Confused about mulch

AMKuska

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I've been studying garden health a lot recently, and many places are recommending a mulch cover to help keep the soil warmth, water, and nutrients in, while also keeping pests out. I'm going to try mulching this year, but the different methods I've read have me confused. One recommends I use compost as a mulch, and others recommend things like straw etc.

I'm confused about using compost as a mulch. Compost to me is a soil additive, so isn't it then soil when you layer it on top? Won't it still run off if it's watered?
 

heirloomgal

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I've been studying garden health a lot recently, and many places are recommending a mulch cover to help keep the soil warmth, water, and nutrients in, while also keeping pests out. I'm going to try mulching this year, but the different methods I've read have me confused. One recommends I use compost as a mulch, and others recommend things like straw etc.

I'm confused about using compost as a mulch. Compost to me is a soil additive, so isn't it then soil when you layer it on top? Won't it still run off if it's watered?
I'm a big mulcher myself, and I've always wondered about that 'compost as mulch' suggestion too. If I were to do that, it would grow it's own weeds, which is what I want to avoid and a big reason why I mulch in the first place. To me, compost 'mulch' is more like top or side dressing, like I do with manure. The compost nutrients would filter down too, in that sense.

I really like straw as it's cheap, it goes a long way, and when it breaks down it adds a really wonderful quality to the soil. I've added many straw bales to my garden over the last ten years or so. Having said that though, adding straw mulch to crops that really like warmth, say corn and beans, it does slow them down I find. Peas love it, lettuce too (gotta watch the slugs though) and I always mulch my rhubarb plants. I stopped with my tomatoes and peppers because they just didn't seem to do as well. There is a really fine bagged straw that is sold in farm supply stores, it's really soft to the touch, and it is dreamy to mulch with. And makes a bit more of a tight fit together, so no weeds can weasel their way through. Bit more pricey though, but very nice looking.

What can I say, I love mulching!
 

AMKuska

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I'm really glad that you specifically mentioned peppers. I'm hoping to get my peppers to do better which is one of the reasons why I'm exploring mulch. It's interesting your peppers didn't like the mulch as much. I'd think it would do better with a blanket over its roots.
 

heirloomgal

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I'm really glad that you specifically mentioned peppers. I'm hoping to get my peppers to do better which is one of the reasons why I'm exploring mulch. It's interesting your peppers didn't like the mulch as much. I'd think it would do better with a blanket over its roots.
Peppers love heat, and mulch really does cool the soil. Pepper production too is tied to the roots, so I actually don't even plant in ground anymore so I can have them in a black pot that gets nice and hot. The roots hitting the side of the warm pot triggers production. I've experimented a lot with this, and my production per plant is higher in the smaller pots than bigger ones. And if I switch from a black pot to terra cotta, even just the color, my production really drops off. Mind you, I'm not much of a fertilizer, just the odd handful of chicken manure.
 

ducks4you

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In My experience, compost with manure, which mine is, is fine to use for either as long as the manure has rotted sufficiently. Mine is horse manure, and it takes 4 months, after which, if you turn it it smells very sweet.
You need "browns" and "greens."
The Best compost is "well rotted." I have discovered that year two years of same mulch makes excellent soil for my crops.
Composting barrels are VERY GOOD for this, especially for folks with small yards.
I don't have one, but DD, who has 1/4 acre lot, is thinking about buying one.
NOT recommending This one, but you get the idea. You fill it and turn it every few days, no electricity needed.
Turning compost speeds up the decomposition in the only way possible.
Nature creates well rotted compost on it's own, but, as I said, MY piles take about 2 years.
I started composting bc I don't like feeding the landfill! I cannot figure out why my neighbor overflows her trash pickup can every week, with just her and her son, yet I hardly fill mine at all.
I live where I can burn paper and cardboard and wood, and we have a plethora of cardboard, which Can be composted.
 
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ducks4you

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Mulch is simply using your compost to lay down in between your flowers/vegetables.
You do this for 2 reasons:
1) It holds in moisture for your plants without rotting them
2) It helps prevent unwanted seeds from sprouting.
I am fighting burdock, a 2 year weed.
In the past I have mowed 1st year burdock leaves with my bag mower and spread it 4-5 inches thick around my pepper plants. No weeds, and it cut down on the watering.
IF something grows through then you didn't remove a weed's roots, and it survived and is growing through the mulch.
IF you use wood chips around your flowers it will rob nitrogen from the soil in order to break itself down, and this will prevent your flowers from getting nutrients. Same with pine needles.
So much for the wisdom of box stores garden centers!
BOTH wood and pine needles need to be well rotted to be useful.
MY compost is mostly from soil horse stall bedding. I use fine pine shavings, almost sawdust, pine pellets, which get soiled with urine and break down to a powder, straw, which makes Excellent compost, and some soiled hay, here or there.
If you become an expert at composting, you will save yourself a lot of $ buying it.
Just FYI...
 
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AMKuska

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Mulch is simply using your compost to lay down in between your flowers/vegetables.
You do this for 2 reasons:
1) It holds in moisture for your plants without rotting them
2) It helps prevent unwanted seeds from sprouting.
I am fighting burdock, a 2 year weed.
In the past I have mowed 1st year burdock leaves with my bag mower and spread it 4-5 inches thick around my pepper plants. No weeds, and it cut down on the watering.
IF something grows through then you didn't remove a weed's roots, and it survived and is growing through the mulch.
IF you use wood chips around your flowers it will rob nitrogen from the soil in order to break itself down, and this will prevent your flowers from getting nutrients. Same with pine needles.
So much for the wisdom of box stores garden centers!
BOTH wood and pine needles need to be well rotted to be useful.
MY compost is mostly from soil horse stall bedding. I use fine pine shavings, almost sawdust, pine pellets, which get soiled with urine and break down to a powder, straw, which makes Excellent compost, and some soiled hay, here or there.
If you become an expert at composting, you will save yourself a lot of $ buying it.
Just FYI...
Im sorry for the confusion, I already have my own composter and compost all food scraps in it. I have a separate pile for chicken litter and compost that too.

Compost used as a layer to surpress weeds and keep the soil moist would be great because I have the ability to produce it, but it seems like it would just run off with rain etc
 

Artichoke Lover

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Im sorry for the confusion, I already have my own composter and compost all food scraps in it. I have a separate pile for chicken litter and compost that too.

Compost used as a layer to surpress weeds and keep the soil moist would be great because I have the ability to produce it, but it seems like it would just run off with rain etc
Most places I see around here that use it seem to apply a thin layer every few weeks otherwise weeds do start growing through it. Also peppers really like warm soil. I would recommend mulching them with black landscape fabric or plastic.
 

Alasgun

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Thanks for pointing out the plastic mulches @Artichoke Lover, used properly they seem to work the best.
they do take a little effort but once in place your done. There are several that come with “credentials” as in, some science behind them. Johnny’s sells a dark green one that has the proper uv inhibitors that block any light that would allow the weeds to grow underneath. There’s red one’s too which i’ve never used.
The sequence around here is, work the soil a bit, apply amendments, rake real flat, lay down the mulch and fasten it down good. We treat it like a bed sheet and tuck the edges all around the raised bed sides.
burn or cut holes where a transplant will go, lay the drip lines with emitters in the right places and plant the plant. You’ll get warmth and weed control for sure. Jerk it up in the fall and toss it!
 

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