Mulching: Its Benefits, How To, and Black Innovators in Gardening and FarmingMay 17, 2022 04:00PM ● By Candice Stewart
To mulch or not to mulch?
Mulch is identified as any material that is spread over the surface of a section of soil as a covering.
There are two general categories of mulch – organic and inorganic.
The folks at Kellogg Gardening Products share that organic mulch consists of living/formerly living materials such as leaves, newspaper, straw, grass cuttings, bark, sawdust, compost, and pine needles. This category of mulch is beneficial in that it enriches the soil as it decomposes; it improves the soil structure and drainage. Inorganic mulch, on the other hand, often consists of stone and gravel, plastic, or landscaping fabric.
Mulching is beneficial to your garden or farm in a number of ways. These include smothering weeds, adding nutrients to the soil, reducing run-off, and insulating the soil in your garden which has the propensity to cut your water use by at least 50%. During the summer, mulch will also help to retain moisture and keep plants cool. Generally, mulching can help save you time on tasks such as weeding, watering, and pest control.
According to experts in gardening from the Texas A&M University Extension, your vegetable garden can yield up to 50% more crops when mulched properly.
Though mulching has its benefits, mulch users ought not to expect magic or miracles without obtaining knowledge and applying best practices. Spruce recommends that people get educated about the source of the mulch they use. Mulch may contain viable weed seeds or chemicals that are harmful to your soil and garden or farm in general.
Read about the benefits of gardening:
When to Mulch
According to Kellogg Garden Products, the best time to mulch is now – mid to late spring when the soil gets a chance to naturally warm-up (in either April or May). However, that guidance does not hold true for people who like tropical or subtropical climates, for example.
How to Mulch
Gardening is fairly easy once you do your research and get the right tools. Likewise for growing particular crops on your farm. Mulching is part of the process - so, in theory, it should be a fairly simple process. The steps below have been adapted from Kellogg Gardening Products.
Weed the garden. Remove all the currently growing weeds and debris that you can see.
Use just enough. Too much mulch may cause problems like rot and disease. Too little mulch won’t keep the weeds away.
Inches. Lay between 2 and 5 inches of mulch on the soil to reduce the potential for new weeds to grow. In shady areas, 2 to 3 inches should be enough. In very sunny areas, 4 to 5 inches might be needed to maintain soil moisture levels.
Be mindful. If you are planting bulbs or perennials, you may need to pull mulch away from the bulbs or plants in order for the soil to warm up for faster growth during the spring. Wet mulch can also lead to rot along the stems, so try to keep any wet mulch about an inch away from the stems.
Avoid the mulch volcano. When mulching trees, shrubs, or other more substantial additions to your garden, avoid the “mulch volcano”. This is where mulch is piled around the trunk. Instead, use a thin layer of mulch and spread evenly at the same level as the ground, only about 3 to 4 inches thick with 1 inch between the mulch and the tree trunk to reduce the risk of pests and diseases impacting your plants.
Rake, and maintain the right amount of moisture. After you have applied mulch to your garden, you should rake the mulch to ensure it is in an even layer. When using organic mulch, water it to give it moisture and ensure that it doesn’t blow away. Do not overwater the mulch, where you can see water puddling on top, but be sure to add a nice level of moisture to your newly mulched garden to kick start the moisture retention benefits.
Black Innovators Who Helped to Reshape Gardening and Farming
With all this talk about mulching being a good practice for your gardens and farms, we think it is important to give honorable mention to some folks in history who have contributed to the gardening and farming community.
Henry Blair - known as the second Black man to be awarded a US patent, designed a type of wheelbarrow corn planter to help farmers sow their seeds more effectively. He also received a patent for a mechanical horse-drawn cotton planter which helped to increase yield and productivity.
Frederick McKinley Jones - Among his many inventions is mobile refrigeration technology. He developed a refrigeration system that was installed in trucks, planes, ships, and train cars that facilitated the transportation of perishable foods.
George Washington Carver - Known for his research on peanuts, George Washington Carver invented peanut-based versions of products including flour, coffee, soap, laxatives, and insecticide, among others. He is also known to have identified uses for other crops. He is credited with composting and crop rotation as a way to prevent nutrient depletion in soil.
Though only three have been highlighted, know that many more exist!
As you tend to your gardens or small farms, remember that the ease with which you are able to grow crops and improve the nutrient retention of the soil you use is credited to some amazing Black people in history.
What is Mulch and Which Mulch Should You Use Where? – The Spruce
A Guide to Homemade Mulch – Modern Farmer
DIY Making Mulch for Your Garden – Kellogg Garden Products
How and when to Mulch a garden – Kellogg Garden Products
Meet the Black innovators who reshaped American gardening, farming – Des Moines Register
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