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Let's talk about mulch and mulching

 
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Get Started with Mulching!

In this week's blog post - What is Mulching? The Complete Introduction to Mulching I go over the basics of what mulching is and why it can benefit your homestead/garden.

The blog post is broken up into the following sections:

- What is Mulch?
- Advantages of Mulching
- Disadvantage of Mulching
- Mulching Your Garden
- Mulching Trees and Shrubs
- Mulching Your Lawns
- Getting Started with Mulching

There is a lot to cover on mulching so I decided to breakup the topic of mulch into 2 blog posts. This week's blog post is more general and meant to be an intro to mulch and mulching. Part 2 of this series is all about the different types of mulch and the pros and cons of each.

If you are new to mulching then this week's blog post should be a great intro to mulching for you. But I know a lot of permies users are fairly experienced with mulching and we have had some great conversations about it in other threads.

So I have a simple question for you all--why do you mulch your garden and other plants?


To Me it is all About the Fungi and Water



One of the biggest reasons why I mulch my plants is to encourage beneficial fungi to grow and thrive. These fungi can help protect plants against diseases, provide the plants with water and nutrients, and help build the soil.

To me fungi are simply one of our best helpers in the garden or on the homestead and I want to do what I can to help them out.

Plus, I just love harvesting the edible types. I have been harvesting turkey tail this winter and I'm hoping to get a good harvest of morels like I did last year. But what really gets me excited about fungi is how they can benefit my plants.

In addition to fungi mulching is awesome to me because of how much it helps to reduce how much I need to water my plants in the summer. When combined with other techniques like hugelkultur I can often skip watering even during long droughts.

Overtime as the mulch breaks down and increases the organic content in the soil the ability of the soil to hold water increases which means I should need to water even less than I do now.

All in all mulching is a big win in my book.

What About You?



So are you mulching your plants? Are there any that you don't mulch? Please reply and share your answers below. Also, don't forget to check out my blog post mentioned in this thread. If you are one of the first to leave a comment on here you might even get a surprise in the form of pie or apples

Make sure to check out part 2 in this series on mulch which covers different types of mulch and how to use them.

Thank you!

Mulching Series

- What is Mulching? The Complete Introduction to Mulching
- Mulch Types - What You Need to Know
 
pollinator
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Daron,

I am with you, fungi and moisture. The fungi make up for my mistakes, and the moisture removes some of the variability at the root level and makes me look like I know what I am doing.

You eat Turkey Tail? I tried it once, that was enough for me. Oyster is my jam!

Additional mulch delivery site mulchr.com. Free for you. I get most of my mulch by asking trucks at the gas station when I am picking up coffee grounds. Two birds- one stone. I literally had to ask for a reprieve on chips for a couple months because I got over a hundred loads last year. So yes you can get too much. But again I am mulching huge areas with a dump trailer and skid steer. Most houses would need one or two loads a year, the gas station method is probably adequate.
 
garden master
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I believe that mulching can be one of the simplest and most rewarding ways to increase abundance!

I prefer to mulch trees and bushes with mostly leaves and a few tree limbs or logs, and vegetables with mostly grass clippings or chop and drop with some living mulch as well.

It slows evaporation of water from the soil and introduces organic matter, which maintains a good moist habitat for beneficial organisms, which develops high soil fertility, which encourages stronger and deeper roots, which all increase the health and disease resistance of the plant- helping it reach full production of full flavored, nutrient dense food!

It's a chain of permaculture awesomeness!
 
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Our local government body slashes the roadside grass throughout the year.
I constantly survey what's growing where so that when a slash occurs, I can cart loads of mulch that are known quantities.
One pile for mulch with grass-seeds, another for weed-seeds and the other for pure 'straw'.
The seeded piles sprout all their germs while in storage or are submerged in water until fetid.

Slasher grass is a much better mulch than lawn clippings which are shredded so fine that they don't last long.
It's better than bales because no seed, finer texture, retains more N and breaks down more readily.

I'm envious of great big piles of woodchips, but it seems like cheating to just import masses of organic matter from another site to improve your own. Not to mention the energy intensive chipping and all the nitrogen lost to the atmosphere in the process.
Sure its a waste product, but its also ecological madness and very inefficient.

