Much ado about Mulch
What is mulch?
Basically, mulch is any material used to cover the earth's surface. Correctly applied, mulch helps prevent moisture loss from the soil, suffocates weeds, prevents disease and maintains soil temperatures, while slowly breaking down and adding to the organic matter within the soil. In short, it helps to create the perfect conditions for the life that lives beneath our feet.
Some gardeners use plastic or other synthetic materials for this purpose, but this results in less benefits for the soil in general, so in the Thornybush Community Projects, our people prefer to keep things natural.
Many organic materials are excellent for use as mulch. By the end of the winter, there will be no shortage of leaves to rake up and use, while dry grass cuttings, wood chips and bits of bark are also great candidates if they are easily available.
We currently use old thatch grass that lodges generally throw away or burn when they rethatch a building. Simbambili Game Lodge has supplied us with a seriously great volume that we've slowly been chopping up into smaller pieces for mulching, and are also using it within the composting process.
How does mulching really help?
Simple. Mulch acts as a barrier to sunlight. All plants love sunlight but it does have a drying effect on the soil, even on cooler winter days. By blocking light from the soil surrounding our vegetables, we are able to:
- Reduce water loss by evaporation,
- Maintain more favorable temperatures whether hot or cold,
- Increase organic matter to the soil over time,
- Create suitable conditions for a large variety of soil-based organisms,
- Decrease runoff during storms and heavy rain,
- Slim down the chances of the soil getting compact over time.
Studies conducted by Texas A&M University have revealed that when a garden is properly mulched, you can look forward to harvesting up to 50% more vegetables, should your soil quality be in a good state to begin with. This was enough reason for our community gardeners to sit up and pay attention, and there is also a substantial time-saving aspect that can be incurred with effective mulching practices.
If you would like to support our enriching gardening adventures in any way, get in touch and we'll be happy to welcome you aboard.