The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Thank You Very, Mulch.
Three More Days Until the Next Rainstorm.


Weather.com says I have three days before the next rainstorm. Meanwhile, various plants will be arriving. I feel like a CPA during tax season.



Consider the value of mulch in gardening 
Anything organic can be mulch - compost, leaves, straw, hay, weeds, newspapers, grass clippings.

1. The best mulch will stay in place on its own, which eliminates leaves and newspapers as the top layer.

2. Another quality is being weed neutral - not adding to the weed population already in the soil. Grass clippings can be carriers of weed seeds, but thick layers of dead grass do not promote weeds. I used them in the corn and I only had purslane, which is harmless and good to eat. Hay can have all kinds of field weeds in it, like deadly nightshade and its cousins, but it will do no harm when in the shade of bushes.

3. Mulch should be attractive on the top layer, so that makes shredded wood a good choice. Wood also holds down anything below and provides the right ingredients for soil health. It may tie up nitrogen when fresh but it also releases that nitrogen as it rots. One of the Band of Brothers turned Hershey's cocoa hulls and used them for a deliciously aromatic mulch - trash into cash.

4. Mulch is a perpetual bird-feeder that fills itself, without additional cost, fulfilling two Prime Directives - Maynard G. Krebs (no extra work) and Scrooge McDuck (no extra cost). Organic matter feeds and attracts the soil creatures needed by birds. They will even toss scraps aside to nab the bugs they find jostling the ingredients. The bird population and spiders (who also love mulch) will digest them instead of letting them be pests.


Mulch absorbs water and holds it. Organic matter is a sponge that holds onto water while decomposing, and that water feeds the creatures of decomposition.

Mulch slowly releases water. A watered area will tend to have much of the water running off, but mulch will absorb all it can in one place and keep the water from straying. That also holds the top soil in place.

Mulch prevents sun and wind evaporation. The mulch will give up moisture and scatter a bit without letting the elements get to the top soil. I imagine the total surface area of mulch contributes to how much it can hold. The soil is always damp under mulch.

Another layer builds beneath the mulched soil. The soil creature population increases with more moisture and food. The creatures, like the slug (mostly underground), are moving water storage units. They hold and move moisture while transferring nutrition to the plants. One big advantage of fungi is watering the plant roots.

Gardeners have always thought of gardening in terms of inert ingredients - water from rain, soil, NPK chemicals we add to make things grow. That is all wrong. The most important items affecting the plants are living, breathing, dying, eating, and being eaten creatures. They are the real gardeners - the insect killers, the fertilizers, the water sources. Gardeners spend a lot of time killing off the creatures God placed there to do the work for us.

The Creation survives our foolishness, but it will reward a little wisdom.