Mulch helps me grow a crop of mushrooms as an understorey in my garden beds.
It also has potential downsides such as suppressing volunteerism, increasing seed-rot and insect populations.
But these traits are less important than maintaining soil fertility and biology.
 
Daron Williams
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Tj Jefferson wrote:Daron,

I am with you, fungi and moisture. The fungi make up for my mistakes, and the moisture removes some of the variability at the root level and makes me look like I know what I am doing.

You eat Turkey Tail? I tried it once, that was enough for me. Oyster is my jam!

Additional mulch delivery site mulchr.com. Free for you. I get most of my mulch by asking trucks at the gas station when I am picking up coffee grounds. Two birds- one stone. I literally had to ask for a reprieve on chips for a couple months because I got over a hundred loads last year. So yes you can get too much. But again I am mulching huge areas with a dump trailer and skid steer. Most houses would need one or two loads a year, the gas station method is probably adequate.



Thank you for your comment - and I think fungi might be covering up for my mistakes too! I have had some plants survive in conditions where they really should not have and I'm giving the fungi the credit!

I don't eat Turkey Tail much but I do pull off a piece of it and chew it up as a supplement. Supposed to help boost the immune system so I thought it was worth a try since everyone around me has been getting the cold or flue. It seems to just be bland in taste to me - nothing special and gummy but not a bad taste. Just a bit earthy.

Nice - I will check out that site. I need to get a bunch soon so I can finish mulching my zone 1 area.
 
Daron Williams
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Steve Thorn wrote:I believe that mulching can be one of the simplest and most rewarding ways to increase abundance!

It slows evaporation of water from the soil and introduces organic matter, which maintains a good moist habitat for beneficial organisms, which develops high soil fertility, which encourages stronger and deeper roots, which all increase the health and disease resistance of the plant- helping it reach full production of full flavored, nutrient dense food!

It's a chain of permaculture awesomeness!



Agreed and thanks for your comment! I mulch everything I can get a little bit crazy about it but so far nothing but good results. I have even noticed areas that were grass and just bone dry getting more moist after I mulched with no rain. My guess is it just retains moisture moving through the soil and/or helps to collect dew each night since this area has decent humidity even in the dry summer. Have you noticed this when you mulch?
 
Daron Williams
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Jondo Almondo wrote:Our local government body slashes the roadside grass throughout the year.
I constantly survey what's growing where so that when a slash occurs, I can cart loads of mulch that are known quantities.
One pile for mulch with grass-seeds, another for weed-seeds and the other for pure 'straw'.
The seeded piles sprout all their germs while in storage or are submerged in water until fetid.

Slasher grass is a much better mulch than lawn clippings which are shredded so fine that they don't last long.
It's better than bales because no seed, finer texture, retains more N and breaks down more readily.

I'm envious of great big piles of woodchips, but it seems like cheating to just import masses of organic matter from another site to improve your own. Not to mention the energy intensive chipping and all the nitrogen lost to the atmosphere in the process.
Sure its a waste product, but its also ecological madness and very inefficient.

Mulch helps me grow a crop of mushrooms as an understorey in my garden beds.
It also has potential downsides such as suppressing volunteerism, increasing seed-rot and insect populations.
But these traits are less important than maintaining soil fertility and biology.



Thanks for the comment and good use of a local resource!

I do agree with the issue of wood chips not being sustainable. I do get it from sources that would have just gotten rid of it but in the long run that practice is not sustainable. My goal is to use wood chips to get things started and then shift to chop-and-drop and living mulch.

I also love to use fall leaves and I'm using that more and more but I do still use wood chips. But the fall leaves are still imported from off site. In the long run I want my property to produce all its own mulch but I still got a ways to go to get there.
 
Steve Thorn
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Daron Williams wrote:I mulch everything I can get a little bit crazy about it but so far nothing but good results. I have even noticed areas that were grass and just bone dry getting more moist after I mulched with no rain. My guess is it just retains moisture moving through the soil and/or helps to collect dew each night since this area has decent humidity even in the dry summer. Have you noticed this when you mulch?



Yeah I've noticed that too! I think it could be both of those explanations also. Even during our hot and dry summer months, the mulched areas are damp when I've pulled back the mulch.
 
