Why would you not mulch veggies?

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by nate_taylor, Aug 9, 2009.

  1. nate_taylor

    nate_taylor Junior Member

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    I'm seeing lots of pictures of "permaculture" raised beds with no mulch, a lot of bare dirt in vegetable patches; big wide mulched paths and nothing but dirt over the roots. Am I missing something or are they?

    Please inform me if you know of any situations, under average conditions, where mulch is to be avoided.


    To illustrate, here's a pic I hotlinked from another PC site:


    [​IMG]
     
  2. milifestyle

    milifestyle New Member

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    Re: Why would you not mulch veggies?

    I like mulching pretty much everything. I think most root crops are often left unmulched (compost dug in before planting). Vines and other picking fruits and vegetables do well with a good thick covering of mulch.
     
  3. gardenlen

    gardenlen Group for banned users

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    Re: Why would you not mulch veggies?

    g'day nate,

    well outside of those who want to use intense growing methods like square foot gardening, there isn't a single reason why not to mulch ever.

    the more mulch the merrier.

    len
     
  4. Salkeela

    Salkeela Junior Member

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    Re: Why would you not mulch veggies?

    Slugs... slugs.... slugs..... 3 reasons why I don't mulch all my veggies. Spuds cope. Many plants don't. But then it is often a bit damp over here!
     
  5. gbell

    gbell Junior Member

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    Re: Why would you not mulch veggies?

    After noticing that exact thing on a Gardening Australia episode, I actually got to ask Peter Cundall that myself. He doesn't mulch in winter/spring because the dark soil warms up quicker in the sun!
     
  6. dunc

    dunc Junior Member

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    Re: Why would you not mulch veggies?

    The benefits of mulching are obviously far reaching, and I mulch very heavily after either good rainfall or flooding the soil.

    There are times however that I leave the soil bare . That is when I want some natural germination of either weed seeds so I can chip them out, or desirable "volunteer seedlings such as marigold, dill, asian greens, lettuce etc. Some seedlings will find their way through a thin layer of mulch, but heavy mulching will obviously block out natural germination.

    Use light coloured mulches in Summer and dark mulches in Winter. Super thick layers of light coloured summer mulches will usually break down into a dark decomposed mulch in autumn and winter.

    Dunc
     
  7. nate_taylor

    nate_taylor Junior Member

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    Re: Why would you not mulch veggies?

    Technicolor mulch!
     
  8. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    Re: Why would you not mulch veggies?

    Some ants do it...

    On days when they want the ground around their mound to warm up, they gather and place dark stones (very small of course) around the entrance and when they want to reflect the light off they gather around white stones. It's so cool.
     
  9. JoanVL

    JoanVL Junior Member

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    Re: Why would you not mulch veggies?

    I have read that you shouldn't mulch onions - makes them a bit soft apparently. I try to mulch the rest.
     
  10. Salkeela

    Salkeela Junior Member

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    Re: Why would you not mulch veggies?

    Try this with onions.

    Cover growing area with newspaper and a thin layer of sand (to weight it down). Dampen everything, then plant your onion seedlings through pencil holes in the newspaper, back fill with the surface sand. (Best to spread the sand on dry newspaper - otherwise it rips and leaves holes for weeds to pop through ;) )

    I did this one year and grew my best onions ever. Almost no weeds. Sand warms up and also reflects light up to the onion leaves. So easy.

    Next year the paper had gone and the sand just added to the soil.
     
  11. JoanVL

    JoanVL Junior Member

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    Re: Why would you not mulch veggies?

    Thanks for the tip - I'll try it. Onions are not easy, hence the saying 'to know your onions' to mean you are pretty clever!!
     
  12. inverloch

    inverloch Junior Member

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    Re: Why would you not mulch veggies?

    During the recent bushfires in Australia, I found one reason not to mulch during summer. Whilst the mulch is great if there are no fires, once a fire comes, mulch is fuel. Never mulch near your house during summer if there is any danger of bushfires. Even away from the house, weigh up the benefits of mulching against the danger of increasing the intensity of fire with the mulch. If anyone can tell me how to mulch safely during summer, I would appreciate this information.
     
  13. gbell

    gbell Junior Member

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    Re: Why would you not mulch veggies?

    I thought this was a great idea, so I ran out and tried it right way. Nothing straightforward remains so in the hands of an idiot though!

    A few problems I had:

    1) The newspaper won't be perfectly flat, so the sand all runs into the valleys. So instead I moistened the paper and sprinkled sand from high up - worked OK.

    2) When you poke holes into the newspaper, the flap often closes up and you lose track of where it was.

    3) Backfilling with the surface sand is tough when its wet (its clumpy)

    4) Hard to tell how deep a hole you're making in the soil below, and therefore hard to control how deep you're planting the onion seed!

    So at least this idiot found the method not idiot proof! We'll see if they come up all happy anyway....
     
  14. Veggie Boy

    Veggie Boy Junior Member

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    Re: Why would you not mulch veggies?

