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(March 2012)

QuestionI got mulch from the city this past week. It's beautiful this year but evidently toxic. I spent many hours today mulching. Later I walked around and looked at my beds and my tender perennials, lettuce and herbs, in addition to some flowering plants look like the leaves have burned. The mulch has a slight chemical smell. I can't imagine what that might be. Perhaps there is a chemical in the mulch or perhaps the mulch is very green and what I am smelling, and what is burning the plants, is excess nitrogen. What do you think would cause this problem and do you have any ideas what I can do? Should I water my beds excessively or put something on my beds to neutralize the nitrogen. Please let me know your thoughts. I'm frazzled, frustrated and worried about my plants.

AnswerThere sometimes can be a problem with what is called "Sour" mulch. What basically happens is that if the mulch pile is large and we get a heavy rain, the oxygen levels sort of bottom out in the pile when it gets waterlogged. Toxic gasses can begin to build up inside this anaerobic environment and if applied in this state, the mulch can burn or damage tender plants. If you are applying mulch and it has a rotten egg odor or ammonia smell, stop applying it. Turn the mulch pile, or spread it out to allow oxygen in. The condition in the mulch pile is quickly remedied, but if it has already damaged your plants, you may have to replace some of the more damaged plants. For more information on sour mulch look at our fact sheet at: http://www.uaex.edu/publications/PDF/FSA-6138.pdf.


 

(February 2012)

QuestionI have built a raised bed on the North side of my home. It gets sunshine in the afternoon, especially in the summer. What vegetables can be planted in a mostly shaded area for this in the spring?/p>

AnswerMost vegetables need a minimum of six hours of sunlight to produce well. If you have less than that, your best bet would be herbs and leafy greens like kale, lettuce, chard, etc. They would prefer six hours of sun, but will usually produce in as few as 4-5, albeit not as thrifty or full. We are in the cool season planting arena now—so you can start all of the above and plant from now through mid April. Mid April through mid June is the warm season crop time, but most do need a bit more sunlight. With ample sunlight, all vegetables can be grown in containers or raised beds.


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