Daron Williams
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Nice! I still have some old soil moisture sensors and data loggers left over from my master's thesis... I think I will try setting those up and see what the sensors measure. It would be interesting to see if the soil moisture level would go up after mulching with no rain/watering. Could be a fun summer experiment!
 
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So I have a simple question for you all--why do you mulch your garden and other plants?  



1. Reduces or eliminates weeding.
2. Turns into excellent plant food.
3. Helps some areas look better.
4. It gives worms & other beneficial critters a home, food, & a place to breed.
5. Carbon sequestration.
6. Chickens tend to scratch around in mulch rather than destroy plants in the garden.
7. I can't think of anything better to do with the huge amounts of leaves we have.  
 
Steve Thorn
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Daron Williams wrote:Nice! I still have some old soil moisture sensors and data loggers left over from my master's thesis... I think I will try setting those up and see what the sensors measure. It would be interesting to see if the soil moisture level would go up after mulching with no rain/watering. Could be a fun summer experiment!



That's an awesome idea, would be really interesting to see the results!
 
Daron Williams
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Great reasons Mike! Thank you for putting together that list!

Steve - it would be fun to do I just hope the sensors all work still... Been sitting in a box for a couple years but they survived being buried out at my field site for a whole year so they are tough!
 
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The best mulch I've ever had and the one I'm sticking to is green Acacia saligna foliage. Prune them with a hedgetrimmer, go over it with the lawnmower, put around a plant and add some woodlice and bang their population explodes. Does wonders for the soil.

Edward, Western Australia
 
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Jondo Almondo wrote:I'm envious of great big piles of woodchips, but it seems like cheating to just import masses of organic matter from another site to improve your own. Not to mention the energy intensive chipping and all the nitrogen lost to the atmosphere in the process. Sure its a waste product, but its also ecological madness and very inefficient.



If I can improve my soil with something someone else would have thrown away, and save them money in the process, where's the madness and inefficiency? I should think it's far more "inefficient" to have all that mass end up in a landfill, at a high cost to the tree service, and still have all the nitrogen loss, chipping, gas use, etc. Those things are generally done on site, long before the load would be delivered to the landfill.
 
Daron Williams
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Lauren Ritz wrote:

Jondo Almondo wrote:I'm envious of great big piles of woodchips, but it seems like cheating to just import masses of organic matter from another site to improve your own. Not to mention the energy intensive chipping and all the nitrogen lost to the atmosphere in the process. Sure its a waste product, but its also ecological madness and very inefficient.



If I can improve my soil with something someone else would have thrown away, and save them money in the process, where's the madness and inefficiency? I should think it's far more "inefficient" to have all that mass end up in a landfill, at a high cost to the tree service, and still have all the nitrogen loss, chipping, gas use, etc. Those things are generally done on site, long before the load would be delivered to the landfill.



I agree which is why I use wood chips but ultimately I would prefer that people stop generating the "waste" material i.e. wood chips. But for now there is a ton of it and I'm going to use it to boost my homestead. But I'm still trying to reduce my need for offsite inputs overtime by planting plants for living mulches and planting plants that can be coppiced and produce a lot of leaf litter and biomass in general that I can chop-and-drop.

The big issue is a lot of the wood chips are created through the clearing of land for uses that are not very good for the environment. Now if you are getting wood chips from tree service companies that are helping people clean up after a storm then that is not so bad. But I wish those people would use the wood chips on their own property...

Like a lot of things it is a bit of a mixed bag - there are negatives but there are also positives to using material like wood chips. I try to make the best calculation I can on the overall impact and so far I believe that by using wood chips that would have otherwise been considered a waste material I can at least keep it out of the landfill and use it to improve the fertility and abundance of my own place.
 
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I'm in love with mulch.  I scavenge bags and piles of gutter leaves.  In my little college town, there is a lot of competition for this resource, so you've got to act fast.  With five acres to tame, I use it to build new garden spaces in the meadow and into the brambly thickets.  I've abandoned the need for composting; tossing kitchen waste directly onto the soil ala Ruth Stout.  

Gee, I wish I could pee into the watering can.  I have to use a bucket.  And it goes directly onto the mulch too.

