Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Benefits of Mulching

Mulching in the garden is very beneficial. Mulch helps to conserve water, especially in dry, windy climates such as where I live in Texas. I have noticed distinct difference in how well the mulched beds respond to a hot afternoon compared to the ones with bare soil. The mulch will look dry on top, but if you feel underneath it, the soil is moist. Mulch also keeps the fruits clean. Rain and watering often splash mud on the plants. A layer of mulch keeps down the mud so you don't have to clean the fruits quite as much. Another benefit of mulching is that it insulates the soil. This is related to the fact that it conserves water. A mulch will keep the soil cool on hot days. And in the fall or early spring, it will insulate the warmth of the day, and keep the soil a little warmer on cool nights. Finally, mulch improves soil health. By mulching, you are adding organic material that will compost over the year, and when you till it in next spring, the soil will be better for it.

I used to think of mulch as decorative wood chips that you put around your flowers. But mulch in the vegetable or herb garden can be so much more than that! This year we are using bought composted cotton burrs. A friend who was moving away gave them to us. But we have also used leaves, rough compost from our pile out back, or straw.
Some people use black plastic around their plants, but I prefer not to go this route because plastic does nothing for the soil.

Try using a mulch on your garden this year and see how much better your garden grows!


Leah said...

Hi Emily, Thanks for posting this, I would like to try using mulch sometime. Right now we have just been using grass clippings. What plants are you growing? I can't figure out what your first picture is but the last one looks like some kind of squash? They look very nice, I like how you have the raised beds.Do you get better results planting them in raised beds like that rather than straight in the ground?

Emily said...

I guess I should have labeled the pictures! The first one is Black Eyed Peas. The second is zucchini. We do have better results with raised beds. Our soil is a very heavy clay. By adding some sand and tons (literally!) of manure, we were able to build a soil that will grow something.

Anonymous said...

wow. do you have to put your hands in that manure when you plant your plants? i don't think i'd oike doing that.
Rachel S.

Rebecca said...

I've heard from several of my gardening friends that coffee grounds are an excellant mulch for the garden because they are high in nitrogen. Most coffee shops will give you trash bags full of them for free. Besides, it will also make your garden smell really good. :)

Emily said...

Rachel-we mostly handle the manure with shovels, but I do get it on my hands sometimes. It's not as bad as it sounds. The manure we get is from a horse farm and has been sitting in a pile for years rotting away into great garden compost.

Rebecca- That's is such a good idea! I know where I could get lots of coffee grounds! We do use the little amount we have on our roses.

Keithslady said...

I wished I loved gardening vegetables as much as flowers and perennial shrubs! Keith has pretty much taken over the vegetables with Ellen and Dana, leaving me to the others.

A word of caution when mulching with straw. It is a GREAT mulch, BUT you must be sure it is straw and not HAY! We were sold the wrong bale one year (I thought it looked suspicious but believed the feed store guy) and had the most prolific weed bed you've ever seen.