Mulch in the Garden
Mid-spring is here at CEF and like our bird companions we're in full nesting mode.
Mulching, in theory, should be done at the start of the season, but sometimes the season moves really fast. Spring season is one of those times. By mid-spring, as you're peering over the garden inspecting the results of the spring planting, suddenly you realize it's time to get back to the grind and finish the job with a generous helping of mulch.
This season we're mulching it up with some after-market, slightly fermented, un-sprayed hay, autumn leaves, wood chips and garden variety brown paper as a weed mat under the mulch in the aisles. It has taken us a couple of years to develop our system, as we are feeling great about mulch our approach to mulch the time around!
For us, mulching is more than weed control; much, much more. Mulching is the key to promoting and maintaining a thriving eco-system in the soil beds. Mulching strengthens the plant's root system and nutrient uptake; here's how. Mulch, which is essentially decaying carbon, is a food source for microorganisms and encourages ideal soil structure by protecting it from the effects of harsh sun and heavy rains. It holds in moisture and prevents compaction and oversaturation. Good soil structure provides the most essentail needs for micororganisms to survive: air and water.
What is Ideal soil structure? Think porosity, think hydrated and breathing. When a soil is too soggy or too dry or too compacted, microorganisms don't have the proper balance of air and water and don't thrive. Meanwhile, Plants exchange sugars they make through photosynthesis to the soil microorganisms in exchange for essential and trace minerals. Adequate minerals make for a robust immune system. So, the better housing you can provide for microorganisms, the larger and more diverse the population, the better mineral supply chain your plants have access to, and the plants are more likely to be naturally healthy. Aside from supporting soil health, of course, mulching really does help control the wild 'weeds' and make the garden lower maintenance once set up. And lets face it, if you have ever cared for land on any scale, anything that minimizes the over-all work load is awesome.
Here in Balsam mid-spring can be a reminder, especially on those hot spring days, to get finished quickly with the mulching before the Solstice arrives.