I noticed a few years ago that honey locust and sumac were infringing on the meadow, and began cutting the young volunteers at the soil line.  But that left a lot of trash wood to handle.  Enter wood chipper!  Having the wood chips so handy makes building new raspberry beds simple.  Tuck bush bean seed in just at soil level, and they add nitrogen and also produce mightily, despite being trimmed to a certain height by the deer.
 
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I think woodchips are mad and inefficient because more energy is used to create the resource than the resource can actually contribute to your soil.
Trees don't need to be atomized to break down. Opportunities for fungi and vines are lost.

I think theres a lot more to learn about mulch when you grow, harvest and process your own and you get to know the value and timescales of carbon.

I think Permaculture is most useful and anarchic when we can grow abundance with no inputs or finances. I like the idea of permies doing their own thing, while mountains of woodchips gather at the local depot.
The excess resource would prompt authorities to either assess their land management strategy or encourage them to do more landscaping/composting to the public benefit.

-
Anyone have experience with vetiver grass? I sow mustard seed mainly for green mulch (ala Gertrud Franck), which works well (and you can buy cheap seed from the supermarket).
 
Tj Jefferson
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I'm envious of great big piles of woodchips, but it seems like cheating to just import masses of organic matter from another site to improve your own



You know what they say, if you aren't cheating you aren't trying! I think others have already mentioned that this is, for me, a pure waste stream. I am upcycling waste, making bounty from it. And I am saving the tree guys fuel and money, which I think is beautiful. One of the tree guys brings his girls over, and it makes them smile when I tell them their dad has a role in the berries she eats! This is why I use chips, it fertilizes the whole little area I live, including the people in my neighborhood. I actually don't chip myself, I am building monster hugelmounds instead, but chipping is done by these services because there is literally no where to put the tree waste. Generally big logs are already sold to mills here (at a pittance), which leaves the ramial stuff for me!!!

I use the chips to
1) rapidly create planting areas for trees- I'm replacing garbage trees with ones that produce flowers, fruits or nuts, or fix nitrogen. I can have essentially bare soil and plant into it the second year with bargain whips. When mature they will provide chop and drop mulch but they have to grow first.
2) Increase the humidity on the entire farm, its like massive water storage
3) increase the insect life, detritovores get eaten by other bugs or birds
4) the diversity of trees and shrubs allows for many new insect species, many species would have a hard time getting started without the mulch
5) remineralize the soil, as the trees degrade the effluent soaks into the soil and cycles through again and again
6) Allow rapid tree growth- mulch (and tubes) means the trees grow out of browser range in a year(!)
7) Deposit humic acid, allowing better uptake of minerals
8) Provide a substrate for my Stropharia crop, trialling parasol mushrooms this year
9) soak up additional nitrogen and phosphates where the chickens are rotating
10) prevent erosion- chip piles placed on contour. Even in a hurricane almost no washout.

I could go on and on. I also could make a list about why I use it in the gardens. It has some downsides but as a tool for regenerative agriculture, it really stands alone.
 
Tj Jefferson
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I think Permaculture is most useful and anarchic when we can grow abundance with no inputs or finances. I like the idea of permies doing their own thing, while mountains of woodchips gather at the local depot.
The excess resource would prompt authorities to either assess their land management strategy or encourage them to do more landscaping/composting to the public benefit.  



I don't have any input on this other than to say that my experience is quite different. Authorities are among the most tone-deaf people generally in my exposure to them. Unless it affects their ability to keep getting elected, they aren't likely to stick their neck out. Most of these chips are not from a municipality anyway, they are from private arborists, generally small business people, often employing a very marginally employable bunch. I respect them, they do dangerous and often unpleasant work. Two of the guys I know are on work release for drug offenses. I hope this regenerates them as well.

 
Daron Williams
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Thanks all for the comments!

Ruth - sounds like you are making some great changes to your place with the leaves and other mulch!

Wood chip comments - I think this is an area that we should just agree to disagree on. Lots of permaculture people use wood chips and there are a fair number that see bringing in the inputs as a negative and choose not to. Both camps are still practicing permaculture in my view and are doing their best to improve their land and create an abundance.

Luckily, wood chips are just one of many types of mulches. If wood chips don't work for you there are many other sources.
 
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Ruth Meyers wrote:I'm in love with mulch...

