More About Mulching and Side Dressing

 I probably preach about mulching in every article, but I do so because it is important. Not mulching well is one of the biggest mistakes people make when gardening in arid lands.

I have a brand new bed that I have planted with corn, beans, squash, watermelon, jicama, melon, cucumbers, etc. I worked very hard on amending the entire bed, creating complex, varying layers of different consistencies. What this does is prevents the water from being drawn out of the root zone of the plants. Of course the amending is also the source of microorganism inoculation, and provides a nutritional bank for the season you are growing. This doesn’t mean you can skip feeding. It means when you DO feed, it will be that much more successful (if feeding organically).

Apply a generous side dressing of fresh, rich compost between seedlings without having the compost touching them.

But you aren’t done after planting. Once my seedlings come up, I always side dress the crops with compost (I use my own homemade, rich compost so I know exactly what is going into my bed). I am generous with it but try not to have it sitting up against the base of the plants. This does two things: provides a source of food as it breaks down, and encourages water to head toward the plants. In the pictures you can see I have already had mulch around the plants. This is the second layer I am applying, about a month later than the first.

Over the top of both the compost side dressing and around the plants I add a generous layer of straw which makes the bed seem more even. We don’t really care much about it looking flat so much as we want a good insulation from the dry air and sun.

Straw is wonderful for protecting and insulating without causing plants to have problems with being buried deep. Apply generously around seedlings once they are large enough.

These layers eventually settle, so it is advisable to do this several times a season. You will notice that your soil will look amazing in just one season. Worms love these layers. Plants love these layers. Beneficial, aerobic microorganisms love these layers. It lessens the amount of water you will use, and also provides constant nutrition to your plants. It also just looks nicer. Especially as the plants grow. Once these layers develop you can start adding red wiggler worms(the kind used in composting), which normally don’t like living in soil directly. But when it is layered and full of stuff to eat, red wigglers will thrive.

So remember, improving your soil does not stop when you have prepared your bed and planted seeds. It is constant.

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5 thoughts on “More About Mulching and Side Dressing

  1. Do you prefer a particular type of straw and do you import a lot of weeds with it? I need to buy a bale and was wondering about this.

  2. Is there a particular brand of fertilizer and compost you prefer?
    I know you use your own compost as I also do but mine doesn’t go very far.

    • Organic kelp meal is good. You can also make your own fish emulsion (the store bought stuff contains sulfur which I think sucks). Take any fish scraps like skins, head, etc, and blend it up in a powerful blender. Screen out the chunkiest parts and apply to plants, then water well.

      Compost tea is something you should look into as well. I wrote this article on compost tea.

      • I did not know making fish emulsion was that easy- I thought it was some complicated concoction. Thanks. Helpful blog.

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