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Video: Mulching Is Truth And Fiction
About mulch without secrets. Part 3
Read the previous part of the article: Mulch for weed control, moisture retention and thermoregulation
What to do for those who do not have the ability to create the perfect mulch? First, decide: what do you need mulch for, what task do you set for it.
For example, in early spring, you need to quickly warm up the soil and retain moisture. For this, it is rational to use compost (it has a dark color, almost black). Dark mulch, reducing the loss of water from the surface of the ridges, helps to accelerate soil warming.
In the summer, under dark mulch, the soil will overheat. In this case, you can add mowed grass on top, which dries up, brightens, or straw.
If you have a mixture of different mulching materials, then it is worth deciding where to apply it. To accelerate the decomposition of mulch, post-harvest residues of vegetables, grass and weeds should prevail in the mixture. Coarse materials in the mixture will prevent caking and rotting of the mixture, provide aeration.
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This mixture is best suited for mulching annual crops. When a longer duration of mulch action is desired, wood waste should prevail in it: bark and foliage, sawdust and shavings. With such a mixture it is good to mulch perennials, garden crops.
Having figured out what's what, it will not be difficult to create very comfortable conditions for your plants.
The division of mulch according to tasks and criteria is absolutely arbitrary. This division is needed only for understanding. In reality, this is what happens: you put mulch on the garden bed for the second task. In the presence of moisture and heat in the soil, microbiological processes begin - layer-by-layer decomposition of mulch. And the lower layers of mulch already solve the first problem. And the top layer decomposes slightly, it acts as a protective coating, smoothing out external influences.
Gradually, the upper layers are exposed to microbes. If you use non-decomposed organic residues mulch every year, you automatically get flaky mulch, just like in nature. And the longer you do this, the greater the effect of such mulching - the soil becomes more biologically active.
In the literature, there are different recommendations for the use of mulch. Some of them, judging this from personal experience, seem superfluous to me. For example, there is a recommendation that you must loosen the soil before mulching.
And during the summer, even if mulching is applied regularly, the heavy soil needs constant loosening. Perhaps this is necessary at the stage of transition to the constant use of mulch on very heavy, clayey soils. On my heavy loam, loosening is not required either before mulching or during the growing season.
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Under mulch, the soil itself, under the influence of microbes, insects and worms, comes to the desired state. I think that on sandy loam and sand, loosening before mulching is even more unnecessary.
There are recommendations on perennials to embed old mulch into the soil in autumn, and to mulch the soil surface again in spring. In my opinion, this is laborious and pointless - it is more expedient to lay a new layer of mulch on top of the previous one. This will ensure the natural scenario of the course of soil processes.
Authors of articles on mulch sometimes warn about the possibility of various undesirable consequences of this technique. For example, they write that organic mulch, rich in worms and insects, attracts birds from all over the area. Secondly, it serves as a reliable refuge for mice and moles, which undermine and gnaw on young plants. Using mulching, you have to deal with rodents.
For eight years of total mulching on 20 acres, I did not notice that my site was very popular with birds. The only problem with the birds I have is the neighboring chickens. But this issue is solved by fences.
I didn't have any special problems with rodents either. Insignificant damage to potato tubers and root crops (less than half a percent of the harvest) were observed only in an extremely dry year. I think this was due to the lack of succulent food for rodents. The rest of the time I don’t remember about rodents and I don’t fight them in any way. And yet, just in case, under garden trees that can damage mice, I do not use straw - for mulching I use potato tops and coarse weeds. I must say that several cats live on my site. But, alas, they could not get mice under thick mulch on potatoes.
I can't say anything about moles. We simply do not have them. In our region live shrews, the lifestyle and nutrition of which are the same as that of a mole, but I have never seen them on my site.
Slugs are often mentioned in connection with mulch. Messages are conflicting. And here the arguments of both defenders and opponents of mulching are quite logical. Slugs feel great under mulch.
