The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

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Luther's Sermons, Lenker Series
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Monday, March 23, 2015

Mulching Works - God Himself Mulches His Trees with Leaves.
He Does Not Rake Them Away or Burn Them

"You don't mulch?
Do you even garden?"


Brett Meyer wrote about a simple but effective way of improving the growth and health of a fruit tree. They piled leaves under a cherry tree last fall. Far more fruit is developing this spring.

One effect of mulching is to keep people off the soil under trees. One old-fashioned orchard owner said, "Never disturb the soil under the trees."

That rule recognizes the delicate soil food web prospers when the conditions are right. Most of the food for all trees comes from the top 12 inches of soil. "Ah, but what are those deep roots for? - some wonder. The deep roots reach down deep for water and minerals, but most of the food is  in the rich, top foot of soil.

Trampling down the soil is going to break up the delicate fungi structures that travel between decaying matter and the plant roots. Fungi tubes are the interstate highway system of soil. Bacteria have spectacular growth rates, but they can barely move on their own. The larger creatures can do far better than bacteria, but there is nothing like the fungi tubes for forcing the decay of organic matter and channeling it to where the plant roots promise  carbon in exchange for water, nitrogen, and other compounds.

Compacting the soil slows down the soil food web. We have to do some walking on or around the garden, but limiting the trampling is good. We can do that with stepping stones, mulch, and garden fencing. Soil mulched all winter will be springy and soft, because all the soil creatures have fed on the mulch and each other for months. Eventually the leaves or wood mulch will be rotted away and pulled down into the top layer of soil.

That minor effort of mulching makes a permanent difference in the soil, because the creatures multiply and swap nutrition with each other. Every single one is a feeder and food. The plants or trees take up what they want but they return it to the soil as leaves and roots. Since solar energy turns into leaves, bark, fruit, and seeds, the food rains down on the soil, with contributions from plant and tree creatures.

As I wrote in Thank You Very, Mulch, the growth of creatures in the soil means that much more moisture can be held in the top foot of soil. Mulch holds water above, slows down wind and solar evaporation, and fosters water retaining creatures below.

This does not go unnoticed by the birds. The supreme air command of the Creator looks down on this scene and finds an abundance of food and nesting material. Birds settle where they can feed their young the porterhouse and strip steak of baby bird food - grubs, caterpillars, insects, and earthworms.

A mulch plantation below means a bird population above.

Suet baskets are ideal for delivering
string and lint for bird nests.