The Power of Sheet Mulch

In its simplest form, sheet mulching is a two-step process: First, apply a layer of weed-suppressing newspaper or cardboard…and top it with about a foot of organic mulch. Many gardeners do this in fall, so that the mulch rots to become humus-y earth over the winter. Also, the weed-stopping layer breaks down enough to allow spring-planted seeds and transplants to thrust their roots deep into the earth. Toby Hemenway, Gaia’s Garden

Friday, May 13, 2011

Plague, Pestilence, Cold?

I've been putting off writing this post for a few days now, but not because I thought the pictures would be better. Just because I couldn't bear to show how miserable our seedlings are!  They just stopped growing after reaching a certain height and now the tomatoes are dying. Sigh.

This was the famous "chorus line," I showed in my previous post on May 3rd. It was taken on the 28th of April.

And here they are today, two weeks later. A sorry sight.

 The seed leaves of the tomatoes are literally turning brown!

A few have some slightly greeny new leaves coming up, but there's no way they will ever get big enough to go in the ground here and actually produce fruit by the end of the season.

My friend and blogger JayneOnWeedStreet says it was probably a temperature issue. We had them on heat mats 24 hours and under lights for at least 12 every day, but it just wasn't enough to counter the 40-50 degree nights out there. The mats didn't raise the temperature enough to keep the tropicals like peppers and tomatoes happy.

And just to rub it in, today Margaret Roach reviewed a previous post on growing tomatoes the right way on her A Way to Garden blog...

We started putting them outside about a week ago, covered with plastic cloches, but it seems to have been too little too late.

 Right now they're out again with the cloches tilted a bit so it isn't so humid inside.

Of course, the impomeas and nasturtiums, thugs that they are, are perking along quite happily.

Bill is more sanguine than I. We're learning, he says. Next year we will make a stand for the lights and set them up in the spare bedroom (and hope no one wants to visit). His inner carpenter is already chewing on it. 

We also had to replant our chard and kale -- they didn't seem to be emerging. As we raked up the surface a bit, there were weak germinated seeds underneath, so maybe if we'd been a bit more patient, they would have come up, but we replanted anyway. By last weekend it was far too late to start spinach so we just forgot about that.

It's been such a terrible spring (that's right, blame it on the weather)!

My inner smarty-pants is cringing in the corner. And note the distinct lack of green in this thumb (yikes, the age spots are certainly attractive, don't you think)!

Deliveries of plants I ordered long-distance will start after the 15th. We'll be hitting the Rochester Public Market this coming Sunday for the plant sales and definitely attend the Rochester Civic Garden Club seedling sale on May 28th.

We did go to the Wayne County Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners' seedling sale last Saturday, but got there rather late (no, I wasn't the one who slept in, ahem) and there wasn't much left.

We snagged a couple of tomatoes (sungold) which look pretty robust next to the ones we already had which I am busy killing, and some nice sedums (stonecrop, autumn joy and ellacombianum) for our beneficials garden.

Somehow, we're going to get this garden up and running!!!


  1. Very frustrating to lose those tomato seedlings - or to see them faltering, anyway. I'm eager to read on and see if any of them made it! It's constant experimentation and learning, isn't it? Trial and error (and error, and error, and error) - on my part anyway - ha!

  2. We decided that the breezeway was too cold for them so this year we're going to set up the lights in our second bedroom -- where we had them on the heat mats last year. We did get two each of the Black Krims and Purple Prudens ( but only got a few fruits out of them as well. Delicious though! And, as I keep saying to Bill -- we're learning! The thing about growing from seed, though, is that it's way less expensive!

  3. Live and learn, right? With gardening, I'm continuously grateful that I'm not totally relying on my yield to feed myself for a whole year. If I did, I'd be starving. Every year I'm gaining skills and experience, however, and when/if the day comes that I own my own property, I hope by then I actually have the experience to live off of my garden.

    By the way, I love the newspaper biodegradable pots. Maybe I'll try that myself this year. -Emily