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Deep Mulching?  RSS feed

 
John Salmon
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Hello,

Greeting from Greensboro, NC, the center of the Piedmont! I am re-starting my first year backyard garden after many failures. (Learning Experiences) My question concerns deep mulching, rather it be ruth stout, Back to Eden or whatever practice is to be used. My soil is comparable to my area, mainly clay with a thin layer of topsoil. My question, is deep mulching that important to new gardens?

I have access to new and aged wood chips, finished compost and a limited amount of goat/chicken manure. I also have been collecting fall leaves and grass clippings from the neighborhood. (Pesticide free)  My garden area is fairly shaded which I hope to trim a few trees to provide more sunlight and to keep the trees healthy.

My goal is to have a small vegetable garden, be organic as possible so I may have a place for exercise and peace. My secondary goal is to have fresh and healthy produce.

Thanks in advance,
John
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Roberto pokachinni
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My question, is deep mulching that important to new gardens? 
  It was for me.  It allowed me to suppress weeds, retain moisture, reduce watering to almost nothing, create worm/fungi/microbe/insect/spider habitat, protect soil from rain impact, protect soil surface from drying out/loosing microbial activity/blowing away/washing away.  Mulch turns fresh tilled soil, or freshly covered soil (newspaper/cardboard), into a potential habitat/ecology rather than a dead zone.  All of these were pretty much immediate benefits.  I used hay because it is less acidic, and breaks down faster into living soil, but it has downfalls like grass seeds and creating vole habitat.

Resources: 
I have access to new and aged wood chips, finished compost and a limited amount of goat/chicken manure. I also have been collecting fall leaves and grass clippings from the neighborhood. (Pesticide free)  My garden area is fairly shaded which I hope to trim a few trees to provide more sunlight and to keep the trees healthy. 


Goal:
My goal is to have a small vegetable garden, be organic as possible so I may have a place for exercise and peace. My secondary goal is to have fresh and healthy produce.


Considering your resources I think that you should be able to manifest your goals. 

I would suggest mowing (borrow a mower if you have to) your lawn down as low as you can go first and laying some of the additional gathered grass clippings, and water the crap out of it, and then take a mix of some of your manure and compost and put it on the damp material and then lay your cardboard, and moisten it.  Make sure you overlap any gaps or holes in the cardboard by 6 inches or more (a foot is better... this ensures that tenacious weeds can not easily come back up from under the cardboard).  Use the mower to run over piles of leaves to shred them so that they are more accessible to water and microbes.  Lay the rest of your manure on top of the cardboard and moisten it.  Lay leaves and aged chips down on the top of cardboard, and follow with the newer chips.  When planting, spread the mulch from an area of cardboard, either break the cardboard to place a seed or tuber or transplant, or place some compost in the area and plant it that.  The planting hole does not have to be large.  The planting hole could be a trench with seeds in it instead.  Sometimes it's better to plant larger crop plants like potatoes or squash or broccoli or cabbage family transplants, to get the system going. 

 
 
Marco Banks
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Ditto to everything Roberto just said, except I wouldn't mow the grass low --- I'd let it grow really tall before I laid cardboard and mulch over it.  That's good stuff --- extra bio-mass and extra root-mass.  But that's just a minor point of disagreement.

What you will find is that even with a heavy layer of mulch, it will quickly break down.  You need to continually replenish that mulch yearly.  But you will see your hard clay soil transformed.  I did.  Within 2 or 3 years, you will not believe the difference it makes.  I've been heavy mulching for 16 years now, and those first areas where I started now have deep, rich, black soil that is at least 8 to 10 inches deep.

When I think of all the branches, dead vines, etc, that I used to throw in the green-waste bin and have carted-off by the garbage guys every week, I could almost cry.  All that carbon that I could have kept in my system!  But not anymore --- every leaf, branch, seed, stalk, vine, or spent annual gets tucked into the system somewhere. 

So mulch, and then mulch some more.  As soon as spring arrives, get a living root growing in your soil, and keep some sort of cover crop growing as long as you possibly can, year round if possible.
 
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