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to mulch or not to mulch

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SwampTroll
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Post  Roxystargazer 6/10/2017, 7:12 pm

It seems there are differences of opinions on mulching our sq ft gardens. I am thinking I should as it gets quite hot here in the summer and with things like broccoli and cauliflower that don't love hot...also it could help keep the moisture in.  I guess I'm asking you pros what you do Smile  And if you do mulch, is it a pain to get it up at the end of the season?
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Post  quiltbea 6/10/2017, 7