Thilaka Baskaran tells you how organic mulch can protect your plants from the heat of summer
Once you have transplanted the seedlings and they start growing, there is one fundamental thing you have to ensure: that the soil remains healthy, rich in nutrients and most importantly, moist.
When the soil dries out, the growth of the plant slows or even stops. Swift, steady growth is critical for the best tasting fruit or vegetable. With the arrival of summer and the inevitable water scarcity, keeping the ground moist isn't always easy. This is where mulching helps.
Mulching is a gardening technique practiced all over the world and now many horticultural farmers in our country are learning this method from the input given by Israeli farmers.
Many commercial gardeners who have used this procedure, with either organic or synthetic mulch, have found the results spectacular.
What is mulch?
Mulch is a protective layer of material that is spread on top of the soil. It prevents evaporation of water and maintains the soil temperature, prevents weed and protects soil from erosion.
And so it reduces the need for frequent watering in summer.
Synthetic mulches are black plastic or landscape fabric sheets and used mostly by commercial horticultural farmers.
The sheets have slits at distances for planting seedlings. Watering is done through drip irrigation under the sheet. Unlike organic mulch, the synthetic ones do not add fertility to the soil but helps to retain moisture. They are certainly not environmental friendly.
Organic mulches, on the other hand, are abundantly available in nature in the form of lawn clippings, compost, shredded leaves, coconut husk, wood shaving, hay and shredded corn cobs. All these mulches slowly decompose and provide organic matter that helps to keep the soil loose. This in turn assists in root growth, water-holding capacity and offers an ideal environment for earthworms.
Now is the time
The dry season is the time to turn to mulch. By creating an insulation between the soil and air, it moderates the temperature. In Bangalore, now is the ideal time to mulch your garden.
Grab the dry leaves
The days are hot and the ground gets very dry quickly. This is the leaf fall season and there are plenty of dried leaves available which is usually wasted.
If you do not have enough space to collect the leaves for composting, just collect enough dry leaves, crush them by hand, remembering to wear your garden gloves, and pack them around the plant before watering. You will find you do not have to water them the next day. The mulch keeps the soil moist.