Mulching with Organic Materials in the Small Community Garden: A View into How GrowLocal Urban Gardens Network Mulches
Even if not considered the most exciting part of gardening, mulching can be a simple source of many benefits. Some benefits of mulching are weed suppression, soil moisture retention, increased soil organic matter, temperature regulation, erosion reduction, decreased soil compaction, and the improvement of a garden's appearance, among others. Mulch supports the soil health principle of keeping the ground covered and is commonly defined as any plant or suitable material applied to the land surface. In other words, almost any material used to cover the ground could be considered a mulch, and could be synthetic or organic. There is often interest in organic mulches since these materials are frequently available on the farm. Plant residues, leaves, grass clippings, and newspapers can be recycled and used as mulch. Straw and hay can be purchased or otherwise sourced to use as mulch. These materials can also be left on the ground at the end of the growing season. In addition, since organic mulches are in close contact with the soil, they can also help increase soil organic matter (as they break down) and serve as a source of carbon and nitrogen that impact the soil's nutrient availability.
There are a myriad of ways in which gardeners use organic material mulches. Typically, if transplanting, mulch is placed on the growing bed before, and if directly seeded, the mulch is added when the crop plant is well established. Some growers plant cover crops that winterkill (e.g. oats), and then space is made between the crop residue to direct seed in the spring. However, there are ways to incorporate mulches without long-term planning. For example, plant residues can be laid on walkways to reduce soil compaction, and tree leaves placed on top of beds (preferably composted). Another way of mulching is to put down newspaper on top of the soil before adding straw mulch. This method helps increase weed suppression. These are a few examples, and if you have doubts or questions about a specific material, reach out to your local Soil and Water Conservation District office.
How GrowLocal Urban Gardens Network Mulches
GrowLocal Urban Gardens Network –a garden network in the greater Lafayette, Indiana area– uses two different mulches at a couple of their gardens. One of the growers and garden managers, Harry Smith, uses wheat straw and wood chips donated from various sources. Harry applies wheat straw for annual crops and wood chips for permanent walkways and perennials, including fruits, trees, bushes, nuts, and berries. For Harry, the benefits of mulching go beyond the before mentioned (e.g., weed suppression, moisture retention…). Harry said: "Most of our lots were developed with buildings at some point in their history. The result is soil containing many urban artifacts: rock, brick, concrete, metal, and even asphalt. These solid materials at or near the surface absorb and hold heat, accelerating soil surface moisture loss and increasing the need for irrigation. Mulching puts these solid materials in the shade and keeps them cool." He described this process as "Making peace with the rocks."
IASWCD Urban Soil Health Program Website
NRCS - Mulching Tip Sheet
Missouri Botanical Garden - Mulching Publication
Marion County SWCD - Mulching Publication
Article written by Marian M. Rodriguez-Soto, Regional Urban Soil Health Specialist for the Urban Soil Health Program-a contribution agreement between NRCS and IASWCD.
1/21/2022 07:08:56 pm
I love that you talked about the importance of having a moisturized garden for the health of your plants. My father mentioned to me last night that he is looking for a reliable mulching service that can help him with farming land and asked if I have any idea what is the best option to do. Thanks to this helpful article, I'll be sure to tell him that it will be much better if he consults a trusted mulching service as they can answer all his inquiries.
3/28/2022 01:34:10 am
It made sense when you discussed that mulching puts the solid materials in the shadow and keeps them undisturbed. My mother is planning to keep the green color of our lawn. I should tell her to opt for mulching since it is low maintenance and can constantly be green.
Thanks for helping me understand that mulch is placed over a plant that has been established well. I can imagine if that is the process as well for forestry mulching, especially when tall trees will be planted. In my opinion, experts would be the best people to handle such procedures for the success of growing the greenery we need on our planet.
9/29/2022 08:52:51 am
I want to make sure that I take good care of my farm. It makes sense that I would want to consider getting together mulch for this. I'll make sure that I get a professional to help me out with this.
10/21/2022 01:22:54 am
It's interesting to know that mulch is used for transplanting by placing them on the growing bed before the plant is added. I guess there are various ways how tree mulching would be used, so it is best to hire a professional if this might be needed for your front or backyard. I will keep that in mind now that I moved to a new house with a large yard, so I might want to have additional plants on it.
2/1/2023 11:22:03 am
Thank you very much for your post.
2/14/2023 12:26:43 am
It's great to know that mulch, which is typically described as any plant or suitable material spread to the land surface, supports the soil health idea of keeping the ground covered. My sister intends to acquire the backyard farm. I'll advise her to arrange for the delivery of mulch to her home so she may use it to keep the ground covered.
3/16/2023 05:45:51 am
Your site is amazing, and your blogs are informative and knowledgeable to my websites.
Comments are closed.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.