Today, we will get to know the uses of a traditional practice that farmers, gardeners and growers have long used: mulching.
Mulching requires covering the surface of soil around your plants with an approximately 10-cm-thick layer of decomposable materials. Based on my experience, I prefer to use sterile hay, the one used for feeding rabbits. Nevertheless, if you have a big garden covered by beautiful lawn, you can use this material instead, but do make sure that is pest free first!
The word ‘mulch’ means ‘apply or cover’, and actually this is a technique consisting of covering soil by applying layers of organic materials. These layers remarkably improve soil quality since the materials contained get to decompose and serve as nutrients for the plants.
It is also important to bear in mind that you will have to new or recompose this mulch on a regular basis in order to keep it in place and maintain the required thickness to protect substrate and roots.
Benefits of mulching
There are many benefits our crops can get from using this technique. This "nutrients layer" moderates soil temperature and prevents water loss by evaporation, protecting roots during periods of extreme temperatures, both hot and cold. It also suppresses weed growth, inhibiting germination of invasive herbs that can eventually reduce your plants’ ability to absorb water and nutrients from the soil. In addition, garden mulch provides extra nutrients and contributes to keep an adequate soil porosity and texture, preventing the appearance of pests and creating the perfect conditions to attract beneficial insects that ensure a healthy microbial life in the soil. Finally, in soils high in clay, it prevents surface from sealing and compacting.
Another point to keep in mind when applying this layer is that if you have sensitive plants that need less water, you should always leave an uncovered area of about 10cm in diameter around the plant stem.
One of the best benefits of using mulch is that it reduces plant watering frequency, helping significantly to save this important limited resource!
If you want to add nutrients to your soil in a natural way, let me recommend some plants that contribute to nitrogen fixation, such as mosses, clover, nettle or alfalfa (also called medicago sativa) and other legumes, like beans, which do not usually grow wild.
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On the other hand, there are many different materials that can be used for mulching. For instance, shredded leaves are perfect to attract worms and prevent soil diseases but may also present some disadvantages, since this foliage layer can easily disappear if blown away, especially if you grow in a windy region. You may use any other organic material as long as it is light so that the soil gets properly aerated and the plant roots can “breathe” easily.
In any case, always mix dried vegetable materials for your mulch and never use green leaves, otherwise the applied layer will compact and will not achieve its intended purpose. In my experience, wheat straw and sterile hay are two other vegetable materials that work perfectly for cannabis plants.
In addition, I recommend applying mulch during the vegetative stage, shortly after transplanting your seedlings. Also, if you are going to use pots, add a thick layer of humus before mulching.
Furthermore, you can also use mineral mulch, which can be done with pieces of tile, bluestone gravel, flat stones or pozzolana, the latter being a material that serves as thermal insulator and provides an extra source of silica to soil, although it should be used in moderation. Back to organic, you can also alternate layers of buckwheat as a natural way to keep slugs and snails away.
Now that you know more about the benefits of mulching, do not hesitate to share this info!
I do hope this article answers all your questions about this traditional growing technique.
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