There is a very simple and very beautiful way of eliminating 98% of the drudgery and toil of gardening. It's very simple; just mulch your vegetable and flower beds. And that's it; no more weeding, no more hoeing, no more of all that back breaking, stooping toil - and your gardens look great - all the time. |
And if the odd week pokes through the mulch now and then, it is actually a pleasure to go and pull a few weeds. You'll see.
What you get from mulched gardens is inordinate good looks - all the time - and an equally inordinate measure of joy and satisfaction with the beauty of it all - and totally unclouded by the thought that you had to spend endless hours weeding and cultivating the whole thing. So, when the odd weed pokes through the mulch here and there, and now and then, it really is a pleasure to go out there and 'tidy up' a bit, now and then. I found myself wanting to, even itching to 'tidy up' a bit.
I continue to be amazed whenever I see un-mulched gardens. I can't understand it. It baffles me. And the more so because this beautiful no hassle, no toil, no labour way of gardening has a whole lot of additional powerful benefits. Besides the constant great good looks, it also keeps your gardens very healthy, and very productive.
A 3 to 4 inches deep layer of mulch also preserves a great deal of moisture, and this reduces the need for frequent watering, another substantial savings of time and labour. And hereabouts, when things heat up in Summer and we need to conserve water, this is a major, and great peace of mind, factor. But that's far from all. The constant moisture a mulch provides also does wonders for your plants. It eliminates the stress caused by lack of moisture and your plants can grow to their little heart's content.
Now then, if you can also use your dirty dish water in your gardens, you've not only solved the watering problems in summer, but you have a great fertilizer at the same time, and best of all, at no cost. And this 'double duty' of your dishwater is near the ultimate in conservation, and very, very 'green' - in many more ways than one.
A nice mulch also keeps the soil cool in the heat of day, and keeps it warm at night when our night time temperatures plummet. And this is another great boost to the health and vitality of your gardens. This alone prevents the dreaded blossom end rot in tomato plants, for instance. And of course, all the tropical natives, like tomatoes, peppers and melons - as well as all the tropical annuals in the flower gardens - just love it. It's one of the very best things you can do for them. And they'll reward you with strapping health and great productivity.
Mulching also eliminates all the labour of hoeing and cultivating. It chokes out all the weeds, which eliminates the need for hoeing. And even if you don't walk on your garden beds, rain will slowly compact and firm your soil, but the mulch absorbs the impact and leaves the soil underneath nicely loose. This eliminates the need for cultivating the soil. So, before you lay down your mulch, loosen the soil and the mulch will keep it that way for a long, long time - long enough that you never have to cultivate the soil again, until you lay down a new mulch.
Best of all, and if all this were not enough, it also enriches the quality and fertility of your soil. When the mulch decays, which it dos eventually, it adds its extremely valuable organic substance to the soil, enriching the quality, fertility, friability and moisture retention of your soil.
Last, but by no means least, the mulch is also a great haven for those miniscule hunting spiders, which keep your garden free of all insect pest (see "bye bye all insect pests" in these pages).
Here then is a list of the most common mulches:
Ground bark; my favourite for for flower beds (fine), around shrubs and trees (fine or medium), and in paths between beds (medium). Looks very natural and very neat. No Cedar bark though! Cedar bark contains a strong antibiotic - that's why cedar wood lasts so long - and it'll kill your gardens. Ground bark is slightly acidic, which is superb for rhododendrons, azaleas, and all other woodland plants. Needs a good dusting of dolomite lime (no other) underneath it to compensate for its acidity in flower beds and for other plants than wood land natives. Lasts for about 2 years, and needs only a bit of topping up every year to keep it at its optimum depth of 3 to 4 inches.
Wood chips; from chipped branches, shrubs, asf. Great around shrubs and trees, and in paths. Looks natural, but some people don't like its irregular look. Again, no cedar!
Wood shavings or sawdust; good around shrubs and trees, and in paths. Looks clean and natural. But it ties up nitrogen. Needs nitrogen fertilizer to compensate. It can also blow away in strong winds, and it sheds water when dry. Again, no cedar though!
Sheared weeds; my all time favourite for vegetable beds. Looks a bit 'messy' when fresh, but soon dries out to the neat and natural look of straw. Decays much faster than woody mulches, which is great for increasing the fertility, quality, friability and moisture retention capacity of your soil. And its totally free; just shear your weeds to 2 inches periodically - so they can grow again for more mulch - and lay the shearings over as a mulch. Doesn't need any compensation for acidity or nitrogen.
And right now, after the soil has warmed up, is the best time to lay down a mulch. It needs to be a minimum of 3 inches deep, and 4 inches is better, to effectively suppress weeds, retain soil moisture, even out soil temperatures and keep your soil loose. Keep the mulch away from the crown of plants though. In paths, lay down a double layer of cardboard first, to prevent the mulch being trodden into the soil. This needs to be renewed every two years.
Mulching your gardens - once a year is more than plenty - has so many priceless benefits, besides inordinate good looks, and saves so much labour, that I can't understand why every garden isn't mulched. As I said, it baffles me no end.
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