We recently planted next year’s garlic and covered it with a thick layer of mulch.
Mulching is done for a variety of reasons in organic market gardening including moisture retention, heat retention, weed suppression and fertility management. Common mulches are straw, old hay, wood chips, dried leaves and even plastic. Earlier this season we used black plastic mulch to heat up the ground in which we planted tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, melons and zucchini.
We mulched the garlic in order to suppress weeks and to protect the crop from frost heaving. Still to mulch this fall are rhubarb, strawberries, perennial herbs and the area right around the greenhouse.
In most years, straw is our favorite mulching material for weed suppression, frost protection and moisture retention. Straw is not the most effective mulch, but it is usually cheap and easy to work with. This year, with the drought, straw is in shorter supply and so is at a premium (almost double the price of normal years). This has made us reconsider whether or not to mulch all of the crops we intended to.
We have finally finshed all of the weeding for the season…. oh wait… the weeds are growing again! As crop growth slows down so do most of the weeds. This is making my back and my mother’s arthritic hands very happy. With any luck the pressure from perennial weeds will be less next year. In that case we can devote more of our time to other farm tasks and less time to thwarting natures’s attempt to replant the land we work so hard to clear.