Mulch vegetable garden

McLean, VA(Zone 6b)

This year is my first square foot garden. I have planted most of my squares and things are looking good, but in rereading the book, I couldn't find a reference to mulching the garden. I figured that I would throw this out to everyone.

I mulch all of my flowerbeds with hardwood mulch, and it seem to make sense to continue in the vegetable garden, but I just wanted some additional confirmation. I'm sure that the same reason apply - retaining moisture, preventing weeds, but I'm not sure if there is some special reason why I haven't seen any information on this for vegetables - aside from the red mulch for tomatoes.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

Although I don't use the square foot gardening method, I would think it would make sense to mulch your vegetables.

Once my transplants are well-established, I use shredded leaves as a mulch around all my veggies.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

I agree that it will make sense to mulch your vegetables for the same reasons that one mulches the flowerbeds.

I mulch mainly for moisture retention and because it is what it common here, I use pinestraw.
It allows water to get thru and shades the soil to keep it cooler.

Of course like in the flowerbeds, you don't want the mulch right up against the plants.

Danville, IN(Zone 5b)

Another reason to mulch veggies (especially tomatoes) is to minimize disease ... dirt splashing up on the plants during rain can start some diseases.

Yorktown, VA(Zone 7a)

Hello all,

I do not want to hijack this conversation, but this brings up a question that I have had for some time. What are the risks/rewards of mulching with pine needles? I assume that is the same as pine straw, but I could be (probably am) wrong. Do they not raise the acidity? I have no idea about this, I just remember seeing it somewhere.

The reason I ask is that I have a lot of pine needles every year, but bag and take them to the compost facility.

Thanks,
Jeff

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

I have not found that to be a problem. They take a while to breakdown. Many folks think they inhibit growth because you will rarely find anything growing under pine straw (needles). That is usually because there is little light being shaded by the tree. I find pinestraw is beneficial in allowing water thru and preventing weed growth and yet staying light and airy to keep the soil cooler. It is also attractive and for me a free mulch. Free is good....

Yorktown, VA(Zone 7a)

Thanks podster. I figured as much. Tomorrow is shaping up to be a raking day for me. :)

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

I just finished reading an article on Organic Gardeners web site that says pine needles do NOT raise the acidity in the soil.

When I lived in Tennessee, pine needles were the only mulch I used. There was a small grove of pine trees near the field I was using, so they were free for the hauling. Never had a problem.

McLean, VA(Zone 6b)

I used pine straw in Savannah, GA with good results when I lived there.

Yorktown, VA(Zone 7a)

Fantastic. Thanks to everyone for responding. I will be gathering it all up soon for around my tomatoes and peppers.

Jeff

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Of course it is drier and hotter here but I wait till we get a good soaking rain before I apply it. That helps conserve the moisture levels.
Wishing you success with it Jeff.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

My first round of mulch is getting a little thin - I guess the earthworms have been feasting on it. I've already spread more organic fertilizer - now I'm waiting for the good soaking rain that has been promised for tomorrow, then I'll add another layer of mulch.

Tomatoes are almost as tall as I am and have set their first round of fruit. No blossom end rot apparent so far. (fingers crossed)

Longview, WA(Zone 8b)

I have used paper from the shredder as mulch. It is free and reflects the sunlight in hot weather. you do need to water lightly when you first place the paper mulch as it will blow away.
Grass clippings make a great mulch also. You do need to be careful if you have been spraying your lawn with any weed killer. Fertilizer is OK as it will break down quickly.

Elkhart, IA(Zone 5a)

I've heard that grass clippings should be dry before using as a mulch. Is that true? I have a bagger on my mower and the grass clippings are, of course, fresh and wet. Can I use them as long as I don't put them too close to the plants?

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

IowaAnn - I always let grass clippings dry thoroughly before using them as mulch as I have always understood that fresh (green) clippings can harm plants.

One drawback to using grass clippings is weed seeds! Personally, I prefer dried leaves that have been run over with the mower several times - they don't harbor weed seeds.

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