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Gone Mulching

Elizabeth Rexer loading leaves.

The field crew has been in a non-stop mulch mode, ever since the completion of the garlic harvest. Mulch is a layer of material applied to the soil surface to conserve moisture and suppress weeds. Depending of the type, it can also build soil fertility. Woodchips, leaves, straw, compost, and even plastic can all serve as mulch. We mulch primarily with leaves, for several reasons. For one, they’re free! In the fall, we stockpile truckloads from our neighbor, who owns a landscaping company. Second, leaves break down within a year, which works perfectly for us—otherwise, they would interfere with next year’s plantings. Third, they’re relatively lightweight, so they’re easy to apply by hand. Lastly, they don’t contain weed seeds.

At this point, we’ve mulched all the kale, potatoes, celeriac, chard, peppers, and eggplant. We’ve got one row left on the tomatoes, and then we can shake the last of the leaves from our shoes and declare the season’s mulching done. From here on out, the mulched crops can get by with a lot less attention, which frees us up to focus on the next thing…the fall crops!

Summer harvests may be kicking into high gear, but much of our energy is now turning to the fall. We’ve been monitoring the cabbage seedlings for bunny damage, keeping the carrot beds moist so the seeds can beat the weeds, and finding time to cultivate the sweet potatoes. Ninety-degree temperatures make November seem like an eternity away, but the foundation for a bountiful fall is being laid now.

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