Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Living Mulch Update

An early shot of the living mulch.
Awhile back I wrote about a novel idea called living mulch. In short, the idea is to spread old seeds at random on the soil either in early spring or late fall, rake them in, and let them come as they will. When it's time to plant something else, simply eat the space clear and plant, The living or edible mulch serves a dual purpose - keeping weeds down and filling my belly - which I find intensely appealing.

Since then I've read articles about it in Permaculture Magazine (subscribe if you haven't already) and tried it both in the garden and in pots on my balcony. Both places seem to be rather successful. The pots, however, do require regular watering. If not maintained, one ends up with dried living mulch. Not so bad, but not exactly attractive or what I was aiming for.

The garden, though, has been very successful. The potato patch where I decided to do this is now awash in greenery. To my pleasure and surprise, the space is covered with a variety of plants: beets, beans, a hearty sunflower, some stray corn (or popcorn) plants, a bossy squash, a delicate dill plant, and tsurumurasaki plants that self-seeded in the compost. Bees and other pollinators arrive at the buffet throughout the day, and a baby praying mantis sauntered awkwardly past while I crouched on the tatami to check on things.

The potatoes, so far, seem none the worse for wear. Their leaves are green and the flowers just keep coming. A watermelon planted down the way between the rows of popcorn wants to get in on the game and has sent a scout tendril in to join the fray. It is a riot of life. How exactly I'll harvest the potatoes when the time comes is another question, but I'm not terribly worried about it just yet. I'm too happy.

Some, of course, would see this as chaos and untidy. There is some truth to that, but I don't mind. The plants are healthy, even though densely planted. I do worry some about powdery mildew as it is the season for it just now, so I've added milk to my garden shopping list. I'll give everyone a good drink when it stops raining. (We had a mini-drought and now we're having a very official feeling rainy season.) And I've already started harvesting. The tsurumurasaki has gone into salads as has the dill and shungiku. The beets need to get a wee bit bigger before I harvest them, but I'm watching them like a hawk. It's exciting times.


VP said...

I love this idea - thank you :)

Joan Lambert Bailey said...

Ah, if only I could take full credit for it. It's one of those ideas, like double-sided sticky tape, that make you think "Now, why didn't that occur to me?" But I'm so grateful for it. I need to take a current photo and add it. It's really miraculous.