MULCHING is a protective layer that put on the surface or land, especially near the stem and roots of plants. Mulching creates a microclimate around stem and roots. That helps in the proper growth of plants.
It can be organic or inorganic. Organic mulch Materials may include straws, stubble, dry leaves, unwanted weeds, or grasses. Organic manure like vermicompost and manure made up of dung can also be included.
Inorganic mulching material may include stones, brick chips, and plastic.
Both organic and inorganic mulches have numerous benefits. However organic mulching is more beneficial than inorganic.
Before we start the actual discussion I have something for you. if you are new in organic farming and canted a complete guide on it. Click below links
Background of mulching
However, mulching is not new in agriculture. Humans are using it for centuries. But the practice of mulching is gaining popularity after the 1970s.
Because after few decades of green revolution and use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and weedicides, civil society and agriculture scientists found that these synthetic fertilizers are…
- Increasing salinity in soil
- Reducing water retention ability because of lack of organic manure
- And of course, chemical inputs in agriculture are harming human health
International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), an NGO was at the forefront. IFOAM gave a call for sustainable agriculture practices such as….drip irrigation, sprinkler, green manure, organic farm multiple cropping, crop rotation, etc.MULCHING was one of those suggestions.
Why do need mulching?
Doing mulching is not compulsory every time. Mulching is a common practice among strawberry growers in northern climates
But it could be beneficial in the following cases.
- If you are living in a too cold a climate (USA CANADA, EUROPE, RUSSIA, etc)
- High evaporation due to hot climate( like – tropical or subtropical climate)
- Low water-holding capacity of Soil
Benefits of mulching
- Protects the soil from erosion
- Reduce weed (unwanted plants) growth
- Reduces compaction from the impact of heavy rains
- Conserves moisture, reducing the need for frequent waterings
- Moderate soil temperature
- Reduce pest action
Best mulching material
Farmers can use any type of mulching Materials provided which is present near your farm. However, I suggest you use organic mulching material.
- grass clippings
- Crop residue
- Dry leaves
- Bark chips and composted bark
- Hay and straw
- Seaweed mulch, ground corn cobs, and pine needles can also be used
- Pine needles tend to increase the acidity of the soil so they work best around acid-loving plants such as rhododendrons and blueberries.
Why should I choose organic mulching material?
You should choose organic mulching material because of the following reasons:-
- Organic mulches improve the condition of the soil. As these mulches slowly decompose, they provide organic matter which helps keep the soil loose.
- This improves root growth, increases the infiltration of water,
- It improves the water-holding capacity of the soil.
- Organic matter is a source of plant nutrients like NITROGEN, PHOSPHORUS, and POTASSIUM
- It also provides an ideal environment for earthworms and other beneficial soil organisms
So, I hope these reasons are sufficient for you to do the right decision 😊
What is the right time to do mulching?
If your living in cold environment Mulches used to help moderate temperatures. It can be applied late in the fall after the ground has frozen but before the coldest temperatures arrive. Applying mulches before the ground has frozen may attract rodents looking for a warm over-wintering site.
If you are living in a dry climate, you can do it just after planting trees as you will require to conserve soil moisture from the beginning.
Top guiding tips
- Do not apply mulch directly in contact with plants.
- Leave an inch or so of space next to plants to help prevent diseases flourishing from excessive humidity.
- Remove weeds before spreading mulch.
- If you are using crop residue then smaller chips are easier to spread, especially around small plants.
- There is no need to apply the mulch 6 or 8 inches high, as often is seen. 3-4 inches is sufficient.
- Compost is an excellent material for enriching the soil.
- If You are using fresh wood chips or bark, mixed with a lot of leaves, composting may be beneficial.
- The clear plastic (an inorganic mulch) acts as a mini-greenhouse, warming the soil underneath it. So it can be very useful in a cold climate like Canada, Europe, Russia, etc.