Mulch is a perennialgarden must. It helps to suppress weeds, retain moisture, and insulate your plants in the winter. Mulch works best when applied in an even layer, two to four inches deep. Make sure to keep it a few inches from the base of your plants so it doesn’t rot them.
I spread wood chips along my pathways to prevent hard-packed soil, and a layer of shredded leaves and grass clipping or straw on my plant beds. But you can use pretty much anything from plain cardboard or newspaper to coco fiber or shredded tree waste from your local municipality. I much prefer organic materials, which can be broken down by soil microbes, rather than synthetic mulches like landscape fabric, which does nothing for soil health. The best organic mulches are readily available, cheap, and easy to spread.
Does anyone have any creative mulch materials or ideas?
I agree wholeheartedly that woodchips belong in the garden as a mulch. Personally I take it one step further and decompose the woodchips with wine cap mushrooms. The resulting compost is immensely fertile. After the woodchips are gone, I simply add more chips and the cycle continues. Also, I get a bunch of tasty mushrooms every Spring and Fall.
I do like to chop and drop branches of support species around my helpful plants, and then cover with the 2-4" of woodchips inoculated with fungi when possible. I also use a lot of plant matter like comfrey for mulch and I get a lot of wood chips from dropped oak tree limbs. I have pictures somewhere of the entire process and I will try to find them but I find the particularly thick mulch ring around my trees (not touching the trunk of course) helps ensure I need not water throughout the year and is helping to slowly break up my extremely dense clay soil in Missouri.
If someone ever makes the Avengers of gardeners, my goal is to make that team!
I am confused about comfrey as a mulch. I'm a dedicated wood chip mulcher. I have laid comfrey cuttings atop the wood chips (as instructed somewhere) and I have a lot of trouble figuring out how the nutrients are supposed to get to the plants' roots. And the comfrey shrivels up, of course, and doesn't provide much in the way of sheltering the soil or blocking weed germination.
Is comfrey really just a soil amendment? That's the way it seems to me.
Good suggestions for organic mulches, Acadia. I have to agree that landscape cloth is a huge no-no. I tried it one year and it was a lot of work to lay down and cover. Then unwanted grasses grew right on up through it, so I felt it was a huge waste of time.
I love mimosa trees for this purpose. They can be pollarded or just the green fanlike leaves taken. I cut the same trees to the ground twice a summer here in NC. They are that robust and nearly unstoppable. If they die due to over cutting they release their nitrogen into the ground. No issue there. Right now I’m taking the leaves and small branches to prepare a planting spot for next spring. They are invasive so don’t buy any. If you’re like me and have them anyway you may as well use them for permaculture-type things.
On another note I want to bring up a Privet. Yes, it’s the devil but when cut in the fall and left to dry they make a dandy veggies support the next spring. One year and they fall apart right where they were of use that season! Talk about stacking functions.
Hello again Anne! You raise a good point because it does disappear quickly. Here’s what I do. I have veggie and flower gardens with comfrey planted right in the middle. When it’s of good size I chop and spread around my plants. I think that rapid breakdown allows it to get the the roots when it rains.
A buddy was in horticulture school and was trying out new fertilizers in their greenhouse. Of course I had thoughts on this I wanted to tryout. I made a drying table that would sit over a decent sized bin in the back of my explorer. I would put a single layer of comfrey on the table until it turned to a green powder in the bin. It only took a couple days during the summer then more would go on the rack. When greenhouse time rolled around he would mix in 1/4 cup per gallon of potting soil. It held its own against all synthetic fertilizers. The only one that blew it out of the water was fish emulsion which made everything else pal in comparison.
I have some vegetables that are really struggling, and my biggest comfrey was taking up too much space! I cut it down, and took the leaves and stems and tucked them under the wood chips. A good compromise for me. I like the idea of comfrey powder fertilizer!