Dear Charlotte,

The following are a couple of questions from The Kaleidoscope Weekly readers:

“…I was reading one of your (earlier) columns and you mentioned that newly-chipped wood can be too hot to use as mulch. Is that true for mulch from our recycling center and how long should I wait to use it in flower beds?” – Anita

Hi Anita.  Yes, newly shredded wood is not good for flowerbeds unless you want to kill the plants currently in it.  In that respect, newly chipped mulch works well if you have weeds and other unwanted plants you want to clear.  I place cardboard on the area first, then add a good four inches or so of mulch.

I also use freshly chipped wood in my garden paths for that reason.

In terms of how hot newly chopped wood can get, our Rolla, MO recycling center mulch pile has been doing a slow burn all summer, a sure indication that the wood is too hot for established flowerbeds.

I tend to wait six months and/or through one winter before I move wood mulch from a stockpile into my flowerbeds. If I need to immediately mulch, I keep a small stash that I have spread into a thin layer to make sure it cools before spreading in a flowerbed.

“Is there such a thing as wild coleus? I have something growing in my yard that looks like coleus but I didn’t plant it.” – Jerry

Hi Jerry.  False coleus is one of a number of names for this member of the mint family.  Perilla plants tend to sprout in disturbed sites.  They bloom in the summer and carry tubular white flowers on long stems, very similar to the coleus one can buy at local garden centers.

I have read perilla can be invasive so keep an eye on how quickly it grows.

Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a gardener, beekeeper, and sometimes cook.  For more, visit gardeningcharlotte.com. Published by Kaleidoscope Weekly with permission. Copyright 2018, all rights reserved. This column may not be copied, published, reprinted, rewritten, or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at gardeningcharlotte@gmail.com.

False coleus, or perilla, looks very similar to the domesticated coleus that adds color to summer gardens. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

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