Mulch: Materials and Strategies

by admin on April 2, 2014

Mulch: Materials and Strategies
By Danylo Kosovych, Owner
Organic Edible Gardens LLC

There are many benefits to mulch, including improved soil moisture retention, weed suppression, increase in organic matter and aesthetic quality, but like most things, a sound approach goes a long way,  if applied too thickly, it can create problems like root collar disorders in trees, anaerobic soil conditions and killing of tender perennials. There are multiple material options to consider as well as the ideal time of year to apply mulch.

The best time of the year to apply mulch to your garden beds is the early spring before perennials emerge. It is best to wait until most of the snow has finished, if applied too early, the mulch will be flattened and weathered come spring time. Perennial garden plants will emerge through mulch if not applied to thickly. Attempting to mulch after perennials emerge requires significantly more care because recently sprouted perennials can be damaged if covered by mulch. Mulch applied in spring prevents annual weed seed germination in garden beds and can smother already emerged perennial weeds.

There are many mulch materials available, but the most widely available are shredded bark, leaves and wood. The best mulch resembles most what nature produces. Nature’s mulch is a combination of leaves, downed twigs and trees, therefore one could assume that leaf mulch from the county facility is the best option. While it does produce rich dark soil when used over a number of years, it contains a lot of weed seeds and can counteract the weed suppression benefit of mulch. Bark mulch is high in tannins which over time lowers the ph of our already acidic soil. There is never such a high concentration of bark around plants in nature; it is always accompanied with wood and leaves. No material is perfect, but out of the three, wood mulch is my mulch of choice because it keeps weeds down, looks attractive and has balanced nutrients.

If you would like to smother a section of weeds or lawn consider using a compostable material like cardboard. Weed fabric should be avoided in garden beds. It never breaks down! If not removed annually, perennial weeds begin to seed themselves on top of the fabric, growing roots throughout the fabric, making it more difficult to remove the weeds. It also stratifies soil, not allowing the organic matter of broken down mulch to mix with the lower layers of soil. As a result, roots remain at the surface. Over time, the fabric becomes clogged with organic matter, preventing water from infiltrating into lower layers of the soil. Cardboard, on the other hand can be left in place because it breaks down over time, improving the soil.

Mulch: Materials and Strategies Ten year old weed fabric with a thick layer of weeds growing on top

Mulch: Materials and Strategies Cardboard also smothers weeds but breaks down over time



PDF Download of Permaculture Presentation

March 12, 2014

In case you missed our talk at the George Mason University Permaculture Design Course (or just want a copy of the presentation), here is the full PowerPoint presentation in PDF format – this includes both Danylo’s talk on the business and Jon’s presentation on plant guilds and polycultures. Download: OEG-GMU PDC Presentation (PDF, 17.0MB) Thanks again to […]

Read the full article →

PDC 2014 Community Spotlight Discussion

March 4, 2014

PDC 2014 Community Spotlight Discussion Join this year’s Permaculture Design Certification class as they welcome Jonathan Storvick and Danylo Kosovych of Organic Edible Gardens for an exclusive event open to the community. Organic Edible Gardens LLC is a Permaculture-based business working on the ground in our nation’s capital region and striving to make a positive […]

Read the full article →

Happy Valentine’s Day!

February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine’s Day from Organic Edible Gardens!!! Be sure to go out and give your loved one some flowers today.  Or better yet, plant some so that they can have beautiful flowers every year!

Read the full article →

Pruning in the Dormant Season

February 8, 2014

Pruning in the Dormant Season ©2013-2014 Danylo Kosovych and Organic Edible Gardens LLC What most people consider pruning is taking a power tool to the exterior of a shrub and turning it into a perfect ball, or hedge row. While this tactic applies to hedges it does not benefit most shrubs and trees. A common […]

Read the full article →

January- A Time for Rest and Reflection

January 15, 2014

January- A Time for Rest and Reflection ©2013-2014 Danylo Kosovych and Organic Edible Gardens LLC The shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere is December 21st , the winter solstice. From the advent of the solar calendar, cultures have been holding celebrations on this day in association with their religious beliefs. At this […]

Read the full article →

Fallen Leaves: A Valuable Resource, Not a Waste Product

November 20, 2013

Fallen Leaves: A Valuable Resource, Not a Waste Product ©2013  Danylo Kosovych and Organic Edible Gardens LLC One of the first practices that struck me as odd when I began landscaping is the collection and disposal of the season’s fallen leaves. Leaves are a good source of organic matter and plant nutrients. You can reduce […]

Read the full article →

Rainwater-Harvesting Earthworks

September 30, 2013

©2013 Jonathan Storvick and Organic Edible Gardens LLC “Swales” and other rainwater-harvesting earthworks are an integral part of the sustainable landscape.  Harvesting rainwater is by no means a new concept – humans have been capturing and storing rainwater for at least 6000 years, probably longer.  From the cisterns of ancient Rome to today’s ubiquitous 55-gallon […]

Read the full article →

Fall Lawn Renovation the Organic Way

August 28, 2013

© 2013 by Danylo Kosovych and Organic Edible Gardens LLC Fall, in general, is the best time of the year for planting. With temperatures slowly cooling down and an increase in precipitation, newly installed plants have a good opportunity to establish themselves. When it comes to the month of September specifically, this is a good […]

Read the full article →

Species Profile: Alpine Strawberry

August 19, 2013

  Ecology Fragaria vesca ssp. alpina, or alpine strawberry, is a prostrate fruiting herb that has been eaten by humans since the Paleolithic.  Like a great many of our favorite cultivated plants (apples, pears, roses, plums, peaches, etc.), it is a member of the Rosaceae, or rose family.  Alpine strawberry is a subspecies, or distinct […]

Read the full article →