Gee, I wish I could pee into the watering can.  I have to use a bucket.  And it goes directly onto the mulch too.



You can Ruth. You just need a shewee.  For $1.09 on ebay you can bypass the watering can entirely.  Direct to mulch pee application.  The shewee... NOT JUST FOR CAMPING ANYMORE!

;-)  Careful what you wish for. ;-)
shewee2.png
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Shewee in action
 
Daron Williams
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Well as far as that conversation goes there is an old thread from 2010 that still gets replies that goes into that topic in detail: https://permies.com/t/3965/women-peeing-outdoors

Talking about mulch - I just got 9 cubic yards (estimate from the driver) of free wood chip mulch dropped off at my place I can't do much with it at this point until the snow melts but the truck was at the building where my day job is located doing some tree trimming so I could not resist asking them. Worked out great and this mulch plus the leaves and wood chips I already have will go a long ways towards my goal of mulching all of my zone 1 (minus my eco-lawn)!



I don't get these sort of loads too often so this will help out a ton on my homestead
 
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Where I live, especially during the rainy season, certain parts of the farm produce so much biomass.  I'll see if I can put a recent picture here.  The locals slash it down, pile it up, and burn it, or leave the pile to rot in place.  And yet the tropical soils here are STARVING.  In many places the top soil is gone and farmers are trying to grow into a gravely, lifeless subsoil.  It's a lot of work, but my method is to slash it down with a machete, chop it into a size I can handle (about 2 ft) and then spread it everywhere.  Around trees, between rows in annuals and around perennials.  When we get rains here they are torrential, so having the mulch in big pieces helps keep them from washing away.  They help some with weed suppressing.  Weeds will sprout in and on the mulch, but they are easy to yank out on a walk through, and are often beneficial type weeds like blackjack, which all the livestock, especially the rabbits love.  Also some of the chopped mulch doesn't die, it will try to re-root.  Again just keeping vigilant and yanking up the piece if you see it starting to sprout leaves.  The soil is so hungry that it will eat through 6 inches of compost in one 4 month season.  You will find nothing but a few of the fattest sticks left.  So for me, it's part of a never ending cycle of controlling the bio-mass, and feeding/rebuilding the soil.
IMG_20190130_101244.jpg
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The shamba during the dry season in the toilet bowl area after one year of neglect. Biomass jungle taking over.
 
Ruth Meyers
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 Eww!  Ralph, that just looks wrong.  I take back my wish.  This old lady will squat.

 
Ralph Kettell
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Hi Ruth,

I know what you mean.  I was iffy about posting it, but my funny bone won out.   I think I first read about shewees somewhere on permies.

Sincerely,
Ralph
 
Lauren Ritz
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I may be wrong, but I think part of the dichotomy between "wood chippers" and non wood chippers is the ready availability of compostable biomass. If kept to just what you have on your own property, permaculture would largely be limited to those with a large enough property to have excess biomass and a climate capable of breaking it down. I have neither. I live on 1/3 of an acre in an urban desert subdivision. I collect leaves each fall from neighbors and any time I see a pile of bagged leaves. I get wood chips when I can. If not for outside sources I would still be sitting on a pile of sand and rock where nothing could grow. In order to have biomass, something has to be alive, either in or on top of the soil. In my climate it takes years for wood to break down. I tried hugelculture a number of times, both above and below the soil, and even with constant irrigation all I got for my efforts was a bunch of logs that sucked in all the water and left the soil around bone dry.

In some circumstances biomass must be either brought from outside, or cultivated over a period of years. I would rather not work fifteen or twenty years for soil I can actually use. If I can get biomass from outside, I'm going to. Even better if that biomass is something that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill.
 
Daron Williams
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Lauren Ritz wrote:In some circumstances biomass must be either brought from outside, or cultivated over a period of years. I would rather not work fifteen or twenty years for soil I can actually use. If I can get biomass from outside, I'm going to. Even better if that biomass is something that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill.



That is why I bring in mulch too - I want my kids to grow up with an abundant homestead and not have to wait till they are grown to see what is possible. Bringing in wood chips and fall leaves to my homestead (that had very few trees when my wife and I bought it) really boosts the fertility of the land. But I'm purposefully planting plants that will provide mulch onsite as they get bigger. Plants like lupine and maples that I can chop-and-drop. I'm also adding Sitka alder to see if it can be coppiced since as a nitrogen fixer it could bring a lot of benefits if I can regularly chop-and-drop it.

