When to mulch soil in a no-till garden
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Various mulching technologies. The choice is yours
When should you mulch? In the literature, there are recommendations to lay mulch in the spring, after the soil has warmed up. If you do this earlier, the mulching cover will delay the heating of the earth, and the plants will sprout later and develop more slowly.
But open soil dries quickly. On the other hand, autumn mulching will allow the soil to remain unfrozen longer, and will allow microorganisms that decompose organic matter and worms to work longer.
In the spring, moisture is well preserved in areas that are mulched since autumn, but the heating of the soil is delayed.
Autumn mulching offers another advantage. In the organic matter of mulch, microbiological processes begin in autumn, which can continue until the onset of negative temperatures. In the spring, even before the awakening of microbes, their enzymes, released in autumn, begin to decompose organic matter, all processes begin earlier.
The question arises: how to act all the same?
Mulch inhibits soil heating in spring, this is a fact. This fact is often recalled by opponents of mulching. But this does not take into account another fact. The no-till technology of truck farming makes it possible to plant plants and sow seeds earlier than in traditional agricultural technology. While the neighbors are waiting for the moment when the soil "ripens" for digging, it is already possible to start planting on the no-till plot. The difference in terms can be significant: from 7 to 15 days. This is especially noticeable after a snowy winter. It is impossible to dig soil saturated with moisture.
Mulch in the beds delays the heating of the soil for about the same time. That is, using no-till technology and mulch, you will start planting at the same time as digging advocates. The main thing is not to use a thick layer of mulch. So there is no problem. But there is an advantage - spring moisture, the most valuable moisture, will remain under the mulch.
And, nevertheless, for those who apply natural farming technologies, it is also important to warm up the soil faster. The sooner this happens, the faster the microbes will start working in the soil, the sooner the plants will receive abundant nutrition due to the decomposition of organic materials in the upper soil layer.
You can mulch the soil from autumn, and in the spring, as soon as the weather permits, remove the mulch from the beds. In this case, the advantages of autumn mulching will appear, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of late spring. The soil will not freeze for a long time, and in spring it will quickly warm up and dry quickly. In regions where the soil is heavily saturated with water in spring, this technique is probably the most appropriate: open soil will dry out faster, which means that it will be possible to start planting and sowing earlier.
We, in the south of the Omsk region, have little snow. Winter temperatures drop to -40 ° C. Soils freeze up to two meters. Spring rains are rare here. In the spring, the following picture develops: the top layer 3-5 cm has already dried, and below it is ice. The topsoil dries out simultaneously with warming up. The lower layers of the soil are saturated with water, but with no-till technology of truck farming, it is important to have a moist upper layer during sowing. In such conditions, open beds are a rapid loss of moisture.
I tried to leave mulch on the beds - a layer of straw is 15 cm. The moisture is retained well, but at the end of May the soil on such beds is still very cold. There is ice under a 40-centimeter layer of straw in June.
For me, this state of affairs is also not acceptable. I tried to cover open ridges in the spring with a transparent film - under it, the earth also dries very quickly. As a result, I came to the most optimal option in my conditions: mulch in the fall with a thin layer of organic material, and do not remove the mulch in the spring.
When the snow begins to melt, I scatter ashes around the garden. The dark ash particles heat up in the sun and accelerate the melting of the snow. In my practice, snow melted 9 days earlier on an area covered with ash than without ash. When the snow melts, the ash on the surface of the mulch helps warm up the thin mulch layer and the soil below it. Thus, mulch is not a serious obstacle to warming the earth, but it significantly retains spring moisture. I cover the beds that need to be warmed up faster after the snow melts with a transparent film on mulch. In this case, under the transparent film and mulch, the earth warms up quickly, but does not dry out.
Autumn mulching in my garden, in fact, can be called mulching for the most part conditionally. The labor costs of autumn mulching are needed only for garlic. For it, leaf mulch is used. The rest of the beds left under the mulch do not require labor. Mulch naturally remains in the beds as a result of sowing green manure or from plant residues from a previous crop. Here are some examples.
After early harvest crops at the end of summer, I sowed white mustard. Then the frost killed the plants. They remained in the garden bed, forming a natural mulch. Ash, which was sprinkled with snow in the spring, also lay on the mulch.
Foliage has been laid on the outer beds - these are the beds occupied with winter garlic. They were covered with foliage in the fall. In the center of the garden there is a bed on which carrots grew last year. It took no time or labor to mulch it. During the harvesting of carrots, we simply left the tops in the garden where it grew.
On another one in the garden at the end of summer, vetch grew as a green manure. So she went into the winter. It also turned out to be a natural mulch.
It turned out to be mulch on the cabbage bed. In the fall, the heads of cabbage were felled, and the lower leaves were left behind. In the spring, the beds were covered with frozen and dried cabbage leaves.
