Love your garden but tired of all the weeding and watering?
As much as we all like our gardens, I have yet to run into anyone who wishes they could spend more time weeding and watering. You know, bending back, knees, hoeing, all those things that have us wincing the next day. While I am all for a good workout, time management matters in all our lives, and a good rainfall can wreak havoc with that.
The Answer? Mulch your garden!
If you are gardening and not mulching you are doing yourself and your plants and soil a disservice.
Because without it, you are creating a whole lot of extra work for yourself. Here’s how.
By definition, mulch is layering organic matter like leaves, grass clippings, compost, and even old, dull cardboard and newspapers over the soil in your garden.
Reasons to Mulch
The reasons for doing this are many.
- Moisture retention
- Soil temperature regulation
- Weed control-keeps most of those weeds from getting started, therefore saving you time weeding. Not to mention your back and knees.
- Water conservation-when you slow down moisture evaporation from the soil, you save on water.
- Because of the previous point, you save on watering time, and therefore your time.
- You are adding organic matter to your soil, easily, and giving your earthworms and soil organisms food. Which keeps your plants healthy and producing well.
- This is a really big one: you save on your back and knees being pulverized doing all that extra weeding! If you have any kind of back, hip or knee issues, you probably are happiest with less weeding time.
I show you in detail here how I set up my greenhouse and garden with mulch, and how to make watering super easy and quick. Take a look.
There are many different types of mulch for different types of gardens. You may be familiar with cedar bark mulch for a bed of shrubs that enjoy the acidity of bark mulch. This isn’t recommended for vegetable gardens though, as it is too acidic for most vegetables.
For the purposes of your garden, you want sources that are a little gentler on the Ph scale and your veggies and herbs.
How to Mulch.
A. A good dose of compost or composted manure between your rows and around the plants should come first. This will give nutrients down through the roots and soil every time you water.
B. If you are adding a soaker hose, to set on a timer for regular watering at specific times, this is when you lay it out.
Directly onto the soil under any mulch
Between the rows, around your tomatoes, near the roots for seeping directly into the soil.
Test out the soaker hose by turning it on a few minutes to make sure all your plants and rows are going to be properly watered
C. Next comes a layer of blackout material to smother weed growth. My favorites for this is cardboard and newspaper. Use the dull, flat stuff for newspapers, because it breathes better and breaks down better in the soil. I’ve heard various theories over the years how the ink has chemicals and might not be good for the soil. However, I gauge my soil by my earthworms. They don’t like or stay around if much is used in the way of chemicals. Earthworms love the dull newspaper. I always have earthworms in abundance.
If you’re not ready to try the newspapers yet, do at least give everything a good layer of grass clippings. It should be mentioned that if you use herbicides on your lawn, you don’t want to put this in your vegetable garden. Herbicides do not have a good effect on your vegetable growing capabilities. In fact, it can kill your garden right off, depending on the product and how much you’ve used.
This is where a good thick layer of grass and/or leaves comes into play. A good three or four-inch layer down the paths, between the rows, and up to a couple of inches from around the plants stems of things like tomatoes and peppers. You don’t want the mulch touching the stems, as moisture contact can lead to blight and mildew issues.
If this is your outside garden, give everything a good watering to pack down the layers. It also make it more impervious to wind.
If this is in your greenhouse, I never suggest watering anywhere but around the roots of the plants. Keeping moisture at a minimum is key to a healthy greenhouse, as it is so much easier to have virus and mildew issues.
- I rarely weed my garden or greenhouse by doing this. There is the odd weed that pokes up, but the few minutes it takes every few weeks to eliminate any loiterers is a far cry from the rampaging results I have without.
- Watering, especially in summer heat and water shortages is a vastly different task than without. I still water in the greenhouse almost every morning in a heat wave, but the little bit of water I give each plant goes a long way. They aren’t dried out mid-afternoon. My tomato plants aren’t stressed from lack of water, or too much water when I do get to them, resulting in cracking or blossom end rot.
- The outside garden and greenhouse plants all like having even temperatures and moisture around their feet. This results in better crops and over-all plant health.
In the fall, the newspaper and cardboard is all dug into the soil and the earthworms break it down over the winter. Along with a goodly serving of compost. This adds extra tilth to the soil, providing better nutrients and aeration to the soil the next year.
My suggestion is, if you don’t have newspapers on hand, go down to your local recycling center, and grab a few bales of dull old newspapers and large cardboard boxes. (The cardboard boxes can be laid flat over the newspaper and weighted down to prevent the newspaper from flying everywhere.)
Lawn clippings, leaves, and compost can be added on top of this for added weight and nutrients.
Let me know how you are doing with your garden! I’d love to hear from you.