Organic Gardening and Mulch

Hello and welcome back to the Planet Forward blog for another edition of my organic gardening series. Today, we’re talking about mulch. Mulch may not be glamorous, but you’d be surprised at the impact it has on your garden.

A few years ago I had come in from the garden to find a gardening expert taking calls on Martha Stewart’s SiriusXM radio channel. I called to ask a question about my tomatoes and casually mentioned I had just finished from an hour or so of rigorous weeding.

(photo: sustainablelivingwise.com)

The gardening expert told me that I should garden smart and not waste my time on weeding. I was told that the best way to prevent weeds from coming up was to put down mulch. He suggested a combination of dried leaves and pine needles easily found for purchase at nurseries. After an exhaustive internet search, calling local business and just stopping by anywhere that might sell mulch; I was unable to find what I wanted.  I searched high and low and no one knew what I was talking about. The only answer I came across was that perhaps this product isn’t sold in Canada, as the expert was from the U.S. Martha’s gardening guru also warned me away from thick chunk wood mulch, as it would promote root rot—and no one wants root rot.

Last year, I tried something else I had read about and that was putting down newspaper. Those who were reading the blog before might member that despite my best efforts, as soon as we had a thunderstorm the papers flew everywhere. My entire backyard was covered in old newspaper and none of it was in the garden.

Once that experiment failed I gave up on the idea of preventative weed control. Then came the advice given from my LinkedIn groups. I post these blogs to various discussion forums about organic gardening on LinkedIn and have benefited from my peers’ expertise. I was told that many gardeners had used thinly cut wood mulch successfully in their gardens. I filed that information away and said I would make a decision next year.

While purchasing the flowers for the front of the house, I found that thin, biodegradable, organic wood mulch was on sale.  I took that as a sign and bought six bags. Though I’ve been told it will be safe for the plants, when I put it down in my garden I left a small space at the base of each plant so their roots had some room away from the mulch. If you recall I even put mulch down around my flowers in the front. So, far the mulch is working. My garden looks lovely and the best part is that when I’m unable to garden regularly weeds do not overrun the garden.

My plan for the fall is to rototill the garden again, so that the mulch mixes in and will help enrich my soil. Here’s hoping this whole mulch thing works out for me.

If you have any organic gardening tips, tricks or stories to share please share your ideas in the comments. Until next time, happy growing.
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5 Comments

  1. Newspaper mulch is an excellent way to keep down weeds. Just don’t leave it exposed (unsightly and, as you experienced, guaranteed to blow away). Instead cover the newspaper with shredded hardwood. It will look tidy, and you’ll have another layer of organic material that ultimately will break down and improve your soil as well as reduce the weed population.

  2. Alessio GennariAlessio Gennari08-10-2013

    I prefer the way shown by Fukuoka in his own book “One-straw revolution”. At least for kitchen gardens. Weed are not necessary the enemy. And to much organic matter, especially in not hot weather areas, could be dangerous for plants if it’s not broken down.

  3. Bob BarfieldBob Barfield08-10-2013

    I personally would not dig/till the organic matter into your soil. By doing what you do by placing mulch on the soil your soil will become humus rich and our wonderful natural world will do all the hard work for you from the larger critters such as worms (you should hopefully have up to 30m2), down through the food chain beetles, centipedes etc to bacteria, fungi etc. all this will feed your soil (because it does get hungry, of course if it is hungry your plants are) then we spend a fortune on various forms of fertiliser. I could go on for hours on this subject but as I am tapping away in my bed I am off to slumberland.

  4. Rycke BrownRycke Brown08-11-2013

    I used newspapers under several inches of compost for about 2 years into my professional career, after using it for 10 years or so in my own gardens. After a while, I realized that the newspapers were superfluous and even counter-productive. If it was wet and wormy, the two layers disappeared quickly and stopped nothing; if not, then the roots stopped at the newspapers and did not go deep, and water tended to run off the papers and not soak into the ground.

    Do you not have compost in your area? Put down two inches of compost and stop most small weeds and seeds. Put down 6 inches and grow big vegetables. Cover the compost with coarse bark, wood mulch, needles or leaves enough to hide it from sun and soften the rain.

    Scatter your small seeds into it; poke larger seeds and plant small starts into the compost. Larger starts, 6″ pots and up, need to be planted at soil level, or the compost and mulch will evaporate and leave them high and dry.

    Gardening naturally,

    Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener

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