But decaying mulch serves them with the food they need. And, nevertheless, in some cases slugs harm with tripled strength, in others they completely stop harming. I have a lot of slugs on the site, but they do not bring any noticeable harm. The conclusion suggests itself that there is an influence of some other factor. Apparently, under certain conditions, plants become simply "tasteless" for slugs.
Perhaps, receiving a balanced nutrition due to the active action of microorganisms, plants significantly increase immunity and become unattractive to slugs. But the soil cannot instantly restore its best properties; this takes some time. At first, the effect may not appear. Maybe some other factor plays a role here, which we do not yet know about.
Opponents of mulch say: “You need a lot of mulch. This requires large material costs or labor costs. " In some cases, this is true.
For example, I use quite a lot of mulch on my site - I create compost paths. There are reasons for this - this is a topic for another conversation. But the amount of mulch is necessary and can be reduced after a certain limit in my case. At the initial stage, it is necessary to raise the potential soil fertility, accumulate humus, restore the optimal structure - to create a favorable background for dynamic fertility.
When this task is solved, much less mulching materials are needed. The required amount of mulch must be understood and used rationally. This is a matter of practice. For example, in my area there is an active growth of the thickness of the fertile soil layer. This means that a lot of organic material is not used for dynamic plant nutrition and is deposited in the reserve.
And today I have a task before me: to find the amount of mulch that would maximize the provision of plants with dynamic nutrition, but not accumulate reserves. I have already written about the sources of mulch that I use. If desired, almost everyone can find opportunities for finding mulch.
Can I add less mulch than mine? It is easy to follow the example of the gardener I.P. Zamyatkin. Make narrow fenced beds and wide aisles. Use mulch only on the beds. Leave the passages under turf. Then much less mulching materials are needed, and the grass growing in the aisles will be a source of mulch.
In addition, local conditions must be taken into account in each case. For example, my 2/3 layers of mulch serve to preserve moisture and protect against overheating of the soil (our average annual precipitation is 300-350 mm; July temperature is up to 40 ° C). In regions that do not experience precipitation problems and with less hot summers, these problems most likely do not exist, which means that much less mulch is needed.
Mulch is not a method of purely natural farming; adherents of other directions of gardening also use it. And very successful.
Naturalists, organists call for abandoning mineral fertilizers, pesticides, considering it harmful. On the contrary, agrochemists declare that these things do not bring harm. Many practitioners believe that it is necessary to apply both "wisely". Most likely, the truth is somewhere in between these opinions. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. The dispute has been going on for a long time and to no avail.
The main thing is clear to me now. Regardless of whether mineral fertilizers and pesticides harm the soil and plants, large yields can be obtained without them. With the correct application of mulch, they are simply not needed - yields can be much higher than with a complex of agrochemical methods. Unfortunately, the results of mulching heavy soils do not show up quickly. It takes time to increase yields significantly. This stops many impatient gardeners. But all the processes can be rushed - using EM drugs. Among my friends there are people who have achieved very good results with their help.
I do not presume to argue what, how and how to mulch in conditions different from mine. Very often "illogical" things happen in practice. For example, mice and slugs do not cause problems for me “contrary to logic”.
I talked a lot with people who theoretically studied some issue (and more often - read 1-2 articles) and who think that they thoroughly know the topic. Such experts foaming at the mouth prove "their" rightness, having no real practical experience. For example, recently on the Internet I read the following comment under one of the articles: “You are doing everything right! Next year I will try to do this too …”When you read this, it becomes sad.
How do you know what is right and what is wrong if you didn’t do it ?! There are enough such people in the camp of mulch opponents, but no less of them among its supporters. Some, having speculated, "saw" a bunch of disadvantages of mulching. Others blindly copy someone else's experience. This approach can discredit any worthwhile trick.
I would like to advise those who want to try to apply mulch in their garden and vegetable garden: try to understand what is the main goal you are pursuing. You need to observe: whether the mulching materials that you have perform this task, and adjust the application time, layer thickness, and more. Chat with people who are actually getting good results from mulching in your area. And only after that is it worth drawing conclusions.
Good luck in this business!