I'm also planting ground cover plants and low growing herbaceous plants to cover the soil.

I have 2.86 acres but the area I'm focusing on right now - my zone 1 - is also 1/3 acre. In that space I'm planting these mulch producing plants along with fruit trees, berries, vegetables, etc. It is not self-mulching yet but I hope to finish mulching it all this year and then start filling in the plants until it becomes self-mulching. Well self-mulching as long as I'm good about chop-and-dropping on a regular basis.

Hopefully, I can stop bringing in wood chips for my zone 1 area in 5 to 10 years. Though I will keep collecting fall leaves to create leaf mould as long as that remains an easy option in the fall.

Thanks for your comment!
 
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Here on the cool, wet Pacific Wet Coast, mulching has to be used with caution. I use some to protect areas for the winter, but it will stop the soil from warming up in the spring, so it could delay planting. (see Carol Deppe's work) In fact, I often use chipped tree on my paths, figuring that once it decomposes I can toss it up onto garden beds and put down fresh. Chips from off property usually come from companies tasked with clearing branches from near power lines. or from removing trees deemed dangerous. I'd rather use their chips than have the property owner burn them which still happens all too often. We've had two major windstorms in the last 6 weeks, both of which resulted in people being out of power during below freezing weather. I'll support preventative pruning, although I'd like it even more if people weren't so dependent on the grid!

Fire risk is high in British Columbia (Canada) and the reading I've done this winter suggests it's high and getting higher in many parts of the world. Please be cautious putting wood chips too near your house! That's a better place for chop and drop mulches, which I use a lot in the summer - chopping moist green growth seems to support worms etc and degrades fairly quickly.
 
Daron Williams
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Very true - I know a lot of people wait to put mulch on their garden in this area until late spring or even early summer.

I'm going to experiment with using leaf mould as my mulch and putting it down in the fall. It is very dark in color and I'm hoping it will have less of an impact on soil temp. Perhaps I will have to test it out by leaving some of the garden with no mulch...
 
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Hello guys,
I use mulching in my new vineyard. I cover the belt under vines with wood chips, straw, hay, grass clippings, horse-manure.. simply by anything, I get for free. Yes, the source of biological material comes from outside of my property. It is not much sustainable, but (as many of you have written) it is a waste, so using it is nothing against permaculture "laws".. I donĀ“t have any spare area or spare time to grow my own biomaterial.. Yes, of course it would be much more in a permaculture way, but it is not possible for me..  I plan to cut back the ammount of material in a future, as the vines get stronger and drought-ressiliant. Application of tons of such a material twice a year is quite physically demanding.
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The other thing about mulching, and using what is a 'waste" product, is that you are turning it into abundance. A decade down the track, you will have a rich soil and probably enough plants producing their own mulch. And people in your neighbourhood will be able to see your fertile soil and systems.
A picture paints a thousand words, and seeing a property with superior fertility will inspire others. To be honest, at this stage, we need to convince all the people we can to take up natural gardening, which includes trapping carbon in soils. If we convert a waste stream into fertility, we build not just our own garden, but the place where others may be inspired. And they can start tapping into that stream of 'waste" after we have, to build their own place of abundance.
 
Daron Williams
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Jan - thank you for sharing! Your vineyard looks great! You might like this article that was put out by a nursery in my area about how farmers are growing native plants in their vineyards to benefit wildlife and their grapes: http://fourthcornernurseries.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/FourthCornerCatalog-2018-19.pdf

The link takes you to a digital copy of their catalog which has the article in it. Starts on the cover and continues on page 10. Setup kinda like a newspaper.

Edit: Just wanted to add... the article focuses on native plants but I don't see any reason why this approach would not work with non-native plants too if that was a better fit for your situation. Though I'm always a fan of using native plants when possible
 
Daron Williams
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Nicola Stachurski wrote:The other thing about mulching, and using what is a 'waste" product, is that you are turning it into abundance. A decade down the track, you will have a rich soil and probably enough plants producing their own mulch. And people in your neighbourhood will be able to see your fertile soil and systems.
A picture paints a thousand words, and seeing a property with superior fertility will inspire others. To be honest, at this stage, we need to convince all the people we can to take up natural gardening, which includes trapping carbon in soils. If we convert a waste stream into fertility, we build not just our own garden, but the place where others may be inspired. And they can start tapping into that stream of 'waste" after we have, to build their own place of abundance.



