14 Jul 2010

Mulch: Stick it to those weeds!

by Robyn Jasko

Every summer, I envision a garden utopia where all I do is sip Chardonnay and spend my weekends  crafting dinners completely out of vegetables grown in my backyard.  Everything will grow, birds will sing, dinners will be held outside, and I will be empowered knowing that I can skip my trips to the supermarket.

But every year, there I am, sweating profusely in the triple digit sweltering humidity, weeding those tomatoes, sunburned and thinking, why did I do this when there's a farmer's market down the road selling eggplants, 3 for $1?

Not this year. I am mulching. And I am mulching big time. Weeds, hear this: I am not having it.

Mulching is a key part of gardening, and can really reduce the amount of time spent laboring  (so you have more time for that Chardonnay) And, I'm not talking about that hideous, black plastic that looks like it will be around to survive a few apocolypses. No, there are simple, cheap and free organic mulches you can use that will dramatically make things easier.

My mulch of choice this year is straw. It's an organic matter that eventually breaks down and can be put back into the soil. It also smothers/compresses weeds, and conserves moisture so your plants won't get as parched during those summer droughts. And, it looks nice and neat when everything's under cover.

I buy my straw from the laundrymat in Kutztown (no kidding, they also sell buffalo meat) for 3 bucks a bale, and it covers a lot of garden. If your local laundrymat doesn't sell mulch (which I highly doubt), you can use grass clippings or try your local farm supply store.

The best way to use mulch is to lay it down around your plants, lightly, without compressing it. I also use straw for all of my paths, and I reuse it until it finally rots down and can be incorporated into the soil in the spring.

My process is to weed fully, and then put the straw mulch down between all of my plants. And, don't throw those weeds into the compost pile.  I put them right on top of the soil and place the mulch over it (the pulled weeds break down in two weeks, add nitrogen, and there is just something so satisfying about partially mulching your garden with weeds).

About the author:

Robyn Jasko started Grow Indie in 2009, to empower people with the tools, know-how and gusto to try growing their own food, while being as resourceful as possible.

Follow on twitter