In recent years, weather disasters are not rare for us: either heat waves with temperatures up to 104°F (40°С) or frosts in mid-spring. Under the hot sun, the uncovered land is heated (like sand on a beach) to 122-158°F (50-70°С).
The heated soil and the hot air burn everything in just a few days, all this after hard work in greenhouses and planting in gardens. This problem can be solved quickly and cheaply. There is such an agricultural technique, which has been used since the 17th century and is called “soil cover.”
TYPES OF SOIL COVER
Soil cover is not affected by heat and can be done in 3 ways.
- Conventional mulch.
- Organic mulch.
- Inorganic mulch.
Conventional mulching is always used. It is a common type of loosening. It is also known as dry irrigation. Loosening after irrigation or rainfall keeps the soil layer underneath moist and cool for a longer period of time, and it reduces evaporation of water from the soil during dry periods.
Loosening the soil destroys weeds and increases the oxygen flow to the soil. However, in addition to the positive side of such mulching, there is also a negative side. Frequent loosening of the soil can damage the soil structure and does not contribute to soil fertility.
Organic mulches are made of organic materials left behind after certain agrotechnical activities soil cover.
Inorganic mulches are made of rock or industrial materials soil cover.
MATERIALS USED FOR ORGANIC MULCH
Natural organic mulch is considered to be the best mulch material for soils under horticultural crops. Organic mulch includes all waste products of agricultural production: straw, sawdust, grass clippings, peat, bark chips, wood chips, wood chips, fallen leaves, humus, mature compost, needles, waste flax, sunflower, cereal crops, fallen cones. Mulches were mown grass, hay, crushed eggshells, manure, and other materials.
USEFUL PROPERTIES OF ORGANIC MULCH
Organic mulch soil cover prevents overheating (in summer) and freezing (in winter).
Rows covered with mulch in hot weather reduce soil temperature, thus protecting the soil from excessive water evaporation and preventing the formation of crusts after irrigation.
If the soil around seedlings is covered with a 2-3inch (5-8 cm) layer of mulch, the germination of weeds (especially annuals) will be reduced several times. Perennial weeds that germinate through the mulch (quilt, yarrow, gooseberry) can be cut at the seedling stage, mainly to prevent them from flowering and fertilizing. With such care, the garden will lose its beauty, but it will gain health.
Among the half-cut weeds, tomato, pepper, and eggplant bushes will quickly take root, acquire the necessary organic matter and proceed to form a harvest, which will be a shelter against sunburn. There is a group of vicious weeds (field snails, wheatgrass) that grow quietly under the mulch canopy. But they are small enough to walk with a hoe and turn the mulch between the rows.
During the summer, the mulch will gradually decompose, enriching the soil with nutrients and humus, which will attract beneficial soil microbes and worms. The soil will become friable and more permeable. Under a sunken mulch, the scouring of the upper layers by rain and weathering by wind will be reduced.
Using coniferous mulch can slightly increase the acidity of some crops (sumac, chicory, potatoes, radishes, tomatoes, carrots, pumpkins). The soil can be slightly alkalized with hay, sawdust of broadleaf species for peppers, beets, onions, windbreaks, celery, asparagus.
More recently, fine mulches of sunflower hulls and cereal crops are being used more aggressively. This mulch does not actually clump. Air and water passages are unobstructed, its multi-layered nature creates cooler temperatures, and slow decay gradually enriches the soil with nutrients.
Improperly applied organic mulch can have a negative impact on the soil. In rainy weather, a thick layer of organic mulch is a good home for mold and other fungal-bacterial infections. Coarse mulch (long stems of weeds, sunflowers, pieces of cardboard) is a comfortable home for snails, slugs, and other pests. Therefore, choose mulch and use it carefully, taking into account the structure of the soil, its composition, and crops.
MATERIALS USED FOR INORGANIC MULCH
Inorganic mulch includes natural materials – gravel, pebbles, sand, crushed stone, as well as waste materials from bricks and other industries. Soil cover with plastic film, agricultural fabrics, burlap, expanded clay is a mulch designed to choke out weeds and improve the quality of care for cultivated plants.
