Living Mulches Are Natural And Feel Intuitively Right For Arable Farms And Gardens. Understand The Technology With This Research Based Video.
I frequently hear gardeners saying that farmers don’t do No Dig and so many other horticultural practices I recommend. But the reality is different. Traditionally farming has always been organic and in step with nature. It is only during the last century or so that farming moved to using artificial or synthetic chemical fertilisers, “chemical” herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. Before the chemical revolution that farming entered, farming was green.
Farming however is not static in the way farmers manage the land and grow crops. And a realisation has hit many that a greener way forward is essential if we are to feed the world. Elsewhere I’ve written about the regenerative farming movement, about minimum tillage, aka min til, and a host of other farming practices that recognise the value of carbon capture farming. In this short article I want to show how farmers are now experimenting with living mulches. It’s an experiment because much of what was practised over a century ago has been forgotten.
Discover what six farmers have gleaned as they collaborated with scientists from the Organic Research Centre in conducting farmer-led research. Their focus? To investigate the feasibility of cultivating a perennial clover bed beneath their cash crops.
After watching this video look at what gardeners are doing with living mulches in other parts of the world, and think about how we, as gardeners and allotmenteers, can do to improve our soils, plants and yields.
Living Mulches In Gardens
The next video demonstrates a similar approach for gardens. I have added it for balance and to demonstrate that gardens can also consider a living mulch approach. Bear in mind however that it is an Australian video and the species recommended may not work in the UK. Think about the concept rather than the species.
Here is an approximate copy the video content.
Cultivating a diverse mix of plants year-round on our soil can be a powerful tool for enhancing soil health in our vegetable garden beds. In this video, we delve into our exploration of using cover crops as living mulch to grow our vegetables alongside them. This approach not only contributes to soil improvement but also helps reduce fertiliser costs.
Many gardeners, like us, ensure that our soil remains mulched when we’re not growing vegetables—a commendable practice. Additionally, we’ve experimented with green manure crops, although they can be quite labor-intensive. Currently, we’re trying out cowpeas, which are legumes that enrich the soil with nitrogen. These cowpeas provide an effective living mulch, continuously dropping leaves and self-seeding, reducing the need for repeated seed purchases.
The practical benefits for our soil are substantial. Approximately 25 to 30 percent of the sugars that plants generate through photosynthesis are released through their roots, creating a strategy that concentrates microbes around the roots. This supports better nutrient absorption by the plants and fosters a thriving microbial community in the soil. Ultimately, this approach enhances soil structure, root penetration, water and nutrient retention, and long-term carbon sequestration, all contributing to healthier plant growth.
To establish our pumpkins in this system, we simply create holes in the cover crops and plant well-developed pumpkin seedlings, allowing them to grow over the existing cowpeas. The results have been impressive, with a bountiful pumpkin harvest requiring minimal maintenance, making it a win-win situation.
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