While it’s snowy and windy out, it’s a good time to start thinking about ways to improve the quality of your soil in the season ahead. One thing that we would absolutely encourage you to do is to mulch…and here’s the main reason why: Bare soil does not thrive!
What’s wrong with bare soil?
Soil does not like to be left bare. That’s why weeds move in so quickly, to protect the soil. In fact, bare soil that is exposed to the elements will struggle in several ways:
- In dry and/or windy spells, the top surface of soil will dry out so much so that any subsequent rainwater runs off it, rather than soaking into it. Plants then take moisture from the lower levels, leaving the soil depleted. A vicious cycle begins!
- Rain washes the soil away, and wind blows it around, which can leave the tops of plant roots easily exposed.
- Beneficial organisms that live at the top level of soil die off leaving the soil unbalanced.
- Nutrients are lost, damaged by sun, rain and wind.
What is a mulch?
Our simple definition of mulch is this: Material that is spread around plants on the surface of soil. This could be compost, decomposed wood chips, leaf mould, seaweed, well rotted manure.
It can also be fresh wood chip, or straw, but these are not as effective as they take a while to break down and do not nourish the soil as well. Likewise, you could use cardboard or polythene, but these have their limits. Our first choice would be to use homemade organic compost if you can.
How does a mulch help?
The mulch covers the soil. You spread the mulch between plants, covering bare soil, and thus protecting it.
- Helps soil to maintain moisture balance during both wet and dry spells
- Prevents weeds
- Feeds organisms
- Reduces need to dig/disturb the eco-system of the soil (Have a read of some of our no-dig articles – see below)
- Nourishes the soil as nutrients from compost are absorbed into the soil
- Protects plant roots from exposure to sun/wind
How thick should a mulch be?
Anything from 3cm to 10cm is great – a thicker mulch will prevent more weeds
When should I mulch?
It is best to mulch straight after planting out your veggies in spring. But, you can add a mulch at any time during the growing season and your plot will benefit.
How will my crops benefit?
You’ll find that your veggies thrive when mulched as they will have better access to nutrients and water, which helps them to keep healthy. This can be in terms of fighting pest damage, fungal diseases, problems like splitting tomatoes and so on. Overall, you should enjoy a much better, healthier harvest!