Wednesday, June 1, 2011

let's talk about mulch

I know.  What can be more exciting than a post about mulch?  The sad thing is, I get kind of excited about mulch!  I feel like now that I understand the purpose of mulching, that I have arrived at some sort of gardening milestone.  So let's discuss it, shall we?

What is mulching?

When I speak of mulch, I am speaking of it more in the verb sense than in the noun sense.  To mulch is to put some sort of top covering over the soil and around the stems of your plants.

Why mulch?

There are several reasons to mulch.  It's actually a crucial step in gardening.  Mulch is good for insulating roots and soil in the colder months and keeping them cool in hotter months.  Mulch keeps moisture in, keeps weeds out, prevents disease, and enriches the soil.  I read an article recently that cited research by Texas A&M University.  According to their findings, well-mulched gardens can yield up to 50% more veggies than an unmulched garden space.  Fifty percent!?!  That is huge!  I put a lot of work into my soil this year before the seeds and starters went in.  I certainly don't want to waste all of that by skipping this step.

It is already very hot here (it got up to 98 degrees today).  I knew that I couldn't put off mulching for many more days, so Monday I got to work.

The girls in their coop.  See Blackberry back there?
She's broody again and gets all puffed up when we go in to get eggs!

In the early spring, after the last frost, we rake up all of our leaves and spread them in the chicken run.  The chickens love having  some new leaves to scratch around in and I love that they break them all down for us, add some fertilizer, and create free mulch!

The chicken run was a mess, so it was good timing.  I got to clean out the pen while mulching.  A win-win situation!
Look at that shovel back there.  The leaves were thick!  The good stuff was underneath...

 I started out by shoveling all of the leaves onto a big tarp.  Why a tarp?  We don't have a wheel barrow!  Let me stop right here and over emphasize how important it is to have the right tools for a job.  My tarp worked great, but lugging that thing from the back into the front nearly killed me.  I seriously had to take a rest after that!

Mama needs a wheel barrow!

While I was shoveling, I had the sprinkler turned on the beds.  I like to mulch after the soil is wet so the mulch can help keep that moisture in and maintain a cooler soil temperature.  

After I turned off the water I fertilized with some fish emulsion.

At this point in the day, it was HOT!  So we all headed inside.  After dinner Buddy and I went back out to finish the job.

Yes- I do yard work in a skirt.  It's the best way to keep cool!

It is recommended in hot climates to add four inches of mulch to your plants.  In cooler climates you want less mulch to help inhibit mold growth.

When I went out Tuesday morning to check on the plants they looked perky and the soil still felt damp.  That is a major difference!  Usually by morning they are a little droopy and ready to be watered again.

This is my first year to properly mulch the garden.  I can't wait to see if the yields are truly higher this time around.

If you want to read more about mulching (and really, who wouldn't?), Mother Earth News has a great article on it this month.


All you savvy gardeners out there- have you found higher yields with mulching?
Any none mulchers in the crowd?


City Sister said...

I often will mulch with partially decomposed compost in the fall as well as the leaves and then with straw in the spring.

A Joyful Chaos said...

We never mulched a lot but then we lived in the north and with cold mountain nights we didn't have problems of not having enough moisture.

Hope your harvests will be abundant!


angie said...

I use mulch in Maine mostly to help with weed control. During July and August it can help with moisture when we get a lot of sunny hot days i can water less.

Rosie_Kate said...

Ooh! I am a mulch addict, too! We use leaves from the maple trees and the straw bales that insulate the basement bilco door over the winter get put to use as mulch in the spring! It just makes so much sense to me-- put down a thick layer of mulch, and cut down on weeding and watering! I don't think my garden would survive without it. My Amish neighbors are amazed at how our garden fares during the midsummer drought. Their gardens wilt pretty badly and they don't have irrigation, but our garden just keeps on going. We have a very poor well, so watering is not much of an option for us.

Keep us updated on how your garden does!

The Farmers said...

You make it look so easy in your cute little skirt. We get free mulch from the city dump and after some mysterious mushrooms and black dust that appeared I'm thinking your source is better.

Anonymous said...

Okay, before I saw the caption under your photo, all I was thinking was writing a comment reaming you for doing garden in a skirt. A purple skirt, no less. At least weave yourself a straw or hemp skirt. Come on, Mandi. Slacker. Anyway, if you're aware enough that you wrote that caption, I guess I don't need to say anything... oh wait... I just did. :)

cally said...

We spread our grass clippings around our veggies and berries. It helps for sure! I've noticed way fewer weeds, but haven't really noticed a higher yield. Yet.

And seriously...I need skirts. You're awesome.