Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thoughts on Post Frost Garden Mulching

The hard frosts of Fall are here and much of the gardening work revolves around dreams of next years garden. By now in Flagstaff, our gardens are done for the season (Sedona and the Verde Valley still have a bit of time). Our focus is on putting the garden to sleep. In the veggie garden, chop down the remaining produce to ground level. Add a layer of finished compost if you have some. Then top everything with a good layer of organic mulch (leaves, pine needles, straw, etc.) and water it all in. Don't be afraid to add 4 inches or more of mulch and compost. For trees, shrubs, and perennials you can skip the compost and just add the mulch layer.

Compost and mulch are the work horses of an ecological garden. They feed the microbes in the soil which in turn feed the plants. Without these soil microbes we would have no plants so it is important to keep those little critters happy. If we want the healthiest plants around then it only makes sense to ensure that they are well fed. This means not raking up and throwing away fallen leaves. Instead just rake them around existing trees and shrubs or into areas where they can at least compost. Make sure that no organic matter is wasted from your yard. Better yet collect your neighbors leaves if they are throwing them away and use those in your garden too! I have been known to circle my neighborhood this time of year and collect over one hundred bags of leaves to use in my garden. Organic Mulch has many more benefits including moderating winter temperatures and conserving soil moisture. Adding mulch now also allows the organic matter some time to begin to decay into nutrient rich soil humus before next years growing season.

Happy Mulching!

Leaves One Year Later

Books for further reference:

Teaming with Microbes: A Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis
The Ruth Stout No-Work Garden Book by Ruth Stout
Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway (Check out the chapter on soil)