Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mulching Garlic

I like to mulch with straw. Straw gives the garden a natty look, like the gardener really knows what he's doing. Ha! And really I should have mulched my garlic beds when I planted them last fall. But I haven't been particularly thrilled with straw mulch around garlic. It seems like the weeds always manage to find a place to grow through the straw. So this year looking at the same issue again I thought I'd try to make the straw thicker by chopping it up. This has the added advantage of making the mulch easier to lay around the garlic leaves--if you waited until spring to mulch as I did.

Here's my chopper: the trusty leaf pulverizer. It's really just a weed whacker (line trimmer) in a can, a small motor turning two lengths of plastic line at great speed. Like a food processor, you just drop your vegetable matter--usually leaves in the fall, straw at the moment--from the top. The Whirring plastic line chops it to pieces and it all falls conveniently into the trash can underneath. I always seem to have at least one pile of rotting straw somewhere in the garden, usually last year's mulch.

The trash can practically carries itself to the garlic bed, where I spend an hour or so arranging the chopped straw around the plants, about two inches thick. I like the idea of foraging for mulch on site, rather than buying something in a plastic bag from the garden center. In the past I tried mixing chopped leaves and shredded newspaper together for mulch. But the newspaper liked to blow around too much in the wind. Now I'm thinking the straw could easily be stretched by mixing in some of the shredded leaves I've been saving from last fall. The first job of mulch is to hold moisture in the soil. But it also does a good job of suppressing weeds, and garlic doesn't care much for weeds.

How do you like to mulch your garlic?

7 comments:

Laura said...

like you I mulch with straw, but noticed the same issue recently - there's a lot of volunteer grass in with my garlic, so much that I'll likely need to pull the straw off soon, pull the grass and put the straw back. Perhaps I'll pulverize it first! Great idea!

De in D.C. said...

During the winter I heavily mulch with shredded leaves to smother anything that might even think about coming up. I usually cover the shredded leaves with some wood chips from downed branches and yard litter (we were gifted with a used chipper/shredder a few years ago, so making my own mulch with debris is easy).
During the summer I mulch with grass clipping from the lawn.

Charlotte said...

I mulched heavily with straw last year in my raised beds and now I'm having to turn them all over and dig out the vigorous crop of wheat (must be winter wheat from the way it's survived). It did keep all the other weeds down though. I was talking to a gardener friend in town and she said it was just a seedy batch of straw we all got last summer -- in years past she hasn't had this problem at all, so I'll try again this year, but wow. I really wound up with a cover crop I hadn't planned on.

Ed Bruske said...

Laura, I think shredding the straw is the answer. It's much denser, but not so dense that water doesn't run right through it. I wonder if it's safe to assume that the garlic leaves would be able to penetrate....

De, no problem with the leaves matting? You are lucky to have that equipment. And the trees. And the grass clippings. If you ever have more grass clippings than you can use, let me know. I will compost them.

Charlotte, are you sure you got straw and not hay? Straw is just the stalks from grain, such as wheat or barley. Hay is the greener field cuttings with seed heads and usually a variety of plants. I've never seen seeds in our straw.

Flower gyrl said...

This is my first time planting garlic (I'm a fairly new gardener, so it is not hard for something to be the "first time.").

I mulched one bed with leaves in the fall, and so far no weeds have managed to get into that bed. As an experiment I have another bed of garlic without any mulch. I want to see the difference in terms of the garlic at harvest. That bed doesn't have many weeds either, yet.

I also amended the soil with some blood meal about a month ago, which was recommended by my favorite nursery.

Any garlic tips and opinions most welcome!

Martha said...

We grow about 200 heads a year in a raised bed. This year we didn't have to buy any at all. In our fifth year we are learning.....

We mulched our garlic bed with a few inches of pine needles this year and the green leaves are peeking out a few inches through the crazy spring-09 weather.

christine said...

I just mulched with wood mulch. After reading your comments I 'm wondering if I should remove it tomorrow. What do you all think?
Christine