Happy Thanksgiving! Autumn is here again, and now is the best time to prepare your garden beds for next year. We remove any weeds and fertilize our soil with organic matter from our farm, from grass clippings to old animal bedding or any composted organic matter. I try to chop or shred the material before applying it, and then work it into the top few inches of the bed so the worms can then do their thing. Before the snow hits it is important to cover any bare ground with a layer of mulch, or plant some kind of a cover crop to protect from the wind and cold of winter. Just like us, gardens need a blanket when it gets cold!
The benefits of mulching in the garden are great, especially when growing food without the use of harmful pesticides. The first obvious reason for using a mulch is probably for weed control. Any bare soil that is left in the open to the elements is at risk of becoming overwhelmed with a variety of native plants that are well-suited for extreme and varied soil conditions. By covering the ground, the mulch serves as a barrier between plants and the environment above the soil, reducing weeds.
Another great reason to use a mulch is so that the garden plants do not require as much water from external sources. Water will eventually be lost from the uncovered soil as a result of evaporation, wind and the sun. A blanket of mulch will keep moisture as well as temperature levels constant for the plants roots, which means less time and energy spent watering.
The last big reason for mulching would be the benefit of constantly improving on the soil’s tilth and fertility. Worms & microorganisms will work to bring down the mulch layer below the surface and use it for food, creating a rich compost from its organic matter. More worm activity means greater worm holes and worm castings in the soil, which in turn help feed our plants above ground.
Mulch can be made from any organic substance, and is probably the best tool a gardener can have in his or her arsenal!
took down the rye today in hopes for a healthy green manure… we’ll have to see how well this works to improve our soil conditions in the next few weeks.
c’mon worms – do your thing!
After giving the ground a good hoeing I was now in search for some mulch and fertilizer. I glanced over to our chicken yard I realized something I had not thought of yet. Over the winter I had put out a couple of old hay bales in the chicken yard to give them something to scratch around in and for a wind break. The chickens scratched and pecked the hay for a few months, breaking it down into a fine organic substance. I raked it up and used it as a mulch on our garden beds. Mulch keeps the elements from destroying the soil, as well as suppressing weeds and nourishing the beds as it gets rained in. The chickens are great at breaking down organic matter so that it is more easily absorbed into the earth. I don’t think I could have found a better substance at any garden store if I tried! Now all I need to do is teach them how to plant and harvest the vegetables!
Fall is here and its time to muck the fields! All the plots received a good dose of our special mulch/fertilizing mixture this weekend, which helps to rejuvenate the soil and prepare it for next year’s planting. The organic material will slowly break down in the ground over time, adding to its texture. Mulching also protects the bare ground from wind erosion and guards against frost damage. Our Garlic lays under a blanket of mulch over the Winter, waiting to sprout next Spring. Rose-hips are starting to bloom now as well.