Emilia Hazelip, gardening near the fields of France, used straw — about 10 inches of it! A local homestead project once stated on their blog that they use 4 to 6 inches of mulch. Lowenfels and Lewis are far more conservative, specifying 2 to 3 inches, however they are in a cooler, moister climate. Regardless, you need a lot!
At the Community Garden at Holy Nativity, if we’re transplanting seedlings (such as those sprouted in little pots) we will mulch around the baby plants. Most garden resources recommend that you leave a small gap between the mulch and the plant stem to prevent damage by pests. In her “Synergistic Gardening” video, Emilia Hazelip demonstrated how she would pull back a hole in her thick straw covering and transplant into that hole.
If we’re seeding something which grows large, lusty seedlings like beans or peas or sunflowers, we will go ahead and apply light mulch over the newly seeded patch. The emerging seedlings will be strong enough to lift the mulch.
However, when we’re planting tiny seeds, like lettuces, the seedlings can’t come up through big hunks of mulch. It simply won’t work. Thus, if we’re direct-seeding a patch, we must leave it unmulched. This increases the water requirements and increases the T.L.C. requirements (Tender Loving Care). We have to watch the patch carefully to assure it doesn’t dry out.
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