Mulch. Mulching. Mulches.

 

Hello Fellow Farmers and Gardeners, 

Today we will be discussing the benefits of using mulch in your garden, how we have utilized mulch in the Bounty Garden, and different types of mulch. Mulch is a surface covering intended to improve soil texture and provide nutrients. A few key components of good organic mulch include (but are not limited to):

  • Protecting soil integrity
  • Decreasing erosion
  • Improving drainage
  • Subduing weed growth
  • Providing aeration
  • Using mulch that does not contain weed seeds or fungal pathogens

As a plant positive practice that gives each plant room to grow, mulch is one of the best resources for an organic farmer to incorporate in their vegetable garden!

Straw v. Hay

It is a common misconception that the words “straw” and “hay” can be used interchangeably, despite the fact that they have distinctly different purposes. To clarify, straw typically derives from cereal grain plants, such as wheat, barley, and oats. Straw is the dry plant matter that remains after the seeds (or grains) have been harvested. Hay, on the other hand, is grown intentionally for animal feed; it is chopped before the plant goes to seed, dried, and stored. Some examples of high protein grasses used for hay include alfalfa, timothy, and sudangrass.

Why We Use Straw For Mulch

In the Bounty Garden, we have utilized straw mulch from grass clippings that we mowed in the field and let dry for a few days. The mulch was carefully placed in a “donut hole” shape around each plant in field 4, which is pictured below.

Straw is a wonderful mulch because it keeps the soil warm and protects the plants from weeds and potential infections. If you want to buy straw for your organic garden, make sure you purchase it from a reputable source, if you do not decide to make your own. This is crucial for ensuring that the straw does not contain any remaining weeds seeds and has not been contaminated with harsh chemicals. Straw not only strengthens the immune system of your garden, but it also makes it look aesthetically pleasing!

Additional Sources of Mulch

Aside from straw, there are many different types of organic matter that may be used to improve the overall quality of your soil. Other types of mulch may include, but are not limited to:

  • Pine needles
  • Farmyard manure
  • Cardboard
  • Peat
  • Garden compost
  • Wood chips

There are few other considerations to take into account when applying mulch. Keep layers of mulch no more than 1 inch thick to allow the diffusion of organic matter in the soil. Restrict contact between damp, decaying mulch and your plants to prevent rot. Give mulched areas a good soaking before cold weather to permit heat transfer from soil to air to avoid air frost. If the mulch source is quite high in carbon, the microorganisms will absorb nitrogen to balance the ration of nutrients, which may cause nitrogen depletion. Fear not! Alternative sources of nitrogen, such as compost tea, worm castings, comfrey tea, and seaweed extract, may serve as excellent top dressings to balance nutrient availability. Mulch is typically first applied in autumn, removed in the spring before sowing seeds, and reapplied when the plants begin to mature.
Well farmers, I know that was a lot of information to take in, but I hope it was helpful! Feel free to experiment with different types of mulch until you find the one that best suits the needs of your garden. Mulching is only one of the many organic practices that I have learned about while interning in the Bounty Garden over the last few months. I look forward to sharing my new-found insights with you, as the garden continues to share its bounties with us throughout the season. Enjoy every precious moment you have to reconnect with the earth! Happy mulching 🙂

Your Bounty Garden Intern, Simi Rodgers


Sources:

http://knowledgenuts.com/2013/12/11/the-difference-between-straw-and-hay/

http://www.the-organic-gardener.com/organic-mulch.html

http://www.usaforage.org/products/straw-vs-hay/

http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/cereal-grains

New Field. Field 10.

Field 10

In today’s blog, I would like to feature a new plot we started this season. It’s called Field 10. The spring management class started working on Field 10 as soon as we could. Starting in April, we used our BCS tiller for the primary tillage and continued to work the ground as the weather permitted. It took lots of hands to remove rocks, weeds, and rotate the soil to prep. Our goals were to have it measured and planted for early season crops.

Field 10 is located on the northwest side of the garden with a southern slope.   Partial shade covers the plants in the morning but afternoon sun is strong and keeps us growing. The width is 65 feet and the length around 30 feet. We have six rows that measure 30 inches each, with a 12-inch space in between. Then a 3-foot barrier next to the fence line was added for easy access and lined with thick landscape fabric. The fence is a four-foot-high chicken wire that was dug into a trench for stabilization and to keep critters from digging underneath. Once it was measured out it really started to take shape.

The first row consists of Asparagus, which will come up every year. Then we started with planting the other end of field with Kale, that was covered with paper mulch that we cut with holes for our crop. Down that same row we planted more Kale and Kohlrabi. The second row has flowering broccoli and cauliflower. The third row has red and green cabbage. The fourth row started a second planting of Kale then more red cabbage. The last and closest row to the asparagus was planted with Napa Cabbage, Kohlrabi, and Fennel.

So far, we have had some pest damage from deer and the cabbage looper. We will be using VHS tape around the fence to make noise to scare our deer. There will also be an additional trellis on the fence to try to keep them out.   Some deterrents for the looper can include botanical and citrus oils, sprinkle leaves with cornmeal or rye flour, or purchase resistant varieties. They can also be handpicked most will hide on the underside of the leaves along the leaf veins. Make sure to crush any yellow bullet shaped eggs found on the leaves. As always try organic methods and be proactive with diagnostics.

Happy farming and don’t forget to take the time to enjoy your space.

By Alissa Lick-  2017 NWTC Bounty Garden Intern

Field 10 2