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  • Writer's pictureBesa

Green Mulch

Garden soil is a precious resource that must be protected and nurtured. Gardeners work for years to improve the soil by adding compost, protecting it from compaction, preventing erosion, and removing weeds. Soil that is left uncovered is vulnerable to damage from the elements and weed establishment.

Green mulch can refer to the method of covering the garden soil with green yard waste. Pulled weeds and clippings can be laid down between desirable garden plants to cover the soil, preventing more weed growth and providing future compost as the greens decay. Pulling weeds and letting them lay where they fall saves the gardener a lot of trouble hauling weeds to the compost pile and then hauling compost to the garden. This is a way of mimicking nature, allowing dead plants to decompose where they fall and return to the earth. To reduce the unsightliness of decaying plants in the garden they can be covered with some leaf mulch which will also aide decomposition.

Another reference to green mulch can mean that the ground is completely covered in living plants. Weeds will not grow when there is no bare ground for seeds to germinate. Native groundcovers can be used as a green mulch to prevent weed growth, stop erosion, and naturally cover the soil without applying mulch each year. Allowing creeping plants like wild strawberry to fill in the gaps between taller plants is an effective green mulch. Finding aggressive spreading groundcovers that don’t smother the other plants in the bed can be challenging. Shrub plantings are great candidates for green mulch as the groundcover will not be able to smother the shrub. Allowing the taller plants to be well established before the green mulch groundcover is introduced may tip the scales in favor of the original plants.

Either of these methods of covering the garden with green mulch reduce the need for external sources of wood mulch. Mulching the garden with the resources provided by the garden is an efficient method to cover the soil without buying mulch that just decomposes in a season.

The needs of garden insects and birds must also be balanced in the care of the garden. Many insects live in the leaf litter covering the soil, helping with decomposition. These insects can be damaged by a too heavy application of mulch or the removal of leaf litter. Some insects like ground nesting bees require bare patches of ground to build their nests. Many birds forage across the ground looking for seeds and insects and like to have just the right amount of debris on the ground to scratch in. It is a delicate balance to make all garden residents happy but sticking close to natural processes is usually the best way to go.

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