Have you ever had trouble with a weedy garden? How about the endless routine of watering, watering, watering? (Unless it is a rainy year) Or the fun of washing off dirty produce?
For the last 6 years or so, we've been using some type of mulch on our garden.
Mulch is: a material (such as decaying leaves, bark, compost, hay, straw, wood chips, etc.) spread around or over a plant to enrich or insulate the soil.
We started out by using grass clippings from our lawn mower. The grass clippings worked pretty well. They were a light covering that small plants could easily work their way through, and the grass was easy to spread around. The one down side, is if you have a weedy lawn, the grass can be full of weed seeds! Then, if it is not spread thin enough, the weeds seeds will fall to the soil, root, and grow. Thus defeating one of the purposes of the mulch.
The next type of mulch that we used was hay/straw. We tried using a 6-8 inch thick layer, going more for the lasagna style garden. We found it hard to grow small seeds. Transplants were fine, but when we planted small seeds, it seemed like the hay/straw would cover back over the place we planted, instead of staying pushed to the side, and then the seeds wouldn't be able to get enough light.
Early this year, we talked to a friend who uses wood chips on their garden. She told us that she watched a video by a Christian man in Washington state. This man had moved there from California, where he had been used to growing lots of delicious produce. He move to the Eastern side of Washington, where the mountains separated him from the ocean, and kept rainfall to a minimum. He said they only get about 19 inches of rain every year! He began using wood chips as a mulch, and does a very good explanation of his reasoning in his video. Very worthwhile to watch, go to: www.backtoedenfilm.org to watch his story
We have used wood chips in the past, on flower gardens, but never heavily on vegetable gardens, as we are this year. Since the gardens have only been in existence for about 3-4 months, they do not have all the nice organic matter that mulched gardens have after a few years. Some of the plants show signs of lack of minerals, nutrients, etc. This fall, we plan to put a layer of horse manure onto the gardens to decompose over the winter, and help to enrich the soil. After a few years go by, the wood chip mulch should be breaking down nicely, and creating a great system.