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Benefits of Compost as Mulch - Lay it on THICK


Benefits of Compost as Mulch - Lay it on THICK

By Vesta Copestakes

People are talking about this being an ElNiño year as if it will be be some great savior from our drought. But we don’t know if it will bring US rain - or split around us and only bring high winds. We also seem to be forgetting that in previous ElNiño winters we drowend in rain. Remember 1985/86? 1995/96? 2005/06? Well what’s next - yep - 2015/16! So yes, it might rain...and flood.

With that in mind, we need to get ready whether it’s another DRY winter OR wet winter. How? By heavily mulching our soil. If we use COMPOST instead of things like bark, we not only hold mositure in the soil, and protect it from pounding rain, but we also provide nutrients that leach into the soil through rain that creates a nutrient-rich tea to feed soil. It’s a double-benefit.

Top layer over sheet mulching can be organic material suitable for walking onThe joy of compost is that you don’t have to dig ti into the soil. Yes, when you do you move the decomposing process along fast, and guarantee a good mix of poor soil with rich organic matter, but it’s not neccerary. You can lay on thick layers in the fall that will decompose to a thin layer by spring, and in the mean time, worms to sow bugs wlll rototill that mulch into your soil without you haveg to so a thing. Birds love that part...double benefit.

Try this for SIMPLE. Rake leaves out of the way, and put them on your compast pile - or in the green waste bin to be hauled away. Then lay a thick layer of oompost on top of the bare soil. 2” to 4” is ideal since it will decompose over winter so give it more than you htink it needs. Don’t be stingy. The thicker the compost, the more moisture it will hold in and the better it will survive until spring. If you start now it will have time to settle like a down comforter over your garden beds.

The only caution is to leave breathing room around the trunks of trees and woody brush or delicate plants. Keep the compost from touching the base by about 4 - 8” depending upon the size of the trunk.

You can get compost at bulk garden supplies businesses - or bags if your garden is small - but I prefer bulk since it takes a lot to cover a yard. Most bulk suppliers will deliver one to 5 yards for a fee. It’s worth it. If you can ony drop in your driveway then lay down a barrier on the ground (tarp) where the pile will be dropped to protect the surface. Good rich compost will stain concrete, specially if it gets wet and leaches like tea.

That’s it - your work is to carry that compost to every garden in your yard, lay it on thick, spread it our, and stand back.

Sheet Mulching

Compost in layers with cardboard for sheet mulching over weeds or lawnsAs people get rid of water-wasting lawns, they come up with beautiful ways to still create outdoor living space but with less water. A lawn will not attract butterflies, bees and birds quite like a well-placed bird bath with pollinator plants that help these thirsty species survive. 

No need to dig up that old dry lawn. Cover the dead lawn with a layer of compost to condition your soil and provide the good start to decomposing the dead grass.

Top that with cardoard and newspapers in layers to block weeds and create a stable surface, then cover that with a thick layer of mulch...either compost of it’s going to be a planted garden...or fine bark if it’s going to be an outdoor living space.

By choosing low-water plants and ones that attract beneficial insects and birds, you create the perfect space for life to thrive with little water.