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Gardening Efficiently: Benefits of Mulching

Mulching Saves Time & Effort

I hate weeding. It's the biggest waste of my time, not at all relaxing as some insist. But, as I'm the only gardener in the house, the lot falls to me. Also against me are rainy days, hot weather, humidity, biting insects, crusty clay soil, but these days it's increasingly the insidious one - aging. Not that I'm that old or decrepit yet, but I admit to some arthritis in one knee. Probably from too many years of kneeling in damp dirt, pre-kneepad days.

Lately, I've also been getting complaints from the non-gardener here who controls the lawn tractor. Apparently it's impossible to tell what is or isn't grass, and it's difficult to cut close to trees and shrubs. Unfortunately, the non-gardener is not into any form of trimming. Wonderful strimmers and weeders are available, but the help refuses to use them. Between aging and knowing that I'll continue to lose valuable plants with this philosophy, it was time to change.

My Mega Mulching Program

Mulch PileThe changes started with an almost mega-mulching program at home. The fruit bush garden came first. Couch grass, or twitch, as it's commonly called here, is rampant in my garden. The soil is clay that crusts hard when dry, which is often, so I had to wait until we had a good heavy spring rainfall. Next day, with spade and netted bug hat, I spent the day digging out all the twitch I could find. That done, I sprinkled a twitch herbicide powder to kill roots I'd missed. Many shovels full of pigeon manure, courtesy of my racing flock, was spread around plant bases, then the whole area was thickly mulched with shredded leaves (courtesy of the town works dept).

For me, the benefits are numerous. First, the damp ground was much easier to dig, the twitch roots were easier to pull, and the job took about a third of the time of dry weather.

Second, the heavy rainfall was quickly trapped by the mulch, as will successive rainfalls. This mostly eliminates hose watering should we get yet another dry summer. I'm on my own well but must still watch usage.

Third, the mulch is so thick that few weeds will succeed in getting through, and those determined ones will get zapped with Roundup or other glyphosphate products. The ground remains damp and soft and weeds could easily be hand-pulled instead.

Fourth, the plants love consistent moisture and the manure under-mulch, and are cropping beautifully with no diseases or bugs nor slugs in sight. Fifth, there's no more kneeling to dig or weed, nor repetition of these jobs. I'll simply top up the decomposing mulch every second year.

And lastly, the time I'll save will be considerable, along with money saved using free leaves and woodchips.

Mulching The Fruit Orchard

I repeated this at the second heavy spring rainfall with my small orchard of dwarf fruit trees. This time I dug large a large circle around each tree to remove weeds. Next came a flexible plastic edging at the perimeter to detour the twitch away from each tree trunk (wrapped in plastic). About 3 great shovelfuls of old manure and a thick topping of wood chips per tree finished it off.

The latter, a half dump truck load, was delivered free courtesy of my town works department. It just took several polite inquiries and assurances that I'd take whatever was in the truck. That alone saved numerous drives and gas to the works yard to collect my own. Friends and family helped themselves to wood chips, and the rest will fill a spare compost bin. And all gardeners know that you can never have enough compost, especially when next I tackle the flower gardens.

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