Mulching: Help for the earthworm

Herbal spirals can be covered with a mulch layer in autumn. (Source: Gerhard Bronner)

Earthworms do not have it easy on the Baar: in winter the soil is frozen and they have to retreat into deeper layers, and in summer it is often so dry that they cannot live in the upper soil layer either. On the other hand, these worms are the most important ecological creature, as Charles Darwin once said. They are the main cause of soil fertility. They accelerate the degradation of organic matter and thus release nutrients and minerals.

Unprotected garden soil is particularly susceptible to both frost and dehydration. In forests, for example, herbs or fallen leaves protect the soil and its living organisms. This can be imitated in the garden by mulching. This means that a layer of organic material is applied to the soil to ensure that the soil is constantly covered.

Why mulching?

Mulching has a number of advantages over the conventional method of digging with a spade:

  1. The soil organisms are supplied with food. This activates soil life and releases more minerals, thus fertilizing the soil naturally.
  2. It is particularly important to promote earthworms through a mulch layer. They contribute to the formation of clay-humus complexes, which are characteristics of a fertile soil with an ideal structure. Finally, they enrich the soil with useful bacteria through their excrements.
  3. The soil is protected against dehydration and incrustation. Under the mulch layer an even soil moisture is maintained, less watering is needed.
  4. Earthworms and other soil animals loosen the soil through their digging and digging underground work. Organic material is incorporated in a natural way.

A thick mulch layer largely suppresses the appearance of unwanted herbs. Wherever they nevertheless penetrate the layer, they can easily be pulled out of the loose soil. So those who mulch in the garden rarely need to reach for the spade.

What’s mulching with?

Numerous materials that accumulate in the garden are suitable for mulching, in addition you can buy e.g. bark mulch in the trade.

The following materials are particularly suitable:

  • Lawn cuttings, which, however, are left to wilt slightly to prevent rot and then applied only thinly.
    Source: Gerhard Bronner
  • Vegetable waste, especially leaves of cabbage, lettuce, rhubarb
  • Wild herbs. The stinging nettle is particularly suitable because of its high nitrogen content. (However, herbs with ripe seeds and root weeds such as couch grass should not be used.
    can be used)
  • Coarse compost
  • Green manure plants such as legumes, Phacelia
  • Chopped hedge cut (young twigs)
  • Straw
  • Bark mulch is particularly suitable for fruit and berry bushes.
  • Foliage can remain under hedges and trees

How to mulch?

  1. Green, fresh material should first be allowed to dry and then applied, as otherwise snails can spread.
  2. In spring, the mulch material is removed 2-3 days before sowing so that the soil can warm up.
  3. Do not cover seedlings or seed grooves when applying the mulch material. Their germination and growth would otherwise be inhibited just as much as that of the weeds.
  4. The mulch layer should be renewed again and again.

At first, a mulch bed is an unusual sight; for some tastes, it will even look messy. If you are still sceptical, try it in a part of your garden and compare the results.

Gerhard Bronner

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