If you have the book Organic Gardening – Cutting Through the Hype to the 3 Keys to Successful Gardening and/or are a long time reader of TMG you know that covering the ground (mulching) is one of the keys to success.
There are some who feel mulching under certain conditions creates disadvantages rather than advantages.
With all the benefits mulch has, two of the most important for maintaining mulch at all times are
- keeping the ground from compacting during heavy rains and
- keeping all that nice organic matter in the soil from oxidizing (disappearing)
They would be my reasons for NEVER going with completely bare soil.
One of the complaints I hear a lot is that mulch keeps the ground too cool in the spring. That’s true but easily remedied.
When that happens to me in a cool spring I just rake back the layers of heavy mulch and return a very thin layer to protect soil. It allows the sun to heat the bed and yet still gives the soil the protection it needs.
A thin layer can make a huge difference. Many times, by just adjusting the thickness of the mulch you can turn the disadvantage back into an advantage.
Another thing folks say is that soggy mulch could cause disease problems (fungus, etc) and bug problems.
A More Accurate Statement
I think those are pretty big things to blame on soggy mulch. A more accurate statement might be that soggy mulch MIGHT ADD to disease and bug problems IF other variables exist that are favorable to disease and bugs.
Those other variables that disease and bugs favor might be
- unimproved soil (poor drainage and little if any organic material)
- poor air circulation (good air circulation is a must for all gardens!)
I’ve told the story many times on TMG about our first garden. We lived on a peninsula that was 1 foot above sea level. The soil was heavy clay. In the section of the yard that had been tilled with heavy duty equipment drainage was non-existent. Herons and ducks frequented the “pond” that rain created in that section every year.
We started our garden (using the 3 keys) and after that I could always get in to plant in the spring at least a month before my neighbors could plant their traditional gardens.
While their gardens were still “mud”, I had excellent drainage in my beds. But had to wear boots to walk in the paths even though they were covered with straw.
Even with those conditions I never found any disease or bug problems that could be attributed to “soggy mulch”. And believe me I had heavy mulch on all those beds and when spring rains came the mulch was indeed soggy.
Covering the ground is one of nature’s principles. Under certain circumstances a gardener’s first thought may be to do away with the mulch. But with some extra thought we can always find a way to cover the ground in a manner that will give us the advantages without possible disadvantages.
Three Keys to Successful Gardening – More Proof They Work
Bugs and Disease – Are They Hiding in the Mulch?
All content including photos is copyrighted by TendingMyGarden.com. All Rights Reserved.
Theresa, thank you for this post! I agree that what is under the mulch makes all the difference in the world. In the section of our garden that has scarcely seen the tiller in the last two years, the soil under the mulch is draining nicely. In the spots that have seen the tiller, or have not been double-dug and cover-cropped, the soil under the mulch is heavy and tends to stay wet much longer after a rain. We have had rain almost every day for over a week now, but I can dig and weed in the no-tilled sections without getting mud all over me!
As I continue to double dig new beds I can really see the improvement in the topsoil in areas that I had kept heavily mulched. I’ve only used leaves to mulch this year due to money constraints & they added at least a couple more inches of dark colored, richer, looser topsoil. I am very pleased that I actually HAD topsoil to start with instead of all clay!
I’m looking forward to seeing how the cover crops further improve my new beds.
I do have one question. Where did you purchase the tool that you use to cut your cover crops? I’ve started looking for one & Johnny’s doesn’t sell any that look like yours. My fall order of lettuces & buckwheat seed I ordered from them 2 days ago arrived today! Now that’s fast!
Thanks again for all of your help,
Betty, the sickle I use is from hidatool.com. The item id is N-2112 – the medium blade.
I had to call and talk to them when I first ordered and they were very helpful. I just love this tool.
Sounds like your garden is really coming along. (You’ve come a long way baby!) 🙂
So proud of you!