Permaculture and Edible Forest Gardening Adventures

Mulch, Don’t Spray!

Foreground has been sprayed with glysophate, and area past the gate has been mulched and planted with succulents.

Weeds? Who with land doesn’t have them? If you spray the weeds with chemicals, you kill many weeds and leave the dead evidence to rot away over several months. Any chance of insect or bird food source is gone, and you leave the ground dirt, devoid of life and without protection from the sun or heavy rain. This is a good way to erode the soil. Very ugly, very unnecessary. Many weeds such as Bermuda grass won’t die from one application of chemical. Besides, buying glysophate supports the companies that manufacture and sell it. You can support better companies with your dollars.

If you cover the weeds with newspaper or cardboard and add several inches of mulch on top, you are smothering the weeds, protecting the earth, building soil, starting the food chain, and giving habitat to lizards, birds, insects including butterflies, and frogs. If you have annual weeds, you can just smother them with several inches of mulch. Immediately it looks cool, intentional and natural. The plantings of succulents require little supplemental water and look great. You can also plant native plants to add color, diversity and more wildlife food.

Mulch is not compost, it is what goes on top of the ground to cover and protect the soil. Some mulches can be leaves, bark, straw or wood chips. Free mulch from arborists is an excellent source that keeps valuable natural materials out of the landfill. Compost is soil food that can be added to the soil surface around plants, and used when planting varieties of plants that need a rich soil. You can put mulch over the top of compost to protect it. Mulch can cover an above ground irrigation system.

Tip: if you are using cardboard or thick newspaper around trees, soak the ground and the paper first to lock in moisture. Be sure there is a way for irrigation and rain water to penetrate; you can arrange cardboard like a ceiling fan, so there are spaces between, and mulch over the whole thing. If you are using cardboard in a pathway, soak it first so that it isn’t slippery when stepped on! You do not have to remove tape; it will rise to the top when the glue dissolves and you can pick it up later. Do not use shiny cardboard, but the black ink from paper and most printing is from soy so is very safe to use. Even if its not, a little ink is far better on the soil than spraying with glysophate and leaving bare soil to cook in the sun!

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