The Perfect FREE Mulch

| 6/4/2014 9:18:00 AM

beans with mulch

Organic gardening is about two things: weed control and pest control. Successful gardening is about supplying the plants with nutrients and sufficient moisture.

One of the important elements of Permaculture is to mimic the systems found in nature. As leaves fall from the trees to the ground in a forest, they form a natural mulch that builds topsoil. We can follow this example by using leaves as mulch in our garden.

Mulching With Straw

straw mulch

In the garden, if bare ground is exposed to sun, weeds will grow. Weeds compete with your plants for food and moisture. Weeds provide safe haven for insects. Covering the spaces between your plants and between your rows with mulch prevents weeds from growing, saving you hours and hours of manual labor, weeding by hand or with a hoe. Mulch also protects the soil from the sun, trapping and preserving moisture.

Many people mulch with straw and we will use wheat straw in our garden for certain plants or when we have used up our preferred leaf mulch. However, all wheat or rye straw will still have some bits of grain. Eventually these will sprout and produce some of the most  difficult to remove "weeds" you are likely to encounter.

We do our best to avoid this by leaving the straw exposed to the weather for one year before using, so that any remaining grain will rot. While this will remove the viability of most seeds, some will survive and eventually sprout, becoming a plant that must be removed. Straw is also expensive and the price goes up every year. Straw sold to farmers for barn bedding is increasingly produced as large round bales rather than the tradition small, square bales. The round bales are extremely heavy and difficult to transport. All the more reason to consider leaves as the better alternative.

6/5/2019 7:47:16 AM

Ask tree trimmers in the area to dump a load or more. Usually there's a mix of brown & green with cambium. Saves them dump fees & many times it's free. You might need to pay a small delivery fee but it's well worth it. BTW--never had any problems with oak leaves. Too rich? NOT Might need in any situation to add some rock minerals like lava sand or green sand depending on the soil composition. So especially TexasDeb, HI as I'm in the DFW area, I recommend Howard Garrett's web site but it's good for anybody around the country & he has a syndicated radio show/ podcast.

5/11/2019 11:00:13 AM

Interesting article which spark a couple of question for me. Can anyone tell me if there are any known issues using oak leaves as mulch? I've been told they give off certain gases, so I'm weary of using them. Also, what about intergrating virgin untouched soil that has been decomposing for decades with cedar and oak leaves and branches. I'd love to use it but afraid it could be too rich or not advisable for vegetable gardens as a mulch or actual soil for plants. Texas Deb

5/17/2018 5:48:11 PM

I've been making compost(heated naturally to 160°) from grass clippings(nitrogen) and leaves/wood chips (carbons) This will work alone by mulching with clippings. Even been storing clippings on spots to kill off creeping bellflower, or on pre tilled garden. Be careful of fungicides, not even compostable, WILL kill stuff! Not recommended to use anything you are not sure of what it collected. Some things keep on living like we do. Thanks everyone for sharing!

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