Questions and Answers

Q.   Can I use shredded newspapers as mulch?
A.   As long as you keep the colored ink papers out of the mulching bin, newspapers, paper bags, and cardboard can be used for mulching. Stay away from any dyed materials as they may contain lead. To keep them from blowing away, you might want to add a layer of straw, corncobs, or wood chips on top of the shredded papers.

Q.   Help! I love the taste of my neighbors home grown carrots, so this year I decided to grow some of my own. The problem is all my carrots were split open, what am I doing wrong?
A.  Split carrots are caused by uneven watering. Heavy drying out followed by heavy watering can yield split and bitter carrots. Carrots need even watering throughout their growing period. The soil needs to be kept moist but not soggy. To prevent a moisture problem mix compost into the soil at planting time, mulch the plants and water regularly.
Today there are many new products in the market that can help cut down on watering. There are new, patented super absorbent polymer coated silica sand products, water storing crystals that help from over-watering, and super absorbent polymer coated beads that store and release water as needed. All of these products can be mixed into the soil before planting.

Q.   I've come upon a good supply of sawdust. Can I use it as mulch?
A.   Sawdust can be used as mulch in the garden, if you offset its nitrogen shortage by adding one of the following to your soil before laying down the sawdust:
  • bone meal,
  • compost,
  • manure, or
  • soybean meal.
Or you can compost the sawdust with nitrogen rich materials before you lay it down as mulch. Caution, do not till it into the soil until it is completely composted.

Q.    Last year we decided to grow potatoes and we had a great crop that last is through the winter.  One problem we had that we would like to avoid this year is that quite a few of our potatoes were green.  What steps can we take to avoid getting green potatoes?

A.    It would seem the one step you forgot to take was to make sure your tubers were safely under a heavy layer of mulch at all times throughout the growing season. 
Photosynthesis happen to your potatoes.  Photosynthesis is a process by which when a chlorophyll containing plant, such as your potato tubers, are exposed to sunlight, the end results is a bitter poisonous green potato.   This phenomenon is found to happen in the nightshade plant family, so called because they grow in the shade of night.  They include a wide variety of fruit, vegetable, herbs and spices; many that are incorporated for use in our daily lives.
Some varieties of potatoes can also turn green, when not stored in a cool dark place with good air circulation.  Green potatoes form what is called solanine, which is a glycoalkaloid toxin, it has a bitter taste and can cause gastrointestinal track irritation if huge quantities are eaten.  Therefore it is recommended that to be on the safe side, if the potato is completely green, it is best to throw it away.   If the green occurs on the skin or in small spots, it can be cut away before preparing the potato. 

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