A reader wrote to me with an observation that I found so significant, I wanted to share it with everyone. It’s a story that vividly allows you to see what a difference mulching can make.
During those unseasonably warm days in mid March after noticing that her peas were wilting in the heat of the day she got out her soil thermometer and took some readings. (Mulching was light if any and/or had been placed there within a day or so.)
- At a 4 to 6 inch depth her reading was 84 degrees. Outside the bed the temperature was 80 degrees. Remember – this was March 17th on a very warm day in the 70s.
As soon as I received her email, I decided to get my soil thermometer and compare because we live close enough that our soil temperatures would be similar under similar conditions.
Observations in My Garden
- In eight different locations in the heavily mulched vegetable garden at a depth of 6 inches the temperature was 60 degrees.
- At a depth of 2 inches it was still 60 to 62 degrees.
A few of the beds have sides that are not covered by mulch. It was either washed away from the sides of the beds by rain or perhaps blown off by the wind. I just haven’t replaced the mulch. I was anxious to see the difference that would make in the temperature of the soil.
- Those spots where there was no mulch had washed or blown off — at a depth of 6 inches were 62 degrees.
- At a depth a 2 inches they were 78 degrees!
Imagine the difference in the Heat of Summer!
Can you imagine the difference if it’s a 90 to 100 degree day rather than 70 to 75 degrees?!
If your soil gets to 100 degrees or more in the summer your vegetables are not going to produce. And if they do produce at all — they won’t give you as much. With heavy mulch (placed there at the proper times to hold mositure) you might find a 20 degree difference in soil temperatures. That would make a tremendous difference in how much fruit your plants can produce.
Best Time to Mulch
I mulch my garden heavily during the fall and winter months so that I’m ready to go come spring. I still have to add an occasional load of straw in various places, but 90% is done during the fall and winter.
If your beds are not already mulched and you want to mulch now – keep this in mind:
The best time to mulch heavily is after a rain. If you heavily mulch a hot, dry soil it will keep the heat in the soil. Also the next rain may just wet the mulch rather than soaking through to the soil. So if you find it necessary to mulch a hot, dry bed – do so lightly. Or, if you do mulch heavily, take most of the mulch off when the rain comes and return it to the bed after the rain.
The benefits of mulching are many. Keeping the soil cool is one benefit that will help your plants to produce more and give you a much higher yield.
A good source for inexpensive soil thermometers.
Why Mulch Your Garden Paths?
Organic Gardening is easy, effective, efficient and it’s a lot healthier.
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