The Message of Mulch

Combat the effects of rising temperatures, water shortages, and erosion by using one of one of these mulching methods.

| May 2019


Editor's Note: Studies have shown that bracken fern contains ptaquiloside, a carcinogen.

With temperatures increasing due to global climate change, and long dry summers with more frequent storms, our vegetables have come a long way since their ancestors grew in sheltered valleys in Asia and Europe, where the best agricultural land was once found. In the 21st century, North America’s agricultural land is suffering from wind and water erosion, acidity, salinization, chemical pollution, and the deaden­ing effects of frequent droughts.

Even though our backyards may not have inherited pollution from agricul­tural practices, they are still subject to climate changes. Once soil repeatedly dries out, microbiotic life and earth­worms disappear, and water is not taken up when applied. Therefore, we mulch.

However, once the heat has gone and rains bring cooler conditions, there is no need for thick mulches. Wet straw can become a hotbed for slugs. So let summer mulch rot away, or fork it in and let the soil air a little, unless your region experiences continuous drought with erosive winds. If weeds come up, pull them for compost or liquid manure. Never let them set seed—keep track of weeds. Mulch again in late winter.

Mulches do not have to cost much. Newspaper, cardboard, old clothes, and stones cost nothing. Stones trap mois­ture when placed around plants, be they lettuce, cabbage, or tree seedlings, but they also attract slugs and snails.

5/28/2019 10:49:07 AM

Mulching, done correctly, addresses the difficult goal that "there should be no such thing as waste." Done incorrectly, mulching can rob the environment of natural resources and/or use more energy than it saves. I think that taking bracken fern fronds, pine needles and oak leaves from forests harms those fragile environments and should be prohibited. Transporting and modifying a sufficient quantity of plant residue like sugar cane stems is labor-intensive and uses vehicle fuel, offsetting mulching advantages. As average temperatures rapidly rise, we constantly must seek and publicize futuristic strategies on topics like mulching so that people can be more effective in reducing water usage, erosion and in maintaining viable plant root systems. The planting of enriching, ground covers is one such topic and using insights from successful agricultural nations with poor soils/low annual rainfalls/hot temperatures is another.

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