4. Midsummer updates
It’s the end of July and if honest, I didn’t think that the year will turn into such an abundance. Here in the UK, we had the coldest and rainiest May in the last 160 years and everything was on hold. My courgettes were planted a month later than usual, such as French/runner beans and everything else. I remember planting hollyhocks in March and they were stagnating until the last few weeks when we had a heatwave. I thought that the plants might be ill or weak, or the soil contains something that prevents them from growing. Then, with a heat striking in, they went crazy- developed a lot of leaves, mass and now they are shooting into the height. Can`t wait to see the first flowers.
Yesterday I bought 5 bales of hay to apply the mulch on the areas where it is the most needed. If you read my previous posts, last autumn I applied 20 bales on my allotment, the layer was almost 30 cm, 1 foot thick. But with the weather and microorganisms, the layer is few inches thick now. It still prevents a lot of weeds to grow, I don`t have to worry about weeds taking control because mulch keeps them suppressed. However, there are a few sturdy weeds that keep popping out of mulch and they are:
Silverweed- spreads around the paths that are covered with woodchips. I want to cover the paths with mulch as well, so I have 2 options here: move the woodchip, put cardboard and then mulch, or dig the roots out with the forks. Probably, I’d go for a second choice as I love weeding. – Bindweed- it spreads everywhere, it seems that the mulch doesn’t stop it, which is fine. As the soil is humid below the mulch, I can simply pull them out and leave them on top of the mulch. If they climb on my plants, I can cut the stem, and leave it on a plant. Roots have to be taken out though. – Horsetail- it grows everywhere, the root has enough energy stored to push the young plants through the mulch. Same as above, the roots are easy to pull out. The plant is rich in silicium, so I`m happy to use it in liquid fertilizer (along with nettles and comfrey), or just leave it on mulch. – Common couch- Most of it is coming from the path between 2 plots. This one can be very invasive and the only cure is to keep digging the roots out. Or mechanically stop them coming into the plot, by digging some wood boards or iron sheets in the soil.
A few facts about the slugs that I have noticed so far: Before I started mulching, a lot of people told me not to do it in the UK climate because of the slugs. They said that they will spread more if they have mulch to hide. I disputed the fact on the biology level- if each slug can lay let’s say 10 eggs, how on earth can it lay 15 because of the presence of the mulch? I have noticed slugs, especially late afternoon towards the evening, but I haven’t seen any higher numbers than when my soil was exposed. Also, they haven’t made a lot of damage, I managed to grow nice and healthy lettuce and other plants that they love. OK, yes, I have used the “organic” palettes around the plants that they really love- tagetes- my favorite flowers. But I applied it a few times, only when the plants were young. Another cool observation is that if I lift the mulch locally, I can collect the slugs if I find any. This is not possible if you don’t have mulch, as they hide deep in the soil. So, the mechanical collection of the slugs ( still the most powerful method for a mulched area) is possible at any time of the day.
So far, I have been mulching for almost a year and I am very happy with the outcome. Mulch prevents most of the weeds to grow and overtake the plot (as they did last year), it supports wildlife (there are a lot of different species hiding below, from slugs, beetles, spiders to crustaceans), it decomposes and feeds the soil. Last year, I have applied a lot of manure on the plot, before applying mulch. In theory, that should have been the last time having delivered a truck of manure. Each year, the mulch does its magic and I can always dig in some manure locally, below the plant’s roots when I’m planting. By doing this, I definitely need less manure. I never put any under my runner of French beans as they feed themselves. Also, I never pull the roots out as they contain small lumps of nitrogen, stored from the air. Simply cut them on the soil level.
Now, I have to think about where to get more hay/straw for the autumn. I will try to get more of it, at least 30 bales or so. I am also thinking to use a wood chip because it lasts longer, and am thinking to buy a petrol shredder so I can produce my chip.