    Good tip. Might try it with my garlic next year. Bloody weeds in my garlic give me grief every year. After th garlic gets big enough, I mulch with sugarcane mulch, but by then the weeds are very active and have taken hold.
     
  15. hedwig

    hedwig Junior Member

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    Re: Why would you not mulch veggies?

    There may be some reasons:
    1. costs. In suburbia you buy the mulch
    2. direct sowing of maybe lettuce, carrots and the like

    I made an interesting observation. I have two beds of broccoli, side by side, the same seed.
    One is mulched with sugar cane mulch and no weeds. The other is not mulched but there is heaps of chickweed growing in between the broccoli. The latter are growing much better and the plants can withstand wind much better, the others need to be staked. Maybe you could call this method weed mulching. It certainly does not work with lettuce etc (mine would doing better if weeded).
     
  16. Burra Maluca

    Burra Maluca Junior Member

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    Re: Why would you not mulch veggies?

    Yup - that's called a 'living mulch'. It keeps the soil fertile and the nutrients mobile, and in the case of chickweed it's also edible. We often let this grow around our crops in the spring, and just pull lumps of it off if it starts to smother the crop. It's also edible, and if you don't want to eat it yourself then most animals will eat it, donkeys, rabbits, goats and chickens included. Purslane is another good one, especially in dry climates.
     
  17. Speedy

    Speedy Junior Member

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    Re: Why would you not mulch veggies?

    Trees and perennial plants, yeah, mulch.
    the more woody growing the plants , the more woody the mulch -its more favorable to growth of fungi.

    However, in more intensively cultivated spaces like vege beds, especially in winter, I prefer to compost it and dig it in as plant food.
    Once you work OM into soil and improve tilth, the soil does the work like mulch as far as conserving moisture.
    A few weeks after planting , the veges foliage cover the soil allowing roots to grow right to the soil surface.

    I also find that brassicas, for example, need bacterially dominant soil conditions and dont do as well with mulch
    especially if you dont till the soil -No dig gardens.
    Tilling favours bacterial growth and supresses fungi.

    Solanums and cucurbits tend to do well with mulch and they grow when mulch is most effective, ie. in summer.

    That's my 2 bob's worth :)
     
  18. hedwig

    hedwig Junior Member

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    Re: Why would you not mulch veggies?

    that is really interesting! You must be some kind of an expert. This might be exactly what I've seen in my garden, and I always had problems to grow decent broccoli (we could eat tons of it).

    What else favors more bacterial and no fungi? I always thought mulching is simply a question of tiny week plants and sturdier plants. Maybe you could name more plants.

    As for the fire risk this is really a problem, but how do you want to grow without mulch in a dry sun scorched area? You mulch veggies with pebbles? Or erect expensive shade houses?
     
  19. dunc

    dunc Junior Member

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    Re: Why would you not mulch veggies?

    My experience with broccoli, caulis and cabbages is they do very well after a green manure crop.

    I use a thick decomposing summer grass mulch. The heads were very large, and more flavoursome than any other i have tasted this year.

    It was a very wet winter as well, which helped with the cabbage-white butterfly.

    Dunc
     
  20. Speedy

    Speedy Junior Member

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    Re: Why would you not mulch veggies?

    Green lush growth of green manures dug in promote stong bacterial growth.
    also higher pH and good supply of Calcium.
    Thats why lime (ground limestone- super fine or ultrafine) works well dug into beds to grow brassicas as a pre plant additive.
    dolomite only if Magnesium is needed ie. if on very andy soils or if a soil test indicates (a pH test wont tell you).
    If soil tends to be tight or compacted, dont use dolomite.
    Simple sugars favour bacterial growth, eg white cane sugar , sugars in fresh grass.
    animal manures also are bacterial foods/stimulants.

    For an unconventional 'tonic' for Brassicas (mainly Europeans , Brocc,cabb, cauli, Kohl rabi, Kale etc),
    I've sometimes used Seawater either straight or diluted if the prospect scares you a bit.
    It provides minerals and trace elements that maybe missing in the soil.
    That group of plants' wild ancestors were seaside plants and can not only deal with it, but seem to enjoy it.

    "thick decomposing summer grass"= bacterial food :)

    In winter I dont mulch very much, or if I do it's not a thick later.
    I like to allow rain to get to the soil .
    I'm in low rainfall mediterranean climate.
    But I do aim at keeping vege beds dug deep and with a very open tilth.
    maximize growth while young and work on spacings that cover the soil, usually achieved in a few weeks.
    veges become the living mulch.
    I do mulch with a thin layer of seived compost- it's not a fire hazard.

    In summer I mulch around veges .
    compost on soil surface and a coarser mulch (partially rotted straw) over that.
    Cucurbits and solanums and most other veges tend to do better with VA mycorrhizal fungi (and bacteria) in soil.
    The ones that dont benefit from mycorrhizae are
    Brassicas, Chenopods (beets, spinach, orach, saltbush etc) , Amaranths, Poppies.
     

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