Organic mulching materials include grain straw, fresh or old hay, freshly cut fodder or cover crops, chipped weeds, wood shavings, tree leaves, cotton ginning waste, rice or buckwheat husks, and other crop residues. Hay and straw are among the most commonly used organic mulches in organic horticulture. Organic mulch is any type of mulch that was once alive. It includes things like wood chips, bark, and straw.
All organic mulches break down and improve soil. Organic mulches are often by-products of other industries, while inorganic mulches are made from non-natural or artificial materials. While the two types are at opposite ends of the spectrum, each has been used for aesthetic reasons and has its own advantages. Organic mulches originate from living materials.
They can consist of herbs, leaves, straw, crushed bark, pine needles or compost. Not only does compost give texture to the soil, it also inclines it, it has nutrients that immediately seep into the soil, but it also works the same way as any other mulch. Use generous quantities from your compost bin (or pile) to get the ultimate in mulch for the garden. Gather large quantities of dry, autumnal leaves and use them on your vegetable bed immediately after picking them up.
You can use dry leaves as traditional mulch (like a blanket on the ground) or place them under the soil (on an empty garden bed) and let them make bread during the winter. When spring comes, you'll have a nice, moist soil to plant. The newspaper is one of the most practical gardening tools in history and is fabulous as an organic mulch. It's easily available to most people, and if they don't have one, your neighbor does.
100% biodegradable newspaper and Earth bugs love it. Both straw and seedless hay work well as mulch, though, if you're mulching an ornamental base plant, neither would look attractive in that particular environment. Straw, seedless hay is great for the garden, but be sure to place it in thick layers. If you use a grass clipping as mulch, keep the layer under 4 inches; if it is piled much higher, the grass will “clog up” and be deprived of oxygen (anaerobic).
Which means it will produce an undesirable odor. Sign up today and save up to 61%. This layer of decaying leaves, wood and other things that once lived is what fuels the soil's cycles to grow everything from huge redwood forests to small patches of lettuce in the garden. Mulch keeps plant roots protected from extreme temperatures.
They act as insulators against both heat and cold. Many gardeners use heavy mulches, such as straw, to winter strawberries, roses and other perennials in colder climates. Compost is an incredible mulch for tilting soil and suppressing weeds. It's one of the cheapest solutions for your garden and works great with orchards, including perennial vegetables.
You can use it to establish your garden and add 1 to 4 layers of thickness each season to continue building soil from top to bottom. If you sift the compost through a metal cloth of 1 to 2 pieces, the fine texture will be a perfect mulch to sow directly into. You can buy a subscription or make your own. You can even compost citrus fruits and other materials you might not know about.
Either way, make sure that it is completely decomposed (with no visible food debris), that it is not hot (still “cooking”), that it has no weeds (that it has reached a sufficiently hot temperature in the composting process) and that it is not contaminated with any herbicide. Wood chips are an excellent mulch for roads, as well as for perennial garden beds and areas around shrubs or fruit trees. Woody mulches are high in carbon, so they decompose very slowly. This makes them great for weed suppression, but not so good for annual gardens that are replanted several times a year.
Be very careful when buying bags of wood chips or bark at large garden stores, as many standard garden mulches are treated with harmful chemicals and artificial colors. The best source of wood chips is a local Tree arborist, who will gladly throw a load of wood chips near your garden after pruning or cutting down nearby trees. Use wood chips to cover your paths between garden beds (they will help reduce slug and tick populations) and around woody plants. A walkway with wood chips keeps harvest baskets and garden boots clean.
This will also prevent your garden from getting too dirty during the rainy months. In fall, you often find me raking and picking up leaves in bags anywhere I can find them. Fallen leaves are one of the best garden mulches. You should choose deciduous leaves (broad leaves) that fall in autumn and avoid coniferous (or evergreen) leaves, such as pine needles, because they are very acidic and have less surface area.
Maple leaves are my favorite because of their wide flat surface to suppress weeds and their wide availability. Straw and hay bales are common fall decorations with many uses on farms and gardens. When mulching, it's important to differentiate between the two. Both are dry grasses, but are harvested at different times.
Straw is harvested for non-food purposes, such as mulching and bedding animals. It is made up of drier plant stems that are harvested after the hay has already been rescued. Straw is generally seedless, making it an excellent mulch. Straw is an excellent mulch for pumpkins, cucumbers, herbs, perennials and winter trails.
It is very important to check that straw bales have not been sprayed with herbicides, which, unfortunately, is very common in grass and cereal crops. Herbicide residues in straw bales will not only harm plants in your garden, but could expose your family to toxic chemicals (something you probably won't want as an organic gardener). The newspaper is a cheap and accessible garden mulch that suppresses weeds and grass like no other. Creatures, like earthworms, also love to live under this moist mulch and enrich the soil below with their excrement.
Standard fine newspapers use soy-based ink and are 100% biodegradable, as long as you avoid laminated or glossy magazine-like pages. The newspaper is ideal for setting up gardens and can be placed five layers thick or more. You will need to moisten it and cover it with compost or vegetable soil to prevent the paper from escaping. Also ideal for catwalks.
I wouldn't recommend covering it with mulch around vegetables already planted. Cardboard lasts longer than newspapers and actually keeps weeds down. It also slowly enriches the soil and creates excellent trails. You can place other mulches such as compost, wood chips or straw on the cardboard to prevent it from going away.
Because grass can become anaerobic and start to smell bad, you should not place layers of grass deeper than 3.Better yet, you can first use the clippings in your compost pile and then use them as a finished compost mulch. The key to covering up cover crop residues is to remove them before they produce seeds. You can do this with a lawnmower, a weed trimmer or a scythe. My favorite summer cover crop is phacelia (a beautiful purple flower that bees love).
It is extinguished with the first frost and will leave a nice fluffy mulch on the surface of the garden. A live mulch is the most environmentally friendly permaculture method for covering a garden. Live mulches are low-growing companion plants that grow between crops without competing with them. One of my favorites is creeping thyme (not the thick, raised type).
Creeping thyme can be planted under strawberries, pumpkins, winter squash, or melons and will provide a clean, beautiful surface for fruit to rest on. Apply organic mulch at the start of the growing season, but keep in mind that as the season progresses, the mulch will gradually settle and rot at the bottom. When trying to decide which mulch to use, it's best to see what type of mulch aligns with your gardening goals. While inorganic mulch doesn't provide any nutritional benefit to the soil like organic mulch does, there are other benefits to its use.
If you live in a cold climate, organic mulch may not be the best option for your heat-loving vegetables, as it will prevent the soil from heating up. Compost is a nutrient-rich mulch, but it works best as a thin layer around plants that can be covered with a different mulch. In general, organic mulch provides more benefits to plants, but inorganic mulch doesn't necessarily harm plants either. Wood chip mulch is best for covering trees and shrubs, flower beds, perennial flowers, orchards and walkways in flower and vegetable gardens.
Bark mulches are expensive, tend to compact and form a barrier to water, and are not as good at conserving water as wood chip mulch. Organic mulch creates nutrient-rich soil that helps plants thrive, while inorganic mulch can last longer. . .Cairns Tree Lopping Pros
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