Mulch is merely the name given to the layer or layers of organic material that is laid on top of the existing topsoil in your garden. Mulching is an essential practice in a ‘no dig,’ permaculture garden. This guide to mulching in a permaculture garden will help you understand why we mulch, what materials can be used as mulch, how and where they should be applied. Read on to get a better understanding of this important permaculture gardening technique.
Why Mulching in Important in a Permaculture Garden
An understanding of where and how we use mulches begins with an understanding of why we mulch in the first place. There are some reasons why mulching is important in organic gardens. These include:
- Mulching protects the soil surface from erosion and disruption.
- Mulching can add nutrients to the soil.
- Mulching helps the soil to retain moisture.
- Mulching can help to suppress weed growth.
- Mulching can be beneficial to a range of wildlife.
Natural Mulch Materials
Some different materials can be used to mulch your growing areas. These include:
- Wood chip or bark
- Straw or ‘Strulch’ (Composted straw)
- Fresh leaves (from a variety of different plants)
- Leaf mold (Rotted-down Fall leaves)
- Grass clippings
- Well-rotted manure
The benefits of using natural mulch materials are that these materials can often be found for free in your garden or the surrounding area.
Choosing the Right Mulch
When it comes to applying mulch, it is always important to consider where the growing area you are mulching is located, and the plants that are being or will be grown there. The mulch that it is best to use will depend on these factors, as well as the local availability of natural materials.
Each of the mulches mentioned above has strengths and weaknesses in a given situation. While each may be excellent for some applications, the same one can also have a detrimental effect when placed in the wrong location.
For example, wood chip or bark can be an excellent choice for mulching beneath trees or large shrubs but may be detrimental when used around younger plants or annual vegetables. As the wood decomposes, this takes a lot of nitrogen from the soil, so may be harmful to small, leafy plants that need a lot of nitrogen to grow. Grass clippings, on the other hand, are very high in nitrogen, so a mulch from your mowed lawn could be ideal for members of the cabbage family, or other nitrogen hungry plants. This mulch may be too rich in nitrogen for other crops, however, so should be used with caution.
Creating a New Planting Area With Sheet Mulching
One of the great things about the techniques used in mulching is that they can be used to create new growing areas, as well as being used in existing garden growing areas. No matter what you wish to plant, you can create a fertile, moisture retentive place to grow in by sheet mulching an area with layers of natural mulch materials. Sometimes, these sheet mulch beds are called ‘lasagna gardens’ since the layers are built up in much the same way as you might make lasagna in your garden.
Mulch wisely and you will create a thriving garden ecosystem that can serve you and your household for many years to come.