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Question about Vegetable Garden Mulch

Harper, TX(Zone 8a)

I would like some suggestions for Vegetable Garden Mulch. I would like to mulch now that everything is up and growing. What is best? I do not want to use any thing that might inhibit growth because it is not ok for veggies. Anyone have any suggestions. I have lots and lots of live oak leaves. Would they work or is there something better out there? Thanks Txsdar

Josephine, Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

The live oak leaves might be o.k. if you don't put them on very thick, or if you want them a little thicker you could shred them. The reason they might not be o.k. if they are put on heavy, is because they repel water when they are fresh, and they might inhibit the flow of water and air to your plants, other wise there is nothing wrong with them.
You could also mix them with grass clippings and that would make them lighter.
You don't have to spend a lot of money on mulch, sometimes the city gives away shreded tree trimmings, and that is good too. Also spoiled hay, some farmers give it away or sell it very cheap. I hope that helped.

Conroe, TX(Zone 9a)

I've heard Paul James ("the gardener guy" on HGTV) say that you want to use straw, not hay, because hay has lots of weed seeds.

Fritch, TX(Zone 6b)

Thanks frostweed, I did not know that about oak leaves...

Maggiemoo, that is a good point to consider. (Same problem with horse manure).

I have a problem with wind here, so I prefer the hay. The straw tends to blow. The leaves stay if they are beginning to decay though. To avoid weeds, I try to make sure I get GOOD hay. Like the first or second cutting. Esp, alfalfa hay, as it adds nitrogen to the soil. Once I got a load of shredded trees from Borger, and it was awful! I had someone deliver it sight unseen. YECH. They need to get a new shredder or sharpen the blades! And there was trash in there too, and tennis shoes, and mesquite thorns!!! When the wood is in big chips like that, it takes nitrogen from the soil to decompose. However, I have a friend that drives to Amarillo to a chipping site, and it is very fine and free of trash. So have a good look at it first.

A great place to find grass clippings is in the alleys LOL. But it's even better if you get it from friends who you know don't use chemicals on their yard. Sometimes they will even bag it and bring it to you, esp if you bribe them with veggies LOL. Another place is you local recycling center. Maybe you could give them your name and number, and they can call you when a load of grass clippings come in.

Also I read that when you harvest your rhubarb, tear the leaves off and use for mulch. To be honest, I even use weeds, as long as they don't have a blossom or seed pod. They tend to give back to the soil in a big way. For instance, tumbleweeds absorb salt from the soil in the form of potassium sulfate, and when you mulch with them, they add potassium back into the soil. But don't get me started on weeds, I am kind of a little bit eccentric (according to friends) when it comes to weeds LOL

Good luck with your mulching txsdar!


La Grange, TX(Zone 8b)

Any material that is not composted will rob some of the nitrogen from the soil so adding some extra nitrogen helps offset this. Getting material from an unknown source can lead to problems with weed seeds. The mulch could also contain plant material from trees and shrubs that produce natural growth inhibitors. Walnuts, for example, kill competitors and adding their leaves and hulls could damage or kill your vegetables. Even good hay has some weed and/or grass seeds. We put out winter hay bales in areas where the Burmuda is thin.

You need to consider the reasons for mulching: weed suppression, cooling the soil, enriching the soil, adding humus to improve very sandy or heavy clay soils. If you want to suppress weeds, several layers of newspaper work well. It will degrade and can be worked into the soil later. If you want to enrich the soil as well as cut down on the number of weeds, then you need an organic material with compost being the best, assuming the compost got hot enough to kill any seeds present. Oak leaves take a long, long time to break down, but makes great slightly acidic mulch when it does. Since most Texas soils are alkaline, oak leaf mulch helps lower the pH a bit. Materials that take a while to decompose can be used as mulch one year and worked into the soil as humus the next. If you use grass clippings, don't use a very thick layer because it has a tendency to mat blocking water penetration. Mold and fungus usually develop at the bottom of the layer and can cause problems later in the season. I've heard that rice and cotton seed hulls make great mulch because they don't have weeds and it takes them a while to break down. Rototilliing them back into the soil next year will add long lasting humus to the soil.

Start a compost pill for next year. If you don't produce enough brown or green material for the pile, get it from your neighbors or the city and add it to your compost pile and not your garden. Make sure that the temperature gets high enough to kill any seeds present. Use newspaper this year especially if you have already planted your garden and need something quickly. Use this year to find what materials are available in your area.

Fritch, TX(Zone 6b)

Yes, I forgot that about walnuts, good point. We don't have many in this area though. Wish we had more oak. :-)

I remembered one other thing I saw in a catalog and have heard mentioned on DG. Rubber mulch. They recycle tires and such, and break it down in non-biodegradable permanent mulch. Personally I would not use it because I want things to improve my soil. But lots of people love its looks and its permanence. Esp great for a mow over border.

Harper, TX(Zone 8a)

I went for Hay. I am going to be gone for a week and neighbor is watering garden and wanted to make it easier for her and also so I do not have to weed as soon as get back. Thanks for all the suggestions. Txsdar

Fritch, TX(Zone 6b)

Ruth Stout would cheer you on for leaving your garden for a week's vacation. Hopefully your friend won't overwater, LOL Meanwhile, a ton of great information about mulch for those interested...

Fritch, TX(Zone 6b)

bumped up to read good info again...

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