For example, in strawberry plantations, industrial fields for vegetable crops, black film, and agricultural fibers are used to suppress weed growth, retain moisture in the soil, protect the soil from excessive heat, and enable clean production for harvesting.
Uses of Inorganic Mulch
The primary role of inorganic mulch is also soil cover to protect cultivated plants from the scorching heat, retain moisture in the soil, and suppress weed growth. The use of inorganic mulch makes our vegetable gardens and cottages ornamental.
It’s nice to see the box bed is comfortable: it’s filled with green and healthy plants, like a flower bed, and surrounded by colorful paths made of colored pebbles, sand, gravel, crumbs of broken bricks, and other easy materials.
Naturally, the use of inorganic mulch is necessary as an agronomic technique. However, its use should not be abused. It will leave the fashionable box and remain a dead gravel area instead of fertile soil. After all, inorganic artificial mulch does not increase the fertility of the soil but significantly worsens its physical indicators.
METHODS OF MULCHING
The method of mulching is determined by the ultimate goal – weed control, moisture conservation, adding decorative qualities to the site, early availability of vegetables, or extending the warm season.
Sprinkle mulch on the soil
Using a fine organic mulch on plants is most useful and has the closest effect on the soil to the natural processes that occur under mulch. Peat, humus, sawdust, and shavings easily pass through water and prevent their rapid evaporation, protecting the soil from drying out in times of drought. After decomposition, they enrich the humus material in the soil. Therefore, plants under the mulch require less nutrients and watering.
Soil cover with mulch sheets
Mulch films are more practical in partial soil cover. Thus, temporary covering with black film between rows can increase the yield of cucumbers, zucchini, bell peppers, and corn by 20-30%, and early spring helps the soil to warm up quickly so that you get an earlier harvest. Seedlings covered with black film root faster.
Continuous mulching with film or agricultural fibers is more often used when growing industrial-scale products (strawberry plantations, cabbage fields). With such mulching, the nutrient requirements of plants are sometimes reduced to one-third of the amount of fertilizer applied in the open field.
In such cases, however, it is necessary to fertilize the soil prior to mulching with film or other ground cover and, indeed, to leave it unfertilized or use a foliar fertilizer afterward.
The mulching material should retain light. Weeds continue to grow vigorously under transparent materials. When using mulching materials in the home, consider that organic matter in the soil is depleted more quickly under a canopy of aluminum foil and other mulches. In summer cabins, the use of inorganic mulch should not take precedence over the use of organic mulch.
Artificial mulch materials are more practical to use during the warm season and remove during the winter, while natural mulch can be left on the bed or plot, decomposing and adding organic matter to the soil in the form of humus and other organic compounds.
The basic mulching of the soil is carried out 2 times a year: in autumn and in spring. Each of them will be effective only if the prescribed rules are observed.
Autumn mulching is carried out after the complete harvest of the crop. Around the beginning of October to mid-October, the microorganisms are still active, and the weeds have left or gone into winter rest.
For gardens and berry orchards, as a fall mulch, it is best to use rough and dry materials: bark, chips, nutshells, peat. Garden plots can be mulched with manure, humus, fallen leaves, and other softer materials.
Prior to mulching, it is necessary to prepare the soil.
- Remove dry tracts, remnants of weeds, cut parts of branches.
- Apply fertilizer.
- Incorporate it into the soil by digging or surface loosening.
Dry soil must necessarily be watered and wait for the complete absorption of irrigation water. Dry soil, especially in gardens and berry orchards, should never be mulched with mulch because the water does not always reach the roots sufficiently afterward.
The mulch layer in the fall should be 2-3inch (5-8 cm) and sometimes up to 6inch (15 cm). Do not trample the mulch.
Lay a thinner layer of mulch in the garden’s shade than in the open, sunny areas.
When mulching winter crops such as garlic, provide space between the plant rows and the mulch. In the garden, leave the root zone free of mulch. Mulch the ground cover area in a circle around the diameter of the tree canopy.
More related information about soil