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Have you ever heard of someone mulching their garden, but thought that sounded too expensive for you to do? Maybe you thought that it sounded like too much work. Well, I am here to tell you that mulching your garden is not expensive (it actually saves you money). It is so easy to do that it actually will save you time. Let’s dive in and learn why you need to start mulching your garden today!
What is mulch?
First, let’s define what mulch is. The dictionary’s descriptions for mulch is “A material spread around or over a plant to enrich or insulate the soil”. If you think about a forest or other natural habitat you will see that creation already has mulch built in. In autumn the leaves fall from the trees and cover the soil. This insulates and protects both the soil and plants. In other ecosystems you can have what is called a living mulch like the grass in a prairie. This grass acts the same way the mulch does, but it is a living plant. I always like to look at the way creation was built to work and by mimicking those principles you can usually have amazing benefits. You can find may sources of free mulch on your property. These might include grass clippings, coffee grounds, fallen leaves, and compost.
Benefits of mulching your garden
- Mulch act as an insulator
After mulch is applied to the surface of soil it acts just like the insulation in houses. When it is very hot the mulch holds in the cool of the morning. When it is very cold the mulch holds onto the afternoon heat. This insulating effect will reduce the stress on your plants even on the warmest of days.
- Mulch builds soil’s water retention
It is a known fact the organic matter in soil helps to retain moisture. This moisture retention is great. It keeps more moisture close to plants roots and prevents it from running off too quickly. Scientific studies show that every 1% increase in organic matter results in as much as 25,000 gallons of added water retention. If you want to water your plants less in the summer, then mulching is the best route.
- Mulch Increases soil fertility
When organic matter like mulch is added to the soil it has a cation effect. Let me explain, organic matter in soil has a negative charge. If you remember from your grade school science textbooks opposite charges attract each other. Guess what soil nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous all have in common, a positive charge! Therefore when fertilizer is added to the top of organic matter rich soil the organic matter holds onto the nutrients. This leads to the soil becomes saturated with fertility and makes the nutrients more accessible to your plants.
- Mulch lightens compact and clay soils
I used to have soil that was mostly clay. If you have had the same experience, you know that trying to grow plants in clay is very challenging. For me it didn’t matter how much sand I tried to bring in to combat the clay. You will still have hard compact soil. The only solution to this is adding organic matter in the form of mulch. Mulch acts as a separator between clay particles which will loosen your soil. After I added mulch to my garden the soil became lighter and much easier to grow vegetables in. And year after year, the soil only improves in quality.
- Mulch reduces plant disease
If you have had experience with blight, powdery mildew, or rust you know how these diseases can spell death to your beloved vegetable plants. Soil borne diseases come from soil getting splashed onto the plant when it rains. By mulching your garden, you stop all this soil from getting onto your plants leaves. This decreases the likelihood that they will catch the disease. This is also great for greens and lettuce as you will not have to spend as much time rinsing soil coated leaves.
- Mulch feeds soil life
Most conventional gardeners forget one major thing about soil; it is home to a whole community of living organisms. A single teaspoon of living soil can have between 100 million and 1 billion microbes living in it. Just think how much an acre of land must have in it! When earthworms and soil microbes eat organic matter, they produce nutrients that are essential to healthy plants. So, make sure you feed your soil microbes so they can make your plants healthier.
- Mulch suppresses weeds
Since the curse, man has had a battle with weeds and it always seems that the weeds win. Do not worry; mulch is on our side. Mulch blocks all the light from the soil which is necessary for weeds to grow. When the weeds cannot get to sunlight, they cannot grow. The mulch basically smothers your weed problem without using a single harmful chemical.
- Mulch reduces soil erosion
The reason so many weeds spring up is to cover the soil in a protective barrier. Mulch and plants are the first thing that rain will hit before it reaches the soil; thereby, reducing the speed and pressure of rain fall. When soil does not have this protective barrier it all gets washed away. This eventually leaves you with bedrock (not the best for growing plants).
- Mulch reduces landfill waste
By using mulch that you find on your property you can keep a lot of yard waste from reaching the landfill. This saves you trips hauling waste and in turn saves you money and time.
- Mulch makes your garden look great
If all the other benefits weren’t enough, mulch can take your garden from a shabby mess of weeds to a lush oasis of green plants. Now that mulch is shading out your weeds, increasing soil life, reducing plant disease, and acting as a moisture retainer your plants look healthy and vibrant.
Adding mulch to my garden has saved me from watering and weed pulling for hours on end. It also increases the fertility of the soil which in turn means that I am getting nutrient dense food. Mulch is a necessity if you want to grow a garden naturally. if you need help mulching your garden here is how your chickens can help.
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