To Mulch or not to Mulch

I want to share with you my experience with mulch this year. If you don´t know what the hell that is after all, I´ll explain it first.

What is mulch?

Mulch is just any small plant material that you put on the earth to cover the ground up to 10cm. You can use straw, green cuttings, leaves or even cardboard for that purpose. If using green cuttings or leaves make sure they don’t carry a pest like lies into your garden bed.

Why would you cover the ground?

Covering the ground is useful for many different reasons. It protects the ground of drying out and therefor reduces the additional watering necessary. It also helps to reduce weed growth and it gives earth worms a good habitat, as they like it dark and moist. When mulching with straw the straw might even reflect the sunlight and therefor increase the amount of light available for the plant. Another feature of mulch is that it decomposes slowly and so provides nutrients as well as organic matter, for the earth that it lies on.

My experience with it

From the experience of this year I can say that I agree partly. It has been an extraordinary humid summer till now. In late spring we had some very dry times, the times where I decided to put straw into the garden beds to mulch the earth. I was sure it was a good Idea and now I know that the mulch provided optimal living conditions for slugs. And there where many slugs this year. There was even a slug accident on the highway where cars would slip on a slug invasion. The slug counter today counts 680 in total that is only an estimation of slug creatures that me and my father gathered till now. They love the humid earth and the humid straw and they can move very easily on it. It is also almost impossible to see them and find them under the straw.

I also mulched in the greenhouse and can not recommend it. I also think it is not necessary as the greenhouse is more humid in nature already. The mulch in the greenhouse had the same effect as in the garden beds. There where many slugs and it is almost impossible to locate them under the mulch.

I also mulched the berries and fruit trees. Here the slugs did eat some of the neighboring herbs, for example the Vermont, which I found incredible. I did not even think they where interested in Vermont because it is extraordinary bitter. Maybe they where starving. Anyway the berries benefitted from the mulch I think.  Under the trees I mulched with old, thicker branches of wood and some small sticks. I also put some of the water lentils that the pond produces in übermaß there from time to time. I can’t really tell now if the fruit trees benefited from the mulching, because I don´t really have a reference, but the earth seems fluffy and healthy under them, which I then interpret as a good sign.

Conclusions

So my conclusion is that mulching is first of all a great technique and it depends on circumstances if it is beneficial.

– Mulching is definitely a good idea in dry areas / climate zones and in very dry summers

– it can be beneficial for berries and fruit trees independend of the climate zone and humidity of the season

– I would not recommend it in garden beds when it is a wet summer, like often found in tempered climate

Another thing I just read in a book of Chares Dowdling is that you can also cover the ground by planting closer together and always keeping seedlings ready to go into unplanted areas. Therefore the plants will shade themselves.

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