I’m finding that nothing motivates me like someone telling me that something is impossible.
And that just might be the very reason my garden is doing so well this year…
Since deciding to pursue the deep-mulching method earlier this year, I’ve had plenty of naysayers shake their head and tell me I’m crazy.
But that’s OK… I like that.
It’s given me the boost I need to tackle my garden with renewed vigor, especially after my miserable failures in recent history.
Considering the garden has been in for over a month now, I figured it was time for a little update!
**IMPORTANT: If you are planning on using deep mulch, please make sure you are ONLY using hay or straw that has NOT been sprayed with herbicides of any kind! Read my sad story about herbicide contamination here.**
My seedlings are coming right along, and are as happy as ever.
I’ve had a little bit of trouble getting my beans and peas to show up, but after talking to several neighbors, it sound like I’m not the only one struggling this year. We’ve had an unseasonably cool summer so far, and I suspect that they just didn’t get the warmth they needed after I put them into the ground. I’ve been replanting here and there, so we’ll see how it looks in a couple of weeks. (I think the rabbits might be munching on them as well, and that definitely doesn’t help…)
The carrots finally popped up (they take for-ev-er!) and the kolhrabi germinated nicely. I have a few bare spots in my beet rows, but I think that’s due to my sloppy seeding methods…
My onions are growing like crazy–their germination rate was spectacular, and they seem to love the protection the deep mulch provides.
My cabbage seedlings were stunning, right up until they got shredded by a crazy hailstorm… Thankfully, it’s still early in the season, so they should make a full recovery; they just look a little battered right now…
The potatoes were a mystery, as three weeks after planting, they still hadn’t risen above the thick layer of mulch I had spread on top of them. (I had read rave reviews about planting spuds in a thin layer of dirt, and then covering them completely with mulch, so that’s what I did…)
Upon further inspection, I discovered that the taters were indeed sprouting, but were struggling to break through the heavy hay mulch. After doing some rummaging on the potato rows and removing a bit of mulch, happy, green potato plants emerged just a few days later.
So, that was a good learning experience—–> don’t smother your spuds.
We’ve had the most lovely rain showers this year (except when they bring hail, then they aren’t so lovely…).
The hay mulch is keeping the ground happy and moist, and I’m watering far less than I usually do this time of year.
Since the rows are bare dirt (I’m waiting until the plants are slightly larger before I pull the mulch around them), they do dry out a bit faster, but if you pick up the mulch anywhere else in the garden, you’ll find the soil is amazingly wet and soft.
THIS, my friends, is the BEST part of this whole endeavor!
Usually at this stage in the game, I’m knee-deep in weeds and losing the battle.
But not this year!
The mulch is doing an AMAZING job of keeping the weeds down. Yes, I do have to weed a bit in between the plants in the rows, but that’s it. Weeding only takes a few minutes each day, whereas in year’s past, it would take hours.
If weeds do pop up, it’s usually because the mulch layer is too thin, so I simply cover it up with a couple handfuls of hay, and call it good.
There are a few stubborn thistles that are determined to push through the mulch layer, but they are easy to pluck, as long as I wear gloves.
I’ve had a lot of folks tell me that using hay for mulch is a bad idea, since hay contains so many seeds. However, there are no hay seeds germinating anywhere–the thick mulch layer prevents that from happening.
I don’t plan to till the hay into the ground, but rather keep adding more layers as time goes by.
I’m telling ya, this is changing my life. For the first time in YEARS I don’t feel sick-to-my-stomach when I look at my garden, and I’m actually enjoying spending time out there.
There hasn’t been too many problems to report with my deep mulch thus far, but the biggest “issue” I’ve had is making sure the hay doesn’t get blown over the edges of the rows and snuff out any tiny seedlings.
This is mostly my fault, since I made my rows way too narrow, so next year I’ll definitely go wider. However, this “problem” is easily remedied by checking the rows every day or so and scooting the hay back in place.
On the flip side, I’ve been impressed with how much the mulch has stayed in place, even with our hurricane-force Wyoming winds. Even after fierce thunderstorms, there are usually only a few patches that need readjusted. The rest stays in place nicely.
I’m LOVING this method! Yes, I supposed I could change my tune by the end of the year, but I don’t see that happening. It’s saving me so much time and effort, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to “bare-dirt” gardening.
Stay tuned for more updates later this summer!
Have you ever tried deep-mulching? What do you think about it?