Mulch Grows Soil

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has said “Mulching is one of the simplest and most beneficial practices you can use in the garden.” Knowing this, why did I skip mulching this spring? I’m regretting it now. The weeds are a constant in any garden but without mulch, it becomes unmanageable. Every few days it seems the weeds reappear. A 2-3 inch layer of mulch will prevent seeds from planting in the soil. For the relentless roots of weeds, (ahem, morning glories) mulch blocks out sunlight which halts growth.

Another benefit to mulch – water retention. Mulching retains about 80% of the water in your soil. It prevents evaporation, and runoff and stabilizes ground temperature in the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter. With this, gardens that are mulched produce more fruits/vegetables and ornamentals grow bigger and healthier.

I came across an interesting article in the NY Times – Why Your Garden Needs Mulch (Assuming You Do It Right)It discusses the concept of “passive composting.” Unlike composting as we know (adding greens, browns, turning, etc.), using mulch mirrors the natural process of soil enrichment on forest floors. And it’s easier. Passive composting happens when saprophytes organisms such as fungi, bacteria, protozoa, nematodes, and earthworms digest and break down mulch.

Teresa Farrell understands the benefits of mulchingTeresa Farrell understands the benefits of mulching.

What exactly is mulch? We mostly associate mulch with wood chips. In actuality, it is defined as –  covering your soil with a protective layer. Mulch can be brown paper bags, newspapers, twigs, bark, leaves, straw, and tall grasses.

The article points out that most of us (and our landscaping services) mulch the wrong way – for aesthetic purposes. Hey, I get that but we can find a balance. Try collecting garden debris throughout the year for the most natural form of mulch. Come fall, leave expended organic material under your trees/shrubs throughout the winter. If possible, keep this material as your mulch in the spring. If you do remove it for aesthetics, wait until the middle of May. Not only will it grow soil, but this natural layer is also home to many important insects that benefit your garden.

Learning about the rewarding benefits of mulch is a step in understanding your garden and its natural functions. Mimicking the inherent process, think “forest floor” is best for your garden and the ecosystem it supports. Remember, your garden is an interconnected natural organism that knows what it needs to do. Your job is simply to finesse it along.

If you don’t have homegrown mulch at this point in the season, visit our local garden center for bagged mulch. (Lisena Garden Center, 12-5 Cross Bay Blvd,). If you need to cover ground, contact tree pruning services. They will most times give and deliver mulch material for free as it costs them money to dispose of it. In fact, Sovereign Surf & Coffee (111-30 Beach Channel Dr.) did just that a few weeks ago. Terence McNicholas, co-owner of the bayside surf cafe, had a 25 cubic yard truck load delivered to use at the outdoor cafe for weed prevention. And it looks fantastic! He had a mound leftover so on Instagram (@sovereign_surf), Terence announced a community mulch giveaway. My friend Teresa reached out. It was perfect timing. I’m helping her build a brand new garden at her home and the mulch from Sovereign Surf was hugely helpful.

However you get your hands on mulch, it’s not too late to lay it down this season. Your garden will thank you with abundance and beauty.

For the day-to-day follow Me in Rockaway on Instagram – @theglorifiedtomato.

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