Well said and thank you for your comment!
 
Jan Hrbek
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Daron Williams wrote:Jan - thank you for sharing! Your vineyard looks great! You might like this article that was put out by a nursery in my area about how farmers are growing native plants in their vineyards to benefit wildlife and their grapes: http://fourthcornernurseries.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/FourthCornerCatalog-2018-19.pdf

The link takes you to a digital copy of their catalog which has the article in it. Starts on the cover and continues on page 10. Setup kinda like a newspaper.

Edit: Just wanted to add... the article focuses on native plants but I don't see any reason why this approach would not work with non-native plants too if that was a better fit for your situation. Though I'm always a fan of using native plants when possible


Thank you for the link Daron, that looks great! I have sown my vineyard by a mix of native perrenials and herbs in the first year, but because of drought only some of them germinated and then also grasses overwhelmed them in following years.. So now almost only grass is there. "Problem is a solution", so I started to pasture geese there. But I plan to seed native perrenials and also non-native herbs (sage, lavander, Hyssopus and other.) under vines as a living mulch..
 
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Mulch is great but if a fire sweeps through my farm it will burn everything. That is why until now I have not been able to use mulch.
So the other day I was dreaming (as dreamers often do) and I came up with the idea to lay mulch and then coat with a mix of clay and water as a fire retardant. I will be testing this method this year to see how much clay it takes to stop it from burning. We actually did controled burning this year and we use a tractor to avoid having organic matter on the surface.
Hopefully with this new method of mulching I to will be able to take advantage of all the benefits of using mulch. And maybe even avoid some tractor use.
Mulch can also cause frost damage because the heat in the ground cannot escape. The opposite affect  can  happen  by mulching everywhere except around the plants. The heat is then forced to escape only near the plants thus aiding in frost protection.
 
Jeff Hodgins
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If you've ever tried killing perennial weeds with mulch you know that it has to be very thick unless you have cardboard or some other sheet material. During the past year or so I have found a better way to kill weeds with mulch if you don't want to use cardboard which can block water infiltration.  I build up a row or a pile of small branches first.This gets your pile up in the air very fast. Then cover the stick pile with finer mulch like straw then put the finest stuff and the household compost on top.  The weeds are shaded out and the mulch layer is too high in the air for them to reach through.  The row I made today is about 3 feet wide and 15 feet long . In spring I will plant all around the edge of the pile. A normal compost pile has airation problems but this method has plenty of air space, no need to turn ever.

I used to use thin layers of compost but when the weeds come up you end up having to move it all again just to do the weeding.
 
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I live in Norway in northern Europe, on the south-western coast. The climate here is mild and wet. It rains a lot, frost can occur from October till May but is not dependable. Mulching here is associated with a problem: slugs. They live and lay eggs under the mulch. If I for example plant no-dig potatoes under mulch, many will be eaten (to some extent) by slugs. One year I had to resow the whole of my carrot planting, I suspect the slugs ate the seedlings. This was not mulched, but under fleece, and the slugs would have a hiding place nearby. I often mulch an overgrown part of the garden with cardboard and straw (discarded hay). But next year plants with stong roots come up through the mulch again. But the main problem is slugs. We are also infested with the brown iberian slug here.
 
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Mulch and Mulching is a very large topic, let alone the diversity of soil amendments needed in different climates. I haul such materials for a living here in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado mostly. My walking floor trailer (pushes the material by itself out on the ground) hold 150 to 155 cubic yards of material, depending on the weight. The Truck and Trailer empty is around 38,000 lbs, and I can haul on secondary road up to 92,000 lbs. Depending how wet the material or composted is (how much soil content) it will dictate how much I haul. I work for sawmills hauling sawdust, wood chips (mostly Playground chips for schools), however, I can get wasted piles from these mills for free, and currently having 2500 sq. ft. of greenhouses at the farm, where I run loads when I am going home empty.

