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Gardening in the Rainy Zone.
Mulch for Herbs
Posted: Aug-28-2004 at 9:11am
Hello, I just read the thread on soil types for herbs as in the past I have really made mistakes here...I have fertilized and overwatered lavender and rosemary and thyme and basically loved them to near death. I went to Purple Haze Lavender farm and was renewed in my desire to grow these again en masse and was surpised to discover that you can actually mulch with oyster shells, and crushed gravel. Any thoughts on this? My mind set always was...rich soil and the richer the better, hard not to think of enriching the soil...but it makes it easier to grow these plants!
Posted: Aug-29-2004 at 9:30pm
I am a pretty novice herb gardener, but in my experience, most kitchen herbs want garbage soil and a general lack of water. I am sure someone else will be able to help out alot more. Not only that, but I don't even mulch, if the bed is flat. My sweet marjoram, thyme, lavender, and rosemary absolutely thrive when their roots get baked like potatos in the summer.
Posted: Aug-30-2004 at 7:34am
An oystershell mulch would add calcium and raise the pH of the soil. A gravel mulch would improve drainage. What I know about herbs is that they want fast-draining soils--they don't like wet feet.
Rosemary, thyme, oregano etc originate in the Mediterranian (I think), where the soil is thin, rocky and fast-draining, and the climate is hot during the summer, and cool and dry in the winter. The oystershell mulch makes sense, also, because much of the stone in the Mediterranean is limestone (the remains of ancient shells). I've been told Rosemary is not hardy in Seattle, but I grew one successfully outside for 3 years, then an exceptionally wet winter killed it. I'm going to try again, but will do more to ammend the soil (i.e. make it "worse" with gravel and sand). I may try an oystershell mulch, if I can find the crushed oystershell, and it doesn't cost a small fortune.
Posted: Sep-01-2004 at 2:03pm
Oyster Mulch Lookout! Thanks for the tips. Barb, I am going to look into it. If I find it somewhere I will send you an email. Seems like it would be expensive. I must admit the last time I ate local oysters I was quite ill so it sure won't be from self-induced oyster feed! I have loved my herbs to death. Folks at Purple Haze Lavender farm indicated that one of the reasons why it was started it is because it is one of the easier crops to grow!
Posted: Sep-02-2004 at 8:09am
I just remembered that the Seattle Aquarium gives crushed oystershell to their shorebirds, as a source of calcium (needed for bones and eggshell formation). I sent an e-mail to the biologist who works with the birds to ask what their source is, or if she knows any local source.
Now I'm wondering if crushed eggshells would do the same thing . . . but I don't think I could eat enough eggs (or oysters) to do any appreciable mulching with the shells.
Posted: Sep-02-2004 at 9:22am
Gosh, wish I still lived on the Long Beach Peninsula. I owned a motel there in Nahcotta just down the road from Oysterville, "the oyster capitol of the world," and could have given you sackloads. There are mountains of oyster shell all along the bay and at the processing plants in Nahcotta for the taking. Maybe a weekend jaunt is in order. If you go, enjoy a meal at reknown The Ark (say hello to Nanci and Jimella for me). Or the Moby Dick B&B serves dinner to non-guests by reservation and is well worth a visit. Their Pots-au-creme are to die for... any garden trek requires chocolate. Both restaurants grow their own herbs in their organic herb gardens. The Moby Dick garden is larger and they also grow many of their own fruits and veggies.
Posted: Sep-02-2004 at 7:38pm
Nui, I e-mailed my friend at the Aquarium, and she said they got their oystershell from the zoo, and didn't know what their source was. Bummer. She suggested a seafood processor.
I may call a couple of feed stores, in case farmers use it for chickens (ya never know . . . )
Posted: Sep-04-2004 at 12:29am
Crushed oystershell comes in 50# bags at the feed store for around $12 here. I've used it as a light mulch under lavender and dianthus with great results. I also use it under shrubs that prefer alkaline conditions, but can't tell if it makes much difference.
When I was growing up, we always gave our flock of hens plenty of grit (for digestion) and oyster shell (for sturdy eggshells) along with the egg-layer chicken chow.
Posted: Sep-04-2004 at 7:24am
Trish, thanks for the info! I will check at some local feed stores, and see what I come up with.
Posted: Sep-06-2004 at 8:00pm
so do you think that is someone where to use the oystershells as a mulch for all plants would it cause problems for the ones that don't need what the shells put in the soil?
how so you think it would hold up to as a path or walkways around raised veggie beds? would it be hard to work around?
Posted: Sep-07-2004 at 8:15am
Sparkle, I think oystershell mulch would be like any other--you wouldn't use it on plants that don't need it. Oystershell is essentially lime, though it will take a long time to break down.
It would probably make a good walkway--in parts of the East Coast (small towns in coastal Virginia, e.g.) oystershell "sidewalks" have been used--where we have gravel on the sides of the streets, they use crushed oystershell.
Crushed oystershell is very sharp--you wouldn't want to walk on it barefoot.