Mulch is magic!

Stressing over the garden underwater was all for naught; it’s as though it never flooded, perhaps it even benefited.  I won’t worry about my location again; it’s all good.

Interestingly, I got my garden in on the exact same day that I did last year.  It’s perfect weather, raining every night.  Except that could be too wet for the beans.

For some reason, everything seems so easy this year!  I give mulch the credit.  Mulch is magic, I say.  There are two downsides, that I can tell:  it would suck if you had to acquire and transport straw instead of having it constantly available as a waste by-product of horse ownership, and it doesn’t work for scatter seeding or plants that reseed themselves.  Which is also an upside, since that’s how most weeds operate.

I just don’t get non-mulchers.  What, do you like weeding? It’s so easy.  Pile on the straw, leave it there, never weed, never till, and when you want to plant something, rip apart the blanket of mulch to expose the soil where you want to seed.   The upper surface reflects the baking heat of the sun, the interface with the soil retains moisture and warmth so you can water less often and more effectively. It  composts and produces warmth, prevents erosion, blocks out the sun so nothing grows where you don’t want it to, and contributes carbon to the soil; the worms literally carry it down into the dirt which aerates it.  I can see it happening; under the top dry surface of my straw mulch, the straw is brittle and crumbling, and under that it is wet and black and hard to tell sometimes what is straw and whats earth. There are endless worms, thriving on the very surface of the dirt, and the soil is much darker than it was last year after my laborious amending.  Not black yet, but dark brown; I’m really pleased.  Apparently,  there’s never too much mulch.  When I piled on the winter layer of mulch it was two feet plus thick, and this spring, six inches.  That’s a lot of organic matter turning into soil.

Did I mention “never weed”; “never till”?  This is the whole point of permanent gardening: never step on the soil you grow in (don’t compact it), add everything you want to on the top (compost etc), and then never have to till it or turn it.  Let the worms do that for you.  I’m really glad I learned this already.  It has to be about 10% as much work to keep adding mulch as it is to weed manually for a season.
Ok, so when you have a bed perfectly blank of everything except the soft green shoots in a laser straight line, the colour of the new leaves contrasting with the rich dark moist soil, that really is more attractive than my spread out piles of old hay.  But that green on black vision lasts for about 15 minutes, before the dandelions and vetch invade, or else the sun bakes your soil to a sad dusty dun and the plants whimper.  Mulch wins.

I’ve learned two things from last year, though.  Next time I won’t dig out a trench for a walkway.  It’s too deep.  I’d rather lose a bit of useful soil by compacting it walking around on top.  And while plastic/poly is useful for taking back dirt from grass, I’m never going to try the “punch holes in the plastic where you want to grow a plant” thing again.  Didn’t work for me.  Back to mulch (see mulch, above).

It just seemed to go so much faster.  A day, to plant everything.  Of course, the real time goes into starting something- the infrastructure.  Last year it was creating the garden space- all the tilling and hauling manure to build soil.  This year, it’s fencing it, and putting an irrigation system to it.  Still, it seemed so much easier this year, even though I planted roughly twice the area as last year with the three extra beds.  A lot of seeding.

Next year, I “ambition” to do better preparing in advance, starting all my own starts from seed.  Also I want to dabble in seed saving.

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