Allotment and Garden Guides

Monthly Guides To Getting Better Results From Your Vegetable Plot And Your Fruit Garden

Hold That Moisture – Mulching

Posted by Wartime Gardener

About 300 years ago, a scientist planted a willow shoot weighing 5 lb. in a barrel holding 200 lb. of dry soil.  For five years he gave it nothing but pure water. He finished with a fine tree weighing over 169 lb. : and the soil had lost a trifling 2 oz., so he concluded that water was the “principle of vegetation.”

Other scientists have since found it isn’t quite as simple as that, but none of them has grown a plant without water. In fact it takes anything up to 1,000 lb. of water to produce a single pound of plant substance.

Plants are just as thirsty in August as human beings are, though they are unable to trot into the kitchen or down the road. But they do have roots able to draw on the available moisture in the soil. It’s up to us to see that the moisture gets to the roots and not into the warm air. Much can be done by timely hoeing to stop the soil cracking when it has been beaten down by heavy rains or watering. But a better way to keep the roots or peas, runner beans and tomatoes supplied with moisture is to spread a layer of half-rotted manure with plenty of straw in it, well-rotted compost material, or even decayed lawn-mowings, between the rows and around the plants. This is a mulch, but it is next to useless if you put it on already bone dry soil. Seize the moment after a fall of rain, or if the rain fails, give the ground a good soaking.

See that the mulch is open in texture : heavy impenetrable stuff keeps the air from the soil and may even tend to sour it. Watch your lawn-mowings specially. Mulching also helps to keep down the weeds.

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