Potatoes grew between the cabbage beds last year. It was covered with straw. Over the summer, the straw had settled a lot, its volume decreased, and it was simply left in place. Of course, these beds have little aesthetic appearance, but this technique is practical, it does not require time and labor. In autumn and spring, cabbage roots warm up and replenish the organic matter of the soil. Only a stump with a small number of the thickest roots is pulled out.
On another bed, after harvesting early potatoes, mustard was sown and grew. We pulled it out and planted winter garlic on this bed. They covered it with leaves. And put mustard on top. And the leaves are not blown up by the wind, and there is additional mulch. During the winter, mustard coalesces and will not be an obstacle for powerful shoots of garlic.
Phacelia was sown in another bed. Its green mass is gone before winter in the garden, and in the spring it will become mulch.
What to do with mulch in spring? Winter garlic will remain so until the end of the growing season, it will easily break through the mulch. Under such a blanket, he will rise later than in open beds, but he has a short growing season, he has nowhere to rush. The mulch in the early potato beds will also remain in place. Cabbage leaves and its stumps I will put in the aisles
It is not difficult to plant onions and summer garlic directly into the mulch - he pushed it apart with a rake, made a groove with a small flat cutter - and stick the onions or chives. It's better for the plants. But I often plant them on bare beds, and mulch when the plants rise by 5-10 cm. It is more convenient for me to develop a large area.
I sow carrots, beets on a bed cleared of mulch. I shift the mulch into paths. It's more convenient for me. I sow two or more hundred square meters of root crops. And on a bare bed, sowing is much faster than on mulch. But for the plants it would be better if I parted the mulch and sowed like that. I mulch root crops after the plants rise 5-10 cm.
On the beds where potatoes and seedlings will grow: tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cabbage, rye grows before planting. I leave these beds without mulch for now.
In the middle of the bed, where the rye is now, potatoes will grow. To the left and to the right of it we plant the family onion, further - carrots. In early August, the onion ripens, we will remove it, carrots and potatoes will remain through the garden. There is plenty of room for potatoes. But this sowing of rye has a big drawback. Rye itself dries out the soil a lot. The lack of mulch only exacerbates this effect.
It is highly advisable to mulch the rye after sowing. But this requires fine organic matter, otherwise the sprouts will not break through. I have not yet purchased a shredder (although there is such an intention), I do not grind organic matter for mulch, and fine organic matter is not always at hand.
This year I tried this option for planting rye: I made grooves with a flat cutter and sowed rye and rapeseed in one groove. Before the frost, they grew up together. Then the frost killed the rapeseed. Hopefully in the spring I will get a rye planting mulched with rapeseed residues.
And I plant seedlings directly in rye. Rye plants shade the planted seedlings and protect from the wind, create a favorable microclimate. After the seedlings adapt to a new place, I pull out the rye and fold it under the plants. For a full-fledged mulching of seedlings, only rye that has grown on a bed is not enough, so I add more hay, straw, everything that is at hand.
Potatoes emerge under a thin layer of mulch. After the emergence of seedlings, I also add mulching material.
Winter garlic was planted in mid-September. After that, I immediately sowed rapeseed on the garden bed. Thus, the bed is not empty until frost.
The mulch grows on its own in the garden while the garlic takes root. After the first frost, I fall asleep with foliage, so it is guaranteed not to freeze.
member of the Omsk club of potato growers
How to prepare bed mulch?
Ready-made mulch can be purchased in specialized stores, but its price is not small. Living close to the forest, you can harvest the bark yourself. Read also the article: → "Making mulching material with our own hands with a garden shredder."
Council number 1. Among all varieties of bark, give preference to pine. She will hold out on the site up to three times longer.
Consider the following when choosing a tree:
- Do not remove bark from young trees.
- Old, diseased and fallen trees will not work. There are no useful substances in the bark and pests can start.
- The bark should peel off easily and not fall apart.
For harvesting bark, trees cut down no more than six months ago are suitable. The bark is chopped up with shears or scissors. The size of the fraction is determined according to the scope of use. For vegetable beds and strawberries, they are crushed to a state of fine chips.
Other types of mulch
Other parts of plants can also serve as mulching materials, for example, shells of pine nuts. It is a material rich in composition and useful properties that can both warm the soil, nourish it, and protect it from pathogenic organisms (it is not for nothing that the shell is used as a medicinal raw material).
But the aesthetic qualities of the shell are questionable (it's like sprinkling flower beds with sunflower husks for decoration).
And here cones of cedar, larch, spruce, pine are beautiful and look especially good next to ferns, conifers, rhododendrons and other heather plants, they add real forest authenticity to such a corner.
