In agriculture and gardening, mulch is a protective cover placed over the soil to retain moisture, reduce erosion, provide nutrients, and suppress weed growth and seed germination. Mulching in gardens and landscaping mimics the leaf cover that is found on forest floors.
Mulching is like a sport with me. Covered in sweats, gloved and sneakered, I hit the ground not running but kneeling and bending to accomplish the goal. This means taking a piece of ground near and around a plant, and sweeping it clean of sprouting weeds, grass, and other debris like pebbles and sticks, and replacing its environs with a stable medium for its benefit.
Mulch has many uses. In addition to keeping the soil healthy, it looks good. Take a ride through any Middletown neighborhood, and you can see trucks full of the stuff, with heavily-panting men and shovels hard at work unloading it. But, in my case, it is not so much dumping the mulch on the dirt, it is an art form. A sport, if you will.
Taking my milk-crate and carefully placing it around sprouts, I collapse on that, tools in hand, and manually drizzle each and every piece of mulch around my plants. Usually, after about ten minutes of this, I revert to the shovel, but you don’t want to know that. Somehow the image of a person alone among new green shoots is a bit more poetic. Amazingly, no matter if you push a pile up close to the stems, or dribble the shards of mulch one by one, they seem to know exactly where to go. Mulch by nature is a natural occurrence, as in the definition above, and the pieces all fit together in some magical way.
Here is my Jacob Cline Monarda before it got its dressing. This plant was purchased from Burpee last year, and has grown tremendously, I believe because of the good snow cover (duck!) this past winter. Notice the lovely red edging on the new leaves. It is a new plant for me, and I’ll be sure to divide it when it grows a bit more.
The ground is pretty bare, with remnants of last year’s mulching making the soil really easy to work with. This garden is my “cottage” garden. I can view it from the front porch. It gets a lot of sun, then gets shaded by the house during the hottest part of the day in the summer. My idea is to have lots of butterfly and hummingbird friendly plants here to watch the action over the season. Hummingbirds do like monarda as it has red trumpet-like flowers which are really important to their feeding needs.
Also, monarda has a beautiful scent; it is in the mint family. You can brush its leaves to release the aroma, or even eat the flowers. The leaves are tea ingredients as well. So, it is a welcome plant if you can get it. By the way, I didn’t forget its origins. There is a species monarda nearby. That is a whole ‘nother story.
Here is the result after mulching:
Now that is the best! Mulching unites a group of plants, making the area uniform in color and texture. This is a soothing result. A garden to me is like music. A coordinated group of objects that together make a whole. It is creating order out of chaos, while retaining that part of nature that appeals to all of us. The wild untamed scented spot where you can go to relive what our ancestors did. Whether you garden for your cupboard or for your heart, the act and results of mulching give sustenance to the soil, the plants and you.
So get those gloves on, suit up and get that soil covered!