MULCH

Mulch offers a cheap and efficient way to reduce weeding and water use, increase soil structure fertility, crop yield, and crop range.

The Sartenejan region is subject to an extended dry season from March to June, with the maximun days without rain recorded as 102. The use of mulch during this period greatly reduces water stress and increases plant growth through reducing evaporation and increasing water availability by encouraging roots to live near the soil surface.

Mulch makes fruit trees like avacardos, mamay, soursop, or mangos, and ornamental and timber trees, grow faster and stronger and have higher fruit yields. Mulch reduces weed growth and provides nutrients. Mulch also adds humus to the soil, which provides nutrients and encourages soil animals that keep the soil in good condition.

Mulch can be a dry mulch or living mulch.

Palm tree with slashed grass mulch

Mahogany and mulch

Mamay with mulch

Tree mulch and lychee

Dry mulch

Dry mulch is rotting down vegetable matter. Mulch is often made by stacking the vegetable matter in large piles, then adding to trees and the garden later or can be placed directly around plants.

On Balam Ja Way we stack cut branches and other vegetable matter into piles. This is quick efficient way to make dry mulch. In our orchard and garden areas we simply place any vegetation for mulching directly under the trees in a 3 to 5 foot circle. The increase in growth is remarkable with avocado trees growing vigorously even during moderate droughts.

Any reasonable size vegetation, up to chopped small tree branches, can be applied directly as mulch piles under trees. However, to apply mulch to vegetable crops it must be left to rot into smaller pieces.

Within a year in the tropical climate bushes mostly are rotted down (composted). A garden fork can then be used to separate the larger unrotted branches from the smaller mulch. The unrotted branches are simply added to new mulch heaps.

Dry mulching not only returns the nutrients from the leaves and branches to the soil but also makes new nutrients. The bacteria rotting the wood and leaves take nitrogen from the air and fixes it into nitrogen fertiliser. The larger branches in dry mulch are slow to rot and make the mulch last longer.

Living mulch

Living mulch is generally a crop interplanted or undersown with a main crop, usually trees, and intended to serve the functions of weed suppression, maintenance and increase in soil fertility, and lowering of soil temperature.

Living mulch requires and uses water and without irrigation is useful only during the wet season.

Many plants cannot fix nitrogen and rely on nitrogenous fertiliser from rotting vegetation. However, some plants are very good at fixing nitrogen including many legumes such as beans, hicima, etc.

Nitrogen fixing living mulches work in three ways:

  1. Takes nitrogen from the air and makes it into fertiliser for crops or trees.
  2. Recycles soil nutrients. 
  3. Increases soil nutrient availability.

A special type of living mulch is the use of small trees where branches are cut occasionally for dry mulch to place around developing ornamenatals or orchard trees.

Please refer to the Wikipedia site on Living and other mulches http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Living_mulch