With everyone wanting to live a greener life people are leaning more toward using organic gardening ideas such as organic mulches. If you are looking for a way to help your garden grow without weeds and without harmful chemicals, you may want to try to use a living mulch. That is, a cover crop that will not grow tall, but grows across the ground surrounding your plants and will keep your gardens looking great because it will all be covered with greenery unlike bark or straw.
The living mulch can be planted with the main crop or 4-5 weeks after you have planted your desired crop. These plants will grow for a long time with your main crop. You can plant it along side your vegetables and then till it up at the end of the harvest. Doing so will make your garden have more nutrients for the following planting season, so you benefit from the cover throughout the season and once again by re-introducing its nutrients when you till it in the fall.
Anytime you use organic mulches you are creating a healthier environment for your crops to grow in. When you don’t use fertilizers and pesticides that have chemicals in them then your food is going to be better for you to eat. Any run off that occurs will not harm your soil or beneficial organisms because you haven’t put harmful chemicals into the ground.
If you can keep your garden’s soil healthy, your crops will grow better. Cover plants provide many positive benefits for the soil they are planted in. Some of the best living mulches are plants like clovers, hairy vetch, alfalfa, and rye grass. They grow close to the ground and won’t hurt your original crops. Before you plant anything though, you need to ensure that your vegetable garden is free of weeds by tiling up the garden area. You will also want to make sure you use your cover plant sparingly so that it does not overcrowd your garden.
If you use a basic cover crop like clover it will contribute nutrients to your garden and allow you to use less fertilizer. If you don’t use anything but bare soil around your crops then you will lose a lot of your good soil to natural soil erosion and while losing nutrients, weeds will be allowed to grow abundantly. Some people choose to use living mulch even during the winter months when they are not growing a garden because it serves as a way to help suppress the ability of weeds growing and it will also help to regulate the soil temperature.
Anytime it rains outside or you water your crops you create pools of water that will run off. When this happens you lose soil and nutrients that your crops need. Using living mulch will even help to prevent the natural erosion of your soil from rain, watering your garden, and wind erosion.
They are also known to decrease populations of crop pests that are typically a problem to your garden. Some living mulches like legumes can provide your garden with nitrogen fixation which helps to decrease the need for you to fertilize your organic garden.
If you use straw or other non-living coverage in your organic garden you will still gain the moisture content in your soil and fewer weeds. However, you won’t gain the same nutrients and oxygenation that live coverage plants can give you. Which one you choose is a matter of personal preference and the type of crop that you will be growing since in some cases the crops competing for the nutrients and water in the soil may produce less vegetables. This is the only real drawback to living mulch is that it will compete for nutrients and water with the main crops which could reduce yields. For instance, corn yield was reduced 5-10% at the end of the harvest season when orchargrass, bromegrass, or tall fescue was used as the mulch. Because of this competition with the main crop.
You also need to make sure that the cover crop you use is not susceptible to the same diseases and bugs as the main crop you are growing. If both the cover crop and the vegetable are both able to get the same problems then you will most likely have a higher chance of problems arising as both crops are susceptible to it.
Using living mulches as a cover crop for your organic garden is a great practice and one that most if not all organic gardeners should consider putting in place to help them achieve a successful garden.