16. Mulches

We see the effectiveness of mulching more and more each year; we feel that the practice is really necessary. However, it is not necessarily desirable to mulch in all seasons: in spring, the land heats up faster without mulch and slugs are less present without this shelter. But from June, ideally, all beds should be mulched until the following spring. A bare bed in winter loses its fertility due to leaching of nutrients and is invaded by weeds, requiring a lot of effort to be re-cultivated in the spring. A bed well mulched over winter is almost ready to receive crops, early in the season if necessary.

Mulches perform several functions (fertilisation, soil protection, weed reduction, improvement of soil water retention). The diversity of the materials used makes it possible to provide humus with a variety of nutrients.

Mulching crops requires a certain amount of time (compensated by the gains from less weeding, watering, etc.). Ideally, the garden should not be larger than the area that can actually be mulched. If we cannot treat all the beds, especially in summer, it is because the cultivated area is too big!

At Bec Hellouin, we also mulch the paths to limit weeding. The paths now fulfil multiple functions: space for circulation, but also for composting. In the paths we see rapid creation of humus, which allows the growing beds to be recharged periodically. Composting of highly carbonaceous materials (straw, hardwood chips, etc.) in the paths, then incorporating them into the beds a few months later, avoids the phenomenon of nitrogen hunger.

Around the gardens, we grow sources of organic matter (comfrey, etc), in order to have materials for mulching nearby.

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