Seedybeans Blog

Celebrating the Humble Harvests of High Desert Homesteading

Mulch- Grow your own

There is hardly any point to gardening in the high desert if you are not going to mulch.  Mulch holds in moisture, suppresses weeds and adds organic material which is often greatly lacking in our gardens here.  With these winds, the minute you water, it all evaporates, not to mention the beating the plants and the soil simply blows aways.  So no matter what you do, please mulch, for you gardens sake.

So what do I use you ask? ‘Whatever I have Lying around the yard….Leaves, old straw, wood chips’.  But that is often no help to the urban/ school gardener, as there often isn’t just organic stuff lying around these manmade environments.  At my house we are blessed to live beneath a huge cotton wood, aka grandma tree, that I have pictured here many times, but because she is so beautiful, here she is again…

She supplies us with a bountiful blanket of leaves every fall, and year after year they cover our gardens and build our soil.  My neighbor also is blessed by her gift, but prefers a raked yard (crazy I know) but to my delight he has taken to gifting us his neatly bagged leaves instead of sending them to the landfill!! Now I have double the amount!!  But no need to boast, what else do I use when these gifts aren’t around?  I often use old straw bedding from animal pens, full of nitrogen and partially broken down so it decomposes fast and is heavy enough to really stay put.  Straw left out in the rain so it is partially rotten is really great too if you can find it, as it is pre-sprouted and heavy.

There are of course some years of course where I just haven’t had anything and have needed to buy new straw bales to break up and mulch with. If you break it off in pats I call them (big sheet layers) and lay them down like blankets they work well.  Don’t break it up into tiny shreds and sprinkle it on the bed, it will simply blow away.  Even if you water it like crazy, it will dry out eventually and then blow away.  New Straw works alright if it is the only thing you can get,  but with new straw the inevitable always happens…..  It sprouts up everywhere and you feel like you have a hay-field instead of a garden. 

This always makes me so mad, especially this year when in my pregnant garden rampage, I threw some new straw on a patch of garden and then did not have a chance to pull it up as it sprouted.  As I watched from my window it grow up over my vegetables and seemingly drown my garden in grass and I couldn’t do a darn thing about it.   To my delight however, the wheat grass shoots helped provide cover for my sprouting seeds and acted as what farmers call a nurse crop, growing faster than the intended crop and thus sheilding them as they grow.  It also protected the exsisting plants and stopped the straw mulch from blowing off in the first day. My husband and garden mentor reminded me wheat is really easy to pull up so when I did get a chance it would be no problem.  So almost 2 months later, I went out, baby on my back, sat on a pillow and weeded my hay-field garden, and sure enough, it was super easy, so no postnatal strain involved!!  Instead of tossing the good green grass to the compost pile I just laid it down.  Green is much heavier than dry straw so it won’t blow away in these wretched winds.  A totally new fresh layer of mulch to hold in the moisture of these truly depressingly dry days.

In Permaculture there is a saying, “The problem is the solution”  and there you have it.

Mulch Away!!


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