Deep Mulch Gardening

October 20, 2013 lawanda Newspaper Columns

What tasks are you doing in your vegetable garden this time of year?  Pulling everything up, rototilling, maybe trying to find some free manure, beating yourself up over the many weeds you didn’t pull?  There is a way to make autumn’s garden tasks, and indeed the entire vegetable garden year, easier.  It’s called deep mulch gardening.

Deep mulch gardening is also called lasagna gardening, for the practice of adding layers of various mulches year after year.

It’s simple really.  Just pile 8 or more inches of mulch all over the garden.  The mulch could be hay, straw, leaves, pine needles, sawdust, weeds, or any vegetable matter that rots.   A mix of two or more kinds of mulch is best.  In spring, pull back the mulch and plant transplants or seeds as usual.  When seeds germinate, place mulch around, but not touching, the baby plants, adding more as they grow.  At the end of the year, just knock down the plants, add another thick layer of mulch on top and enjoy your winter.

The deep layer of mulch provides many benefits.  Soil temperatures remain more constant, reducing plant stress.  Moisture is retained since the soil isn’t exposed to wind and sun, so watering needs will be lessened.  Soil won’t splash onto plants, a primary cause of plant disease.  The composting mulch will also kill many disease organisms.  Soil erosion and compaction are reduced.  You won’t need to add manure or fertilizer – worms, fungi and bacteria will provide all the fertilizer you need.  Weed seeds won’t have the light or soil contact they need to germinate.  If a few weeds do sprout, they won’t have a stronghold and can easily be lifted from the mulch and tossed on top to decompose.

You can start a deep mulch garden now and be ready for next year, by placing fallen leaves on your garden.  It’s best to shred them with a leaf shredder or lawn mower.  Layer them with pine needs, hay or straw if you can get them.

If you plan to start a garden in a new spot next year, cut the grass short and lay cardboard or several layers of newspapers below the thick mulch.  In a new garden, the mulch might not decompose enough to plant into first spring.  In that case, pull the mulch aside and add an inch of garden soil or potting soil to the rows so you have good seed-to-soil contact.  For transplants, dig a hole in the mulch and add a cup or so of soil to plant into.

An added bonus is that you can do away with your compost pile.  Just pull the mulch aside and tuck your vegetable scraps in to compost in place.

Before you begin deep mulch gardening, be sure that you can obtain a lot of mulch.  You’ll need twice as much as you think you do!  Talk to your neighbors or check Craigslist to find it free or for low cost.


Gardening techniques and toolsOrganic gardening

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