The Importance of Mulch

This week the farm has been a busy bustle of activity as we race to prep our farm for spring.  All the bad weather we have had has put us very behind and we are playing a massive game of catch up.  As we discussed on the Sow Edible Permaculture Podcast episode #16, we have been mainly focusing on mulching with hay, grafting our trees, planting trees, and overseeing all root cellar and Off Grid house building that is going on.  If that is not enough for you, we have also had our pigs attacked by some dogs.. not wild dogs, but someone’s domesticated dogs.  You can enjoy my rant about that on episode #16 of the Sow Edible Permaculture Podcast.

The Importance of Mulching

Mulching is a big deal in our world.  We mulch everything… Swales, Trees, and Ponds get a thick layer while the areas we are planting with ground  cover get a thin layer just to set the seed.  We have learned the hard way that when we mulch, to mulch very thick.  If you don’t you will find yourself mulching again before the end of summer.  There is nothing more fun than mulching with hay when the temperatures in the 90s and the humidity is kicking.

Mulching is very important for all who garden and here is why..

  • Gives your soil protection against erosion caused by wind and water
  • Allows your soil to retain moisture and therefore allows you to water less.  Don’t forget that if you plant on swales AND mulch you get the double whammy of water retention.
  • Soil building- as the mulch decomposes, it composts, which in turn builds healthy soil.
  • Protects ground cover seed and allows it to take hold before it washes away or the birds eat it.  At the very least gives the seed a head start against the birds, making it more difficult for them to eat your seed.  This is not to say the birds won’t eat some of your seed, but they won’t wipe you out immediately.
  • Keeps the weeds at bay- mulching heavily will block the growth of weeds.  Those that do poke through will be very easy to pull because of the moist soil they are growing in.  We have found that mulching can completely eliminate weeds in even extreme weedy areas.  Since we simply do not have the time to constantly weed our acres of trees, mulching heavily is a massive time saver as well.

Types of Mulch

Mulch can come in many different forms.  For us, we found that we can purchase older hay (that is no longer fresh enough to use as animal feed) from the local farmers at a very affordable price.  In addition to price, we also benefit from the fact that it has already started composting.. which is great for soil building and fertility!  This is definitely something to consider for all of you that have large areas to cover with mulch as we buy it in huge bales.

Chop and Drop Mulch– After the big once a year heavy mulch, we then use chop and drop mulch the throughout the growing season.  We also plant chop and drop plants around our gardens such as comfrey in order to have it handy when we are ready to mulch with it.  If you have never heard of it, chop and drop is a very simple practice of chopping or cutting plants and dropping it (or placing it) around a tree or plant for mulch.  There are certain plants out there that are excellent sources of nitrogen and are used just for this purpose.  Comfrey would be the most popular but we have found that you can even use weeds or pruned bushes as well.  I think the first example of chop and drop that I ever experienced was with grass clippings.  Cutting the grass and then spreading it around your garden as mulch is chop and drop at it’s finest.  This practice has simply been expanded to not only grass, but to other leafy vegetation and even obnoxious weeds.

Where should I mulch in my backyard garden?

  • All flowerbeds and bushes
  • Garden (veggie or herb)
  • Trees- One very important thing to note is that when you mulch around trees, you mush leave a few inches of space around the base of the tree.  You do not want the mulch sitting up against the bark.
  • Areas you are planting cover crop or trying to get grass to grow.

So get out there and start mulching!


  1. It’s interesting that you pointed out that mulch can help keep weeds at bay. I kind of let my garden fall into disrepair last year because I fell behind on the weeding. It would be nice to not have to worry about that as much next year, so perhaps it would be a good idea to have someone come and mulch my garden and flowerbeds.

  2. Just wondering why you don’t just use cover crop instead of so much mulching.

    • In short, mulching is a lot easier, less time consuming, and also grows mushrooms. We will answer this question in more detail on episode #43 next week! Great question!



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