For much of the year, Jamey has mulch on the brain.
We mulch our gardens pretty heavily, pulling the mulch aside to plant and then bringing it around the base of the plants once they are established. This technique helps keep moisture in during the dry days and weeks of summer and helps keep weeds down, especially if we mulch thickly enough. The weeds that do their darnedest to get up through the mulch are relatively easy to pull out since the ground is kept moist because of the mulch. The mulch also provides clean paths on which to walk so our feet don't get stuck in the mud after a few rainy days.
All that said, mulching is not free from it's problems. Depending what the mulch is or where it comes from, it may carry seeds that can sprout into unwanted plants and weeds. And then there is the task of getting all that mulch. You'd be surprised how much mulch breaks down and becomes mixed into the soil (the chickens help with this during the winter) in just one year. In the past two seasons, we have used seven large round hay bales. So, finding mulch is something we're always thinking about.
Ok, ok. It's something Jamey is always thinking about. I know that he's thinking about it, so that frees me up to not think about it. Kind of like how I spend a lot of time thinking about what's for dinner and how and when to prepare it. Thanks to me and because of this, Jamey is free to just sit down and eat.
Hmm. Meal preparation every day...finding mulching sources several times a year.... I'll stop there. Only because he's in school. Full time. Studying things so foreign to me that I don't even ask him about his classes anymore, just his day. Is that wrong?
Mulch. Yes, mulch. We usually mulch our gardens with hay or straw that can no longer be sold or fed to animals because it is old or has gotten wet. It is always cheap and sometimes even free if we're able to find someone who has some to get rid of. Those seven large round bales? We got them for $5 a bale instead of $30 a bale for hay of good quality. We have a minivan and a trailer, so Jamey has to transport the bales on the trailer, often having to make repeated trips. We also use leaves and grass clippings. The neighbors donate their mulched leaves and clippings and we add in ours, but none of us have tons of leaves thanks to the hefty breezes that sweep over our hill in the fall.
This year, we are trying something new. You know how most cities provide leaf curb side pick-up in the fall? Well, Jamey discovered that in town you can load up a trailer full of these smelly, albeit fabulous, decomposing leaves and haul them away. For FREE- if you pitchfork them yourself. For $4 they'll load them for you. Jamey chose the pitchfork method. Last week, he got our first load.
Look at that lovely stuff. The last benefit to mulching your garden that I will mention is that all this decomposing organic matter does wonders for your soil. We can attest to this. Our main garden was half the size it is now at one time. That original side, which has been mulched heavily for four years, yields us much better produce (both quantity and quality). We tend to have high concentrations of clay in our ground and the organic matter has helped to build more workable soil.
So, there you have it. A solution to our (Ok, Jamey's) yearly mulch question? We will see.