+ easily. GreenWorks, American Lawn Mower Co, Black & Decker and Sun Joe offer some really nice models at low prices. The price really goes up when you get a bigger mower in terms of width of the blade. I bought a 14″. If I wanted a 21″ mower, it would have cost quite a bit more. 14″ works great for me since I have a small backyard, 47′ x 25′.

So anyway, I bought a American Lawn Mower Co 50514 14″ electric mower. I paid $117 for it from Amazon.com. I will tell you right now…I LOVE IT.

Here is a link to buy the American Lawn Mower 50514….Buy at Amazon.com

American Lawn Mower 50514 Features

  • Electric powered 11 amp motor
  • 14″ cutting width
  • 9 Gal Grass catcher
  • Mulching type blade
  • Lightweight (probably around 20 lbs)
  • Cheap $117.00 delivered to my front door
  • Compact design – can store it anywhere.
  • 5 grass height adjustment settings from 1″ to 2.5″
  • Adjustable handle height
  • Easy assembly – no tools needed, about 15 minutes to complete
  • Cord retention hook to keep power cord from pulling out
  • Ergo cushioned handle
  • 7″ easy roll composite wheels
  • Cool looking design – black and silver
  • Cord powered – can keep cutting until it’s done
  • 2 year manufacturers warranty

So I got this lawn mower about a week ago and used it the same weekend that I received it. I was excited to see how well it would mow down my tall weeds and turn them into mulch.

Backyard weeds and grass after mowing

You can see the path the 50514 made in the grass/weeds.

The 50514 did a really good job, even on my overgrown weed infested yard. The weeds were about 2 feet high and really big in diameter. The 50514 really cut them down. The electric motor has some power. I took it slow and in narrow swaths. The mulch in the catcher was nice and finely chopped.

How to Fertilize Soil – easy and simple

How to Fertilize Soil – gardens and grass

Fertilizing soil is pretty easy. The hardest part is figuring out what fertilizer you need and that depends on the plants you are growing and the soil type. So do some research before you go shopping for fertilizers.

…or do it the “no brainer” way…

Compost and Worm Castings

Most plants do really well with just compost or worm castings. These 2 fertilizers provide more nutrients than any other fertilizers like say…10-10-5 fertilizer. If you go with compost or worm castings, you can spread it around your plants in any amount you like. Compost and worm castings will never harm your plants no matter how much you apply. You can use it like mulch and leave it on top of the soil or mix it in with the soil.

You can buy compost or you can make it yourself like I do. The simplest compost is grass clippings from your lawn. I layer the grass clippings 1 inch thick over my garden bed. It will decompose slowly and feed my vegetable plants. Grass mulch helps the soil retain moisture which will prevent the soil from getting dry and rock hard. You’ll use less water in your garden too. Mulch will help prevent weeds from growing in your yard without using herbicides.

It also looks nice. A Win Win situation.

Grass Mulch

Grass Clipping Mulch

Another method of fertilizing a garden or any area is to bury plant material in the soil. I gather kitchen produce like cucumber ends, carrot peelings, old lettuce, tomatoes, etc and bury it in my backyard or in the garden. It will decompose slowly and condition the soil. It will also attract beneficial microbes, insects and worms. Just dig a hole and throw some veggies in it and cover it up. Done.

I have a small Oak tree in my front yard. For years it always had sparse foliage. It was never full of leaves. It kind of looked like the Charley Brown Christmas tree. I watered it regularly buy no change. One year I applied some steer manure compost to the root line. After about 6 months it took on a new life. It grew about 1 foot and is full of bright green leaves. It never looked better. What a difference!

Soil Conditions

Some plants like strawberries prefer acidic soils. If your strawberry garden does not have acidic soil then you might have to add some Ammonium Phosphate 16-20-0 and a soil sulfur. The ideal pH is around 6.0 – 6.1.

A general all-purpose fertilizer would be something like 5-5-5. It’s a well balanced fertilizer. It comes in organic and non-organic flavors. It’s always best to select Organic.

How to Apply Fertilizer

You can apply fertilizer to your soil and leave it on top or turn the soil. Either way will work since water will pull the fertilizer down through the soil. I recommend using gloves when applying fertilizers.