True, here, too, one must observe the measure: it is better to combine whole cones with chopped ones, as well as with needles, chips, bark, moss, peat, chopped branches and shells of nuts.
In terms of composition and appearance, such a mulching mixture is closest to the natural forest “litter”, it looks organic and, gradually overcooking, perfectly nourishes the soil and improves its qualities.
Sometimes the disadvantage of mulch made from woody and especially coniferous materials is called its ability to increase the acidity of the soil, but many plants prefer just such an environment!
Important: the mulch should not come into contact with the trunks of trees and shrubs, otherwise their bark may begin to undermine.
Pine and spruce cones are excellent for mulching the surfaces of flower beds, tree circles or paths
How to improve clay soil
To grow anything on clay soil, you need to make it light, warm and breathable.
The cheapest and longest way to improve clay soil would be making compost or humus... For compost in the fall, dig up a vegetable garden, make a depression of about 20 cm. All residues from vegetables and fruits, as well as hay, some freshly cut grass, lay the foliage in a hole, layering it with earth. Pour all this with any biological products. And in the spring, before digging, sprinkle the garden with ash.
Bulk beds... Any plant debris is taken as a basis for such beds - stumps, chips, branches, sawdust. A layer of good earth is poured over the debris. Plants and shrubs are planted in such high beds. Thanks to plant debris, roots have room for growth and development.
Mulching is covering the plowed land with straw, bark or wood chips. This method will help the clay soil not dry out and crack in the sun. Mulch prevents the growth of weeds, improves the acidity of the soil, enriches it with useful substances.
More costly ways would be delivery of sand, peat and manure... Sand and peat improve the physical properties of clay soil, and manure helps to populate it with beneficial microorganisms.
Green manure is a green manure. Siderates are called rye, wheat, mustard, oats, sweet clover and sunflower. These plants have a strong root system, so they are often planted in clayey areas. Siderata protect the soil from bacteria, fertilize it, attract beneficial insects and microorganisms. Such plants also increase soil fertility. By sowing them every year, poor clay soil will be loose and light in a few seasons. Siderata are planted in frost, and by the beginning of the sowing season, the planting is harvested. Thus, the vegetable garden is ready to grow any vegetables.
By adding natural fertilizers, we accelerate soil accumulation. In a couple of years, instead of clay soil, you will have structural, breathable and moisture-absorbing soil.
Why mulch the soil
Hello dear friends!
Novice gardeners and gardeners often ask me why mulch the soil next to plants? In this article, I will try to answer this question and highlight all the positive results that occur as a result of mulching.
Mulching is a bedding of peat, humus, compost or other organic fertilizers to plants.
- The mulching layer provides favorable conditions for the vital activity of soil microorganisms. The organic mulch cover is decomposing, the process of mineralization of nutrients is accelerated, and the absorption of nutrients by plants is improved and accelerated.
- The decomposition of mulching organic material occurs directly on the soil, therefore, valuable nutrients are not lost and the soil is constantly replenished with them.
- Soil covered with organic fertilizers warms up faster in spring.
- The soil covered with organic matter is less compacted and compacted.
- The cover layer of mulch reduces the frequency of soil loosening, since the roots of plants are well supplied with oxygen even without loosening due to the absence of a compacted soil crust. This, in turn, helps us avoid mechanical damage to the delicate superficial roots.
- The mulch cover perfectly suppresses the development and growth of weeds.
- Mulch protects the soil from wind, erosion, cracking and dry surface crust.
- A protective layer of mulch ensures uniform soil moisture and maintains a constant water balance due to the fact that evaporation of moisture from the surface is significantly reduced.
- By applying constant soil mulching, it is possible to reduce the rates of fertilization, since in the presence of a layer of mulch, their leaching is significantly reduced.
- Let's analyze such a moment as the color of the soil. The color of the soil affects its ability to absorb and retain solar heat, therefore, by changing the color of the surface layer of the soil, you can successfully regulate its thermal properties. And here, in regulating the thermal regime of the soil, mulching plays an important role: dark mulch on the soil attracts the sun's rays and quickly absorbs heat, which contributes to the rapid heating of the soil. Light colored mulch provides the opposite effect. It increases the ability of the surface layer of the soil to reflect the sun's rays. This prevents overheating of the soil under the mulch layer, and therefore protects the roots of plants from high temperatures.
- Mulching, followed by the decomposition of organic matter, is an excellent way to enrich the soil with humus.
- After several years of constant mulching, the volume of the pores of the soil, which are filled with air and water, significantly increases, which means that its water and air permeability of the soil improves. These properties are one of the main indicators of soil health.
Well, I seem to have listed everything. Now you know, why mulch the soil in the garden and the garden and what great benefits mulching brings to the soil and plants.