The Art & Science of Mulching Gardens
Using Compost & Mulches
in your Garden
The use of compost and mulches made from recycled organics has surged dramatically since the state mandated that yard and wood trimmings be recycled. Since 1993, Sonoma County residents have sent over 1.4 million tons of “green materials” to Sonoma Compost. These materials are converted to the compost and mulch prized by backyard gardeners, grape growers and landscapers. Most large public landscape projects now utilize mulch when preparing soils for high traffic use.
Use mulches to top off the soil around plants. Mulch retains moisture, controls erosion, suppresses weeds, moderates soil temperature and stimulates microbial and earthworm activity. Composts are soil amendments that are worked into the soil. They increase organic matter, improving soil structure, enhance microbial populations and provide beneficial nutrients to crops, vineyards and landscaping.
Use mulch in your vegetable garden, around annuals and perennials. Place it around but not right up to plants in your vegetable and flower gardens, under fruit and ornamental trees, and in agricultural settings. For seedlings, wait until they are established. A 2-4” layer works for most applications and is most effective when applied to soil that’s already moist.
Mulch can reduce moisture evaporation from soil by 10%-50% and organic mulch, unlike plastic, also allows moisture into the soil.. A thick layer is best for moisture conservation and weed control. Any weeds that pop through will be easy to spot and pull. To practically eliminate weeding, place mulch on a moist layer of old newspaper or cardboard.
By absorbing the impact of raindrops, mulch reduces soil compaction and crusting and by adding organic matter to the soil, improves its structure. The result is healthier soil that’s easier to work.
Knowledgeable gardeners know that mulch also attracts earthworms who aerate your soil and release nutrients in the form of castings. Appropriate mulches provide modest inputs of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium as well as important trace minerals but primarily mulching creates conditions that allow beneficial microorganisms to break down organic matter, recycling nutrients through the soil system.
In addition to providing a wonderful backdrop for the radiant colors in your landscape, recycled mulch also prolongs the life of landfills and helps rebuild our valuable topsoil.
Sonoma Compost produces two mulches: Vineyard Mulch (for use on and around landscaping and food-producing plants) and Path Mulch (for use in landscaping and on pathways).
Vineyard Mulch is made from recycled yard trimmings that have been partially composted to destroy weed seeds and plant diseases. An excellent long-term conditioner, it also adds moisture-holding capacity to sandy soils. The color and texture resembles a natural forest floor, enhancing any garden. Vineyard Mulch is OMRI listed for use in organic production.
Long lasting Path Mulch is made from recycled wood and is an affordable, environmentally sound alternative to expensive forest products. Its attractive texture and subtle color help set off rich garden hues.
This article is written by Sonoma Compost, which manages the Sonoma County Regional Compost Program. For more information please visit their web site: http://www.sonomacompost.com/regional.shtml
For more information, visit www.sonomacompost.com
and Sonoma County Master Gardeners www.ucanr.org/sites/scmg/