Garden Plot: ‘Good luck and good night’ — at least for now

It is with great regret that I must inform you that this is the last weekend you’ll be reading the Garden Plot until the financial aspects of the coronavirus pandemic are rectified enough to restore some level of normalcy to business.

Please be assured that I haven’t been fired and I haven’t quit.

I am on hiatus, with hope all around that I’ll return before long to yell at you some more.

But advice must still be given!

Don’t fall for the wood mulch menace

Reject wood mulch, especially mulch that has been dyed to hide its original identity of diseased wood, insecticide-soaked pallets and/or construction debris.

Wood sucks plant-feeding nitrogen from the soil, can rot the bark right off of ‘volcano mulched’ trees and can breed fungal organisms that disease plants and stain nearby homes and cars.

Yard waste compost is a great plant-feeding, disease-and-weed preventing mulch.

Shredded fall leaves make a great soil-improving mulch that invites earthworms to improve your otherwise impenetrable clay.

Finally, pine straw is the most attractive mulch of all.

Utilize the resource of previous Garden Plots

Garden problems must still be solved without poisons in my absence, so when you are unsure what to do, go the Garden Plot section of

Deer, slugs, tomatoes, ticks, mosquitoes, toxic neighbors — whatever problem you face is covered there.

Literally thousands of my bits of advice are archived on this site, and the information should serve you well until I return.

You bet your garden

In addition to the many years of organic information stored right here at, there are close to 20 years of informative articles by me available at the website for my public radio show, You Bet Your Garden, which debuted just a few months before the Garden Plot back in the previous millennia.

Just click on the link that asks if you have a garden or pest control question and then type your topic into the search box that will appear.

You can also like me on Facebook and ask for advice from the thousands of organic gardeners who prowl those wonderful pages, which are curated by my daughter Amanda.

Everyone has a local extension office

Until I return to yell at you some more, your local state (or D.C.) extension service office can be a great help — if you use them correctly.

Extension agents and their Master Gardener volunteers are fabulous at identifying mystery plants and pests, and they are the source for information on plants that will do well in your region and specific conditions (much better than me).

Unfortunately, some, but not all, are behind the times when it comes to plant food and pest controls, so take a pass if they recommend toxic pesticides or chemical fertilizers (and give them a big thumbs up if they tell you to use organic controls like Bt and neem oil, and/or sing the praises of compost).

Parting is such un-sweet sorrow

Again, the hope at the station is that I will return when business has business to advertise again, as we here at WTOP depend on that advertising to keep the transmitter going and tushies in the seats.

I want to assure all my Plotters that the fine folks who run the station gave me two months warning and insisted that the plan is to bring me back.

I think it needs to be said that I have enjoyed the job and the people here immensely, and I have enjoyed you immensely — your emails, your kind comments at personal appearances and your “hey — are you …” questions whenever I would open my mouth in public.

I hope and expect to return, WTOP is my home away from home.

In the meantime:

  • Don’t cut your grass too short;
  • Don’t let mulch touch the trunks of your trees;
  • Water only in the morning and only if it hasn’t rained for a week;
  • Grow in raised beds so you don’t step on the roots of your plants;
  • Save and shred all your fall leaves for mulching and compost making;
  • Inspect your garden daily so problems can be solved quickly;
  • And be kind to your plants and people.

I’m Mike McGrath, have a great season — and I hope to see you soon with a fresh Garden Plot.

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