Garden Mulching: the origins:
Mulch. It’s a strange word, isn’t it? The origin is uncertain but it is thought it might come from the Middle English word “molsh” (soft, moist) which is derived from the Old English “melsc”, “milisc” (mellow, sweet) which apparently was later used to refer to half-rotten straw.
But what is mulch? Well, it is a cover that protects and enhances your soil, though it can be used to landscape or provide ornamentation too. Garden mulching can have many benefits, including all these impressive ones:
1. Prevents erosion of the soil
2. Keeps soil moist
3. Keeps soil from clumping up
4. Stimulates earthworm activity (which increases drainage and prevents waterlogging)
5. Curtails weeds (the sunlight does not get through)
6. Acts as a shield against both heat and cold
7. Adds fertility as it interacts with the soil
This short video explains this very well…
Pretty good, I’d say! But how do you get this mulch? Because this is only an exemple because mulch can be bought but the self-reliant organic gardener can easily make their own and it can be made out of a number of materials, even newspaper. Other materials include leaves, manure, hay, straw, grass, woodchip and other shredded mulch. They each have their own advantages and disadvantages and the soil type should be taken into consideration.
Evergreen matter should not be used (unless it is for soil used to grow evergreens), for example. Generally speaking mulches require a little Nitrogen infusion which can be achieved by adding diluted urine or comfrey leaves/tea.
Mulch, much like compost, can be kept in a heap (depending on what material is employed) and it’s always good to break down the substance so that it decays more quickly. For example, many people run the lawn mower over fallen leaves to achieve this.
The most common form of mulch is leaf mold. This is an easy to make garden mulch and it is very good for the soil. Not surprisingly you will need leaves! Fallen leaves…
Making Leaf Mold
Rake and otherwise collect ground leaves in the fall. A good idea for garden mulching purposes, as mentioned above, is to shred them through a mower as this will help them to break down more swiftly when they decompose. If you cannot find enough fallen leaves in your garden then try local parks and so forth. Your local government might also have a lot of collected leaves. Again, any leaves can be used except for evergreens.
Put the leaves in a black bin liner, water them, seal the bag and perforate it with a fork. Then leave it alone for a year or so. A wire-mesh bin might also serve the same purpose. This can then be used as much or, if you are patient and wait about 2 years, the leaf mold will have broken down to the point where it will provide a rich potting compost. Leaf mold can be used all year round of course – and can be applied to all soil types.
How to do Garden Mulching:
During fall or summer (after planting in the spring) you’ll need to clear the designated area of leaves before applying the mulch. You will also need to break up the crust of the soil and give it a water. How deep you make the mulch depends on various factors but 1-3 inches is common. It should be spread evenly around but leave a gap around the stems of any plants in order to prevent stem rot (mulch can of course be applied to plantless areas to renew the soil but this is less common in gardening and usually used more by bigger landowners). Again, depending on your materials, mulch can break down quite quickly and you might need to replenish as much as every season.
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