As many of you know I have been trying to finish the book I’m writing. I’ve not had to work outside during this cold spell as is my habit and that’s been helpful towards getting the book done. (Regular readers know that I try to work one to two hours in the garden and/or borders everyday. I usually average about 300 days per year. )
I’m coming into the home stretch with the writing of the book and am working on the last of the 3 keys to success in gardening which is Mulch.
Chapter 17 in the section on Mulch is so important that I thought it a good idea to put it up as a post. Some of the information you’ve seen me write about before, but I think you’ll find this fresh and encouraging. I hope so anyway.
I hope you’ll let me know what you think of this Chapter and leave a comment. I’m always open to your input and appreciate your taking the time to express how you feel about what I write.
CHAPTER 17 from the Section on Mulch (the 3rd key to success in gardening)
(Not ready to tell the title of the book yet. 🙂 )
I’ve had readers of my website (TendingMyGarden.com) write to me and say they can’t mulch because it gives insects a place to hide and that mulch spreads disease. It’s a point of view shared by many.
Although I can understand those concerns — I think it boils down to a knowledge deficit of how the earth works.
When I first started gardening my knowledge deficit was huge. My shortage of knowledge about how the earth works remained huge for a lot of years. (I’m still working on closing the gap.)
But I did have one thing that many gardeners don’t seem to have and that was the mental mindset and confidence that nature (the earth) knew how to do things and if I imitated what she did I’d be successful. And I was.
My problems with disease and insect pests became less and less over the years as I continued to add organic materials to my soil and keep my soil mulched.
Closing the Knowledge Deficit Gap
As I continue to learn more of what has been accomplished by farmers/gardeners who have worked with natures principles rather than against them, I’m amazed at the healing power of the earth. Even soils that had been severely abused and totally depleted were restored and able to produce abundant crops when organic techniques were used.
Louis Bromfield, an American author and conservationist who gained international recognition, worked with a brilliant soil scientist, Dr. William A. Albrecht in the mid-1900s.
He purchased several worn out farms in Ohio. They were cheap because they were considered useless by farmers in the area. The farms were totally restored by Bromfield and Dr. Albrecht and were proof that insects and disease could be controlled with good organic management of soil. In other words — the two men used nature’s principles to restore the soil.
Mr. Bromfield had studied the research of Sir Albert Howard. Sir Howard had totally proved wrong the idea still carried forward in today’s conventional agriculture of treating the symptoms of disease and pests —- rather than their cause. (Modern conventional medicine does the same thing.)
Sir Howard believed in treating the cause. Thus, preventing the disease or pests in the first place.
He was in India at the time (early 1900s) and watched the natives who never used artificial fertilizer or poison sprays. They returned all animal and plant residues to the soil. He applied their methods to his farm and was not surprised to observe a gradual lessening of disease with each passing year. Crops resisted pests and the resistance was passed on to the livestock that fed on the crops.
Back to our Concern of “Bugs Hiding in the Mulch”
Bugs will hide anywhere. If they don’t have mulch they’ll find another place.
If you’re thinking “good — then they won’t be in my garden” — don’t get too excited. When their preferred crops are growing in your garden again — they’ll be back. They’ll find them. They will most especially find your plants if the soil is not providing all the nutrients the plants need to be in the best of health.
The better the health of your soil the better the health of your plants. The better the health of your plants — the less pest bugs you’ll have! That’s the way it is, because that’s the way nature works.
Do I have Pest Bugs in MY Garden?
Yes, I do. The worse pest in my garden is the squash bug. I HATE it!
I USE TO HAVE lots of potato beetles, bean beetles and cucumber beetles. Now I have a few. They seem to be getting less and less each year. Hopefully that will continue.
I have an occasional horn worm on my tomatoes but the beneficial braconid wasp lays it’s eggs in the worm and its larvae stops the horn worm for me.
My garden is pretty healthy but each year I work on improving it and making it even better.
What about Fungal Diseases?
In Chapter 2 of this section we listed the advantages and benefits of mulching. One of those was that mulch helps prevents pathogens in the soil that cause diseases from splashing onto plants when it rains. It acts as a barrier between the soil and the plant.
Lots of studies have been done on this (especially with tomatoes and early blight) to show that mulch is really helpful in preventing fungal diseases. It was shown to cut down on the disease by a good percentage.
Can mulch have disease? I guess it could. But as with everything in nature, a lot depends on if good principles are used to produce the mulch and how it’s handled after it’s harvested.
I’ve been gardening 36 years this spring and I’ve used mulch at least 35 of those years. I’ve never had diseases that I felt could be attributed to mulch. (And I’ve used many different kinds of mulch.)
As my soil improved the diseases went away.
The Bottom Line to this
“Bugs Hiding in the Mulch” Thing
If you have problems with insects and fungal diseases —- believe me — mulch is not the cause or the main problem. It’s much more likely that your soil still needs work (improvement).
Mulching is a weapon in your arsenal to help you fight plant disease and pest. It helps create the healthy soil that’s your number one defense against pests and disease.
As you continue to improve your garden soil you’ll have far less of the fungi, blights, rots and wilts and insect pests that haunt most vegetable gardens — especially those whose tenders know nothing of the importance of healthy soil.
The benefits of covering the soil far outweigh any possible negatives. I know I couldn’t garden without it — nor would I try.
Copyright by Theresa Martz. All Rights Reserved.