If you love to garden but hate to weed then you might want to learn the benefits of mulching your garden. A step that most gardeners skip over but so incredibly beneficial to your plants.
I love to garden, really I do. I get so excited in January when all the seed catalogs come. I then spend most of February planning and mapping everything out. Oh, I have myself some very lofty dreams in February. I am an “eyes are bigger than my stomach” kind of gardener. 🙂
Then in March, I start all my peppers and tomatoes indoors, which is easy by the way. If you have never done it you can read How to Grow Your Own Tomato Plants From Seed to learn how.
I tend to them daily, watering and adjusting their lighting. I just love to watch them sprout and grow. It really is amazing what happens all because we put a seed into a pot of dirt.
Next, in April I begin to prep the soil. Getting everything ready for my young and fragile plants.
May is when it all gets planted. From the new seedlings to the packets of seeds. All in neat little rows.
June I water and water and maybe water some more as everything begins to grow and the garden gets greener and greener.
July is when it hits.
Thousands and thousands of weeds.
And that is when I begin to lose interest. Hey, a girl can only weed a 40 x 80-foot garden so much and the novelty begins to wear off. And for some reason, people tend to frown upon dirt as a nail polish option. :
A few years ago I began mulching my garden…HEAVILY.
Hubs was appalled. He insisted that rototilling in between the rows was the way to go. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the time to till up a garden every single week or even more if we have a wet summer. Therefore I am left to my own devices. (little does he know I LOVE to be left to my own devices!)
Since I have been mulching my garden, weeding is pretty much a thing of the past.
No, it isn’t pretty in the beginning, but as your plants grow and thrive the mulched rows will disappear. Plants will produce more without a cluster of weeds hogging all the nutrients in the soil. And diseases will be a thing of the past because now you will have more time to really look at your plants and catch things early.
Why should you mulch your garden?
Well first of all, as I mentioned above, to keep the weeds away.
Listen, homesteading is a lot of work and there seem to be so many chores that always need to be done. Why not do what you can to limit how often some of those chores need to be done so you can put your attention elsewhere?
Next, mulching protects your plants from disease. Most diseases happen during watering. When we water any soil born pest or illnesses can splash up onto the leaves. This is bad and something you need to keep from doing if at all possible. Mulching prevents that by acting as a sort of splash barrier.
Mulching also works great at keeping moisture in the soil. This is great if you live in a dry area. Keep that moisture in where the roots are and really help your plants to grow big and strong.
Mulching Your Garden – A Step by Step Guide
Step #1 Plant everything
Make sure you mark your rows well so you do not mulch over seeds.
I use mounds to plant so my rows are easy to see. Planting in mounds is also helpful if you have a very rainy season. The mounds keep the water from rotting out the roots of the plants allowing them to flourish and grow.
This is especially true with onions. They do so much better when planted in mounds, find out how I plant this way HERE.
Step #2 Start with paper
Lay down a layer of newspaper or brown paper feed bags in between the rows. This will act as a barrier for the weeds making it hard for them to get through and grow.
The newspaper is perfect to use because it is thin and will compost down fairly quickly. Usually, by the end of the growing season, you will have shreds of paper instead of the whole sheets you put down in the spring.
When you are closing up your garden for the fall and see just too much paper you can remove some of the larger pieces. The small ones can just be worked into your soil.
If you are concerned about the ink and composting it directly into your garden, you can read more HERE. There is some debate as to whether or not composting newspaper is a bad thing, so do your research and make the choice that is best for you and your garden.
MY FAVORITE GARDENING TOOLS!
- Rake – A must have for any gardener.
- Pitchfork – This is great for working in compost and spreading mulch.
- Wheelbarrow – The older I get the more important this tool is!
- Wagon – A great way to move plants and other objects around the homestead.
- Hand tools – Don’t buy cheap here or they simply will not last.
- Kneel pad – I used to laugh at these, but now I LOVE them! They really save my knees.
Be sure to place your paper as close to your plants as possible without hindering your watering. You want to keep the weeds away yet not strangle your plant. A few inches of space will be just about perfect.
Step #3 Cover the Paper with grass, straw or leaves
Grass clippings are a great option for this step if you have them. You can also use leaves or straw. Do not use hay when mulching between your rows since hay contains seeds.
Not sure what the difference is between straw and hay?
A straw bale is made of up stalks which is the wasted product of wheat. This type of bale is most commonly used as bedding for livestock. It contains no seed heads or seeds so it can be safely used in gardens as a mulch or a winter cover.
A hay bale is cut grass or alfalfa and is used to feed livestock. It contains every part of the plant including the seeds. If you use this type of bale in your garden beds you will be adding a load of seeds to your beds including weed seeds as well.
Trust me on this, I have done the legwork.
Hay in a garden is a no-no and will only cause you to have to weed more than you ever imagined.
The purpose of the mulch is two-fold.
First, you need to hold that paper down so it doesn’t blow away. Remember, the paper is the weed barrier so holding it securely in place is key.
Second, and the green matter (nitrogen-rich) and brown matter (carbon-rich) will benefit your soil. This is the mulch you are using to hold the paper down.
If you are not sure what your soil needs, you can purchase an inexpensive soil test kit. These kits are great to have on hand. They are super easy to use and work remarkably well. You can purchase one HERE.
Step #4 Water everything down
This step just ensures that all your hard work doesn’t blow away. The goal here is to give a good water but not heavily soak things.
Like I said you are just anchoring down the mulch and the paper so it doesn’t blow away in the wind.
And that’s it friends!
Mulching for me takes at least a week or two.
I prefer grass clippings but in spring those are hard to come by. Hubs has learned to dump all grass clippings next to my garden. This way I can mulch as I go and everything I need to do the job is close by.
If you have a big garden the tip here is to do a little every day until it’s done. Small steps help to make a large job less overwhelming.
Weeding can be very time-consuming and sometimes a shock to a new gardener. Although mulching is quite a bit of work, in the beginning, it is an investment that will save you a whole lot of time later on in the season.
And don’t forget the added benefits of giving your plants room to flourish and grow.
Have you tried your hand at mulching your garden? If so, how did it work for you?
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