Of my 3 keys to success (soil preparation, adding organic matter, and mulching), mulching is the one I most heavily depend on to bring about success.
For example, if for some reason a gardener can’t prepare the soil deeply for a garden bed (the first key to success), but has the time to let nature do it for them, they need only add a deep layer of mulch to the designated space. (If you have the time for deep soil preparation it gives you a quicker start to more successful gardening. Nature takes a few years to prepare the bed for the best result. )
Mulching can also take care of the second key: adding organic matter.
When you mulch with organic materials, you ARE adding organic matter to the soil.
All organic mulches decay (and thus become organic matter), so in the end they give you all the great benefits that adding organic material/matter gives you.
Some Benefits of organic matter (and thus, of mulch):
- feeding the soil,
- better drainage,
- retaining water for when crops need it the most,
- improving soil structure,
- holding nutrients in the soil and
- slowly releasing them as your plants need them.
Helps Give You a Higher Yield
Plants don’t produce when soil temperatures climb to 90 and 100 degrees. Mulching can make a 20 degree difference in soil temperatures.
The cooler temperatures will keep your plants producing, giving you a higher yield.
Can Cut Weeds and Weeding Time Up to 99% if Done Correctly
This is one of the benefits that I couldn’t garden without. A few minutes now and then is all I want to spend weeding.
But How Much Mulch is Enough? How Much Should You Use?
I’ve recently seen pictures of garden beds with a few pieces of straw that the gardener obviously considered to be mulched. It made me realize there are those who think of mulching as a light covering of straw (or other organic material) and/or think they can obtain all the benefits of mulching from this light layer.
If you want to obtain the results and benefits that I get from mulching you have to use mulch with a free hand. You can’t just sprinkle a few fork-fulls of mulch across a bed and think you’re going to reap all the rewards mulch has to offer.
Pile the straw on the beds and mulch your paths. When you pile loose straw on it’ll look like a lot, but will quickly settle to an inch or so. Aim for two to six inches of mulch after it’s settled.
There’s always a time to use a light layer of straw. For example, newly planted seed beds, on small transplants like lettuce and even onions, so the mulch won’t be to heavy for them. As they grow, you can continually add more straw to increase the depth of the mulch.
Now is the time to think ahead so you’ll have all your beds mulched when the weather starts to warm and the rain stops.
When you plant things like lettuce seed or seedlings and/or onions sprinkle a light layer on to keep the soil from drying. Be ready in another week (or possibly less) to add more.
If you want to know a lot more about mulching, be sure to review the posts listed below. Also, I think you’ll find the pictures on the various posts to be helpful.
I don’t think I’ve missed covering anything you need to know in all I’ve written, but if I have, feel free to ask.
Enjoy all the time you’ll save by mulching and enjoy the great benefits and more successful garden as well!
Organic Gardening is easy, effective, efficient — and it’s a lot healthier.
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