Garden Mulching Organic Gardening Soil Improvement and/or preparation

Gardening – Keep it Simple – Because It Is.

In the Beginning —

When I first started gardening 33 years ago — I didn’t know very much.  I just tried to follow nature.

And then —

After a year or so I started to read everything I could find about gardening organically.  In at least a decade of those early years I worried about things like adding bone meal, greensand, blood meal, phosphorous, potassium, nitrogen, and all kinds of organic fertilizers.  I concerned myself with fixing a compost pile just so. I used my ph tester continually.  I wanted to learn and do everything just right.

My Life in the Garden Changes–

I remember reading about fusarium wilt in an effort to find out what was wrong with my tomatoes one year. The description they gave seemed to fit my tomatoes to a T.

But the thing that really got to me and changed my life in the garden was what they said about what could (not) be done.  I will never forget it.  Whatever  I was reading — and it was considered a reputable source — said that if your plants had this “fusarium wilt” you could no longer garden in that spot — EVER.

Supposedly the fusarium wilt would always be there and it was indeed awful and you may as well pretty much throw in the towel. As silly as it seems to me now, I was a bit down after reading the article.

The good news is — my survival mode kicked in.  I reasoned that this was pretty much the most ridiculous way of dealing with a garden problem that I had ever heard of.  Problems of mankind’s making might be irreversible, but with nature’s problems there is always a solution.

Don’t tell me there’s more bad news!

As time passed and practices in meat production got worse and worse, there were concerns with blood meal, bone meal and anything that stemmed from animal products.   For me there was no way to deal with it all — so I stopped using all that stuff.

After all — manure, well aged wood chips, pine, straw and leaves were still available to me.

Wood Chips no longer available.

All of a sudden our wonderful aged wood chips which we used by the truck load for only $20 per load was no longer available.

Next  is Pine

We moved to our current residence.  When we did — we no longer had access to pine needles.

Then Manure

Then came the problem with residual herbicides in manure.  Now we were cut off from manure.

What did we do??

I’ve used only straw and leaves and cover crops for mulch in my garden for the past 12 years.  When all those things decay they act as organic matter for my soil.

Straw that I use for mulch (and thus organic matter) in my garden.

The Happy Ending

You know what?  My gardens and borders are as lush and beautiful as they always were.  Organic matter is organic matter.  And that’s what my plants need to grow, be healthy and give abundant fruit.

More Good News

Furthermore, whatever organic material I’ve had access to —it mattered not the ph of the material.  The fact of the matter was (and is) that when enough organic material breaks down in my soil, the ph level in the soil will lean more towards neutral than acid or alkaline.  My originally acidic soil has been between 6.5 and 6.9 for years and years.

If I find a bonus of acidic aged wood chips, pine, oak leaves, etc.  — I USE THEM! They have not made my soil acidic.

Take Heart

Everything in nature is user friendly.  Mankind has a tendency to make it all too complicated. If you are just starting out and think gardening is  too complicated — take heart.  If you’ve been gardening a while and don’t enjoy it because you feel it’s too complicated — take heart.

What to Do

Add organic material – as much as you can get. Keep adding more as it decays. Keep your soil covered with it. Plant your stuff.


In a relatively short period of time, you’ll have the best garden you ever had.

Anything Else?


Bottom Line

Gardening – Keep it Simple – because it is.


Related Posts for Additional Reading:

Organic Gardening and the Value of Cover Crops

Cover Crops – Buckwheat is one of the Easiest

Help Your Flowers and Vegetables to Thrive

Composting – The Whys and Why Nots

Soil – Most Valuable Asset for Your Garden

Collect Gold for Your Garden

Mulching – 3 Things to Keep in Mind

Why Mulch Your Garden Paths?

10 Reasons to Mulch

Adding Organic Matter – 2nd Key to Soil Improvement
Cont’d Adding Organic Matter – 2nd Key to Soil Improvement
Last Part – Adding Organic Matter – 2nd Key to Soil Improement

Residual Herbicides in Composts – Part 1
Residual Herbicides in Compost Part 2: On Grow Mix, Potting Mix, Compost, Manure & Mulch

Compost – Mulch – Residual Herbicides – What you Can do About Them in Your Garden

Organic Gardening- How Near or How Far Away?


Organic gardening is easy, effective, efficient and — a lot healthier.


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  • Theresa, thank you for this article (and all of your articles)! I have a ton of fallen pine needles and have been putting off using them in mulching my garden spaces for fear of messing up the soil’s pH. I’m now planning to put them (in judicious quantities) on my beds. Your article does a lot to de-mystify and un-complicate this aspect of gardening.

  • Pile them on Sue! Pine needles are my favorite mulch. Having a ton of them is gold mine!

    And by the way – let me know what other parts of gardening you need demystified and uncomplicated. I’ll certainly address it in a post. Every aspect of gardening is VERY SIMPLE. Let me know any concerns you have and I’ll demystify asap! 8)

  • I totally agree Theresa. I know some people that make everything complicated. I just finished covering my garden beds with about leaves 12 inches deep.
    By the way, I still haven’t made the butternut squash.

  • Don, 12 inches of leaves on a garden is a dream come true! Way to go!

    Those butternuts will be waiting for you when you get to them.

  • A sigh of relief. I’m at that exact point in my gardening where I am PH testing and fretting about ammendments – perhaps it’s a stage! Keeping things simple is sage advice – in gardening, and many other areas. Thanks.
    Sandra in Annapolis

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