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planting seeds when you're trying to keep a thick layer of mulch established

 
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Note: I'm a hobby gardener who leans toward trying to do things in a sustainable, organic way. I'm not deep into permaculture practice but love the idea. If something here is heretical, don't judge but I'd love to learn!

Over the last 4 years I've been trying to change my thick, soupy, sponge of gumbo dirt into something that resembles soil. I read Diane Miessler's book Grow Your Soil and so now I have a nice thick layer of mulch on top of all my garden beds and I'm planning not to till or turn over the dirt anymore--just add amendments as I plant. The soil underneath looks spectacular compared to even last year!

Question: now that I have my nice mulch layer in place, how do I plant seeds into that? Specifically pea seeds: snow peas and garden peas. Do I pull the mulch away and plant at soil level? Planting directly into the mulch doesn't seem like it would work very well. But the mulch layer is so thick it seems like it would shade the tiny sprouts coming up.

I think I've seen a forum on here about this before but opinions were divided. If there's a good one that you can link to that already exists, I'd love to see that too.

Thank you!
 
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I am just learning this too, but I think the options are to either part the mulch to expose the soil and plant the seed leaving the mulch pushed back until the seed sprouts, or part the mulch and fill the void with a potting soil or compost mixture to plant the seed in.  As each plant sprouts and grows you can slowly add small amounts of mulch closer to the stem, but probably not touching the plant.

Hopefully someone with more experience has the correct answer.
Good luck.
 
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 I agree with Michael, pull back mulch and fill in with soil then plant.   I will usually pull back a foot wide trench for row crops, plant seeds and wait. When a foot tall or so I pull mulch back around plants.
i start most plants in flats, then I just plant them out. Makes it a lot easier to keep ground covered at all times.
 
Diana Still
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Michael, Thanks! Glad I'm not the only new one here. Why do you keep the mulch from touching the plant? So that the roots and stem can breathe?

Ralph, Awesome, the foot wide trench is a helpful note. Do you fill it with soil too? Where do you get the soil? It seems like a lot of extra soil to get every year.

I do mostly seedlings too, but the peas seem to do a lot better if I direct seed them.
 
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If my mulch is an inch or two thick, I pull it aside just enough to plant the seeds.  It will fall back in over time but hopefully the plants are up enough to handle it by then.  

If I'm planting something that needs to be broadcast (cut and come again greens for instance), I'll just rake away all the mulch and put it on another nearby bed

If it was thicker mulch I'd probably make a narrow furrow in it (4-6" wide), fill that up 2" from the top of the mulch with compost and soil and plant into that.  Then not worry about mulch or drag a bit back over the newly added soil once the plants are growing.
 
Ralph Sluder
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Diana Still wrote:Michael, Thanks! Glad I'm not the only new one here. Why do you keep the mulch from touching the plant? So that the roots and stem can breathe?

Ralph, Awesome, the foot wide trench is a helpful note. Do you fill it with soil too? Where do you get the soil? It seems like a lot of extra soil to get every year.

I do mostly seedlings too, but the peas seem to do a lot better if I direct seed them.




 I pull my much back about a foot because it is pretty thick.  This lets the sun in there good as my rows are east/west. also strong storms can wash the mulch back over the plants.  I do not put soil into the trench.

  Mulch touching young seedling can allow them to rot, they need some airflow around them.
 
Diana Still
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Mike Haasl wrote:If my mulch is an inch or two thick, I pull it aside just enough to plant the seeds.  It will fall back in over time but hopefully the plants are up enough to handle it by then.  

If I'm planting something that needs to be broadcast (cut and come again greens for instance), I'll just rake away all the mulch and put it on another nearby bed

If it was thicker mulch I'd probably make a narrow furrow in it (4-6" wide), fill that up 2" from the top of the mulch with compost and soil and plant into that.  Then not worry about mulch or drag a bit back over the newly added soil once the plants are growing.



Thanks! The specifics on mulch thickness are really helpful.
 
Diana Still
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Ralph Sluder wrote:  I pull my much back about a foot because it is pretty thick.  This lets the sun in there good as my rows are east/west. also strong storms can wash the mulch back over the plants.  I do not put soil into the trench.

  Mulch touching young seedling can allow them to rot, they need some airflow around them.



My rows are east/west too. Thank you. My beds aren't wide, so pulling back a foot might be a little much--glad to know it can change based on on thickness of the mulch.
 
Michael Fundaro
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Diana Still wrote:Michael, Thanks! Glad I'm not the only new one here. Why do you keep the mulch from touching the plant? So that the roots and stem can breathe?



I have read and learned that, on some/most plants, allowing the mulch to touch the plant/tree will damage the base and allow mold or fungus or tiny critters to attack and kill the plant.  I learned this the hard way when a young apple tree that had been growing well for a couple years suddenly died.  When I dug it out the base of the trunk was damaged and rotten so the water could no longer rise up to nourish the rest of the tree.
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