I have been finishing up getting my garden beds ready for the coming year. It is warm enough in Houston that I have many of my summer vegetables planted. In the garden centers, I saw that tomatoes are already in stock. My pepper plants survived this year, and they have fruit on them now. My eggplants are flowering, so I will soon be cooking them up too. These plants generally do not survive our winters, but we have had a mild one this year. I have not been protecting them with row covers. I find spots that block the winds, and the plants do fine. I have already been pulling up my spring onions for some dishes.
I wanted to show my kids that vegetables from the Farmer’s Market are still alive. I have already mentioned some projects along these lines, but I want them to see a variety, so they will be willing to eat more types. My kids are pretty good about all of the different vegetables, so most of my efforts are directed at my nieces and nephews. I found small beets and turnips with the greens still attached. These bunches are cheap right now, and the beets add a little color into the garden. Since the feeder roots have not developed, the leaves do wilt pretty quick, but it all comes back. The kids like watching to see if I am telling the truth.
My main task this past week has been the parts of the garden where I use rocks as a mulch. The children like these areas. Rocks make a great mulch, since they do not was away when it rains, but they do hold the moisture in the ground. They do not add organic matter into the ground like other mulches though. One thing about these mulches is that you may feel that you have to clean them up to be pristine. I rake the leaves gently from the top, but I do not attempt to go after every leaf. I pull out unwanted plants from these rock areas, which is always a hassle, but at least the ground is soft, so it is easier. I am cleaning out my more formal herb garden which has black and white stones as mulch. I am placing newspaper underneath the rocks here to prevent weed growth. This garden is a sitting area by my front entrance, so stopping weed development is nice to do, but it is a task. You may see some formal gardens that have rocks cemented into place, but I would advise against this practice. It stops water from being absorbed into the soil below. My other main area for rocks as mulch is in a predominantly shady area, where plants have been having a hard time establishing. I used light colored river stones there, and it gives a nice bright feeling in that corner now.
As long as you are not too fussy about keeping things pristine, rock mulches can be worth the investment, so rock out in your garden.