Mulching is the process we recommend the most. Why? Because mulching is the process by which we mimic what happens in the natural landscape.
What happens in the natural landscape?
Have you been to any forest area?
Yes, like this? Wooded area with no or minimal human interference?
There is nobody here to sweep away the dry leaves that fall to the ground.
How does it look?
If we do not sweep and collects leaves shed by the tree in the backyard? Yes, that is how the natural forest floor looks like, isn’t it?
Whatever falls on the floor remains there.. Shed leaves form a layer, sort of carpet over the soil.
This layer remains as it is throughout the summer.
When rains arrive, leaves decompose. Some proportion of nutrients that the tree absorbs from the soil are present in these leaves. These nutrients, when leaves decompose, are returned to the soil.
Soil keeps receiving organic matter and retains its productivity.
It serves 2 purposes. First, because of this protective layer of dry leaves over the soil, sunlight does not reach the soil. Soil is able to retain moisture even during harsh summer months.
Various insects find shelter under these leaves.
And second reason is, all nutrients are reused.
In nature, all processes are cyclic in nature. Output of one element serves as input to some other element in the system.
There is no end to it and hence there is no concept of WASTE.
And that is why, concept of waste exists only where humans are present. There is no waste in nature.
Let us see how we can eliminate this concept of waste from our cities.
So, what do we do? Simply copy the nature’s design. Because we know it works. It has worked for so many years.
And that is why nature does not run out of resources. Because same resources are used again and again.
We will be doing the same thing. Leaves fall off the tree and scatter under the tree. In our garden, we will purposely do this. In the “Mulch”, I will show you how to do that in detail in the MULCH section.
I hope I have convinced you enough regarding advantages of mulching. If not yet, here they are at a glance 😊
Advantages of Mulching
- Re-use nutrients
Practice mulching to reuse the nutrients present in the fallen leaves, protect soil moisture and conserve water in the process.
Leaves used for mulching will eventually decompose and nutrients will go back to the soil.
- Prevent nutrient leaching
When we water a plant, because of force of water, soil as well is carried by the water. When you water a pot, do observe the water that flows away from the opening at the bottom? It is muddy, isn’t it?
So, with every watering, your plant is losing soil and nutrients.
Mulch, i.e. the top layer with leaves, reduces speed of water. Water, instead of rapidly entering and exiting the pot, now gradually percolates.
This layer helps soil retain moisture. Roots of the plant do not need water; they require moisture to grow. Mulch ensures moisture is available to the roots longer.
Soil remains healthy, it does not compact. This provides aeration to the roots, one more vital growth factor.
- Water is conserved
Since soil retains moisture, you need to water less.
You do not need to believe this only because I say so. You can easily verify it yourself.
Want to give it a try?
Take 2 identical pots, plant a sapling each in both. Do mulching in one and leave the other as it is, with its soil exposed.
Observe moisture in both the pots and only if soil is dry, do water. Keep track of water needed in both. You will observe pot with mulch requires less water.
Types of mulch
Soil should always be covered with mulch. Mulch can be live or green mulch or the kind of much we just discussed, using dry leaves.
Grasses that grow automatically in the rainy season are example of green mulch. Any creepers, saplings are also green mulch.
So, if you do not have any plants occupying the soil in your garden, then cover it with dry leaves.