Mulching makes it possible to re-establish a balance between production constraints and production environment: to obtain the desired result (vegetables, flowers, aromatics, etc.) without damaging the soil.
But mulching is not limited to respecting the soil, it allows you to limit your working time, use less water, increase the presence of microfauna, including earthworms, and therefore increase the growth of plants… among other things to discover in this article!
In some cases, however, mulching is a technique to be used with full knowledge of the facts because it also has its drawbacks.
The advantages of mulching
Mulching can be aesthetic … because yes, depending on the type of mulch chosen, you can work very well on the visual of your vegetable garden.
Beautiful “Golden Treasure” peppers or beautiful tomatoes on a background of mineral mulch, it can have a beautiful effect!
Decrease splashing of plants
Added to this is the limitation of splashing due to water falling directly on the ground, which reduces the risk of fungal diseases (diseases caused by a fungus), but also leaves your vegetables cleaner for consumption!
Avoid evaporation, limit the use of water and reduce working time
Mulching retains this same water by limiting its evaporation. Indeed, thanks to mulching, the water remains in the soil for a longer period. Longer available to plants, it allows them to have a more favorable environment for their growth thanks to the available water.
Adventitious and therefore light competition
Mulching carried out according to the rules of the art will very strongly limit the growth of weeds and other competitors of vegetable plants. As the ground is covered, unwanted weed does not have access to light and therefore, does not have the opportunity to grow.
Fewer weedkiller chemicals → less work → fewer weeds → less competition → more production!
Depending on the type of mulching and the problems encountered in the vegetable garden, it is possible to limit the presence of certain pests. For example, a mulch of leftover nutshells will be a real barrier to the progress of slugs and other snails.
At nightfall, the mulching will play a role in retaining heat.
The latter will be kept in the soil by the mulch which then serves as a thermal buffer between the earth and the air. This will increase the vigor of plants as well as their longevity.
The different types of mulching
The dead leaves are quite appropriate to constitute a so-called “vegetable” mulch.
Once moistened to a minimum, they will hold onto the ground without any problem. You can aim for 8 to 10 centimeters thick (the equivalent of what would fall from a tree).
Still in the plant category, lawn mowing, often available in mass, is just as indicated even if it decomposes quite quickly and needs to be replaced regularly.
Grass ferments and can increase the temperature of the soil, so it is better to aim for a thickness of 1 centimeter which will decompose quickly and which will be renewed.
straws are very effective if indeed we established a thick enough layer (5 to 8 centimeters pretty packed).
It also has the advantage of being relatively easy to find.
Wood chips are certainly the best option. This involves recovering hedge trimmings and crushing them. It is one of the most beautiful valuations of the hedge that we can do, but it should be done at the end of the season (during the pruning period … logical!) And, once the wood has been chipped, place it in the days that follow.
The flax straw, also called “flake” because much finer, is highly regarded for its aesthetic side. Take care to water it well at the installation to prevent it from blowing away.
Coconut canvas, burlap, and mulch felt
The coconut cloth, the burlap or felt mulching have very good behavior and also allow large plantations.
They are available in rolls or slabs depending on the terrain constraints.
The mineral mulch helps warm the soil and not having to change or renew it every year.
But it also means that you have to be able, in your garden or farm outfit, to be able to afford it. Thus, apart from the fact that it is necessary to select plants to mulch which particularly like heat, we can also choose the aesthetic rendering.
The disadvantages of mulching
Limitation of soil warming
If mulching helps keep the heat in, applied too early, it will prevent the soil from warming up in the spring.
Some mulches are not suitable for all crops.
Cedar or pine bark, which one might think is usable without a problem, will acidify the soil or risk destabilizing it by killing the fungi.
Mulching periods to avoid water retention, depending on the type of soil
Keeping water in the ground is good… but not too much. Mulching can also suffocate the soil by retaining too much water (especially during periods of heavy rainfall) or when the soil is already holding some itself.
Waterlogged soil will not see microfauna develop.
Some plants don’t like mulch
Some crops require little water (garlic, onion, shallots) and therefore do not like mulching.
In the same vein, young plants will for the most part be delighted to see the mulching arrive… 7 or 10 days after planting.
Mulched plants cannot reseed themselves.
Mulching is really full of advantages, however, we must avoid some mistakes and understand that it is knowledge of our soil that will make the difference…