Yes, there is a chance of fire hazard (if it does you have to have a large water hose or truck and equipment to lay it out and water it down) with adding water to a pile and turning it, but it is required if you want to acceleration the compost process. Taking a 18" temperature probe is needed to monitor that it is not getting to hot, killing the needed enzymes and burning the material, while if it is to cold, nothing is composting. You have to check the ph of the soil if you want to dial in your results. (Old Farmer Almanac http://www.almanac.com/plant-ph) Enzymes accelerate the needed chemical reactions. We also have bought red wigglers worms by the thousands to also help us in the past. We have Jersey Cow and Chickens currently, that provide much of the fertilizer needed to make a really good soil amendment.

We have made different mixes to make it more tailored to the plant's needs, for example: Strawberries need acidic base and lettuces need a alkaline base. So more green chips works better for the first and very rotted material work better for the latter, even mixing in gypsumite at times. As for the person above with the slug problem, Chicken and Guinea Foul love slugs, but only Guinea's can crack the snail shells. They love slugs and will turn the soil to get them, while fertilizing as they go.  They can do plant damage, so you have to take some care as to what they can get to fully.

Also, ungased city water is not good for worms, enzymes, some animals, and planets... just a few other things to think about. Making compost teas are good to feed during the season, when the plants are looking stressed. The bottom line, technology is not a bad thing if you use it with an eye focused upon natural organic processes, trials and error learning, and sustainability... Permiculture! We are looking to start doing some Aquaculture here in the next year or so, which is a whole other animal.

Shalom
 
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Like almost everyone else on here, the mulch has done wonders for our heavily clay, acidic Pacific North West soil. In the Orchard a mix of mulch, mycelium and dolomite lime have created a beautiful dark soil. The bees seem to like to land on the wood mulch before going on to their hive/ hole (not sure why, warming, resting?) The Mulch has also helped us terrace some places that were too sloped causing top soil erosion and dangerous ladders. During the beginning of the Orchard layout there were vast spaces between trees and fruit shrubs that we planted potatoes in. The potatoes went bonkers, the mulch made harvest a breeze and during harvest we basically weeded out the whole Orchard just picking potatoes. We're doing that now in our Blue Berry patch waiting on those to fill out.

The mulch has also been great for burying our biannual compost, the winter compost is typically heavy on wine pressings, leaves, coffee and veggie scraps but the Summer compost often has alot more fish meal that needs to be buried to keep out the critters. I'm a big fan of the 12" mulch pile! Our raised bed recipe is storm debris huglekulture on the bottom covered with maple leaves and leveled 1/4 way up with mulch, add the compost, cover with coffee grounds from the cafe (nitrogen and scent!) and cover with a big ol' heaping mound of 12" mulch. The weight and depth of the mulch helps insulate so all winter the worms come from far and wide to live in our little future veggie bed!

Also, as a side note, the very large pile of mulch is a great deterant for the car campers that seem to be infesting Seattle.
 
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Location: Portland, United States
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Mulch vs. succession:

Mulch is the product of disturbance, and the first step of a succession toward a closed-canopy system.  

Disturbance is redox: combustion, respiration, batteries... It is a chain-reaction release-flow of ecological energy, typically embodied in the ligatures of carbon-based molecules (fuel/carbohydrate).  This release of free-floating carbon into the river of space-time is an opportunity.  Shape your river so that it winds about and steps down a chain of vernal pools held back by leaky weirs.  Remember we're talking about carbon, but the concept is the same as water - the great ocean to which all carbon eventually flows is the atmosphere (as CO2).  Complex carbon into your landscape, and by complex, I mean 1) facilitate interaction, and 2) slow flow.  Chop-and-drop is the most efficient, though not appropriate for all crop situations, ideal for tree/shrub-based systems.  

It is not an efficient use of your human energy to use imported mulch as a long-term weed-barrier.  It constantly breaks down into a perfect (weed)seed-bed, and mulch takes energy!  The next step up the successional ladder is living-mulch (layers of canopy).  Mulch is a spring-board for greater levels of organization, of complexity, of community, which are self-resilient through their dynamism.  The hardest thing for a gardener to do in the landscape is to grow absolutely nothing at all.

Thanks for the topic - close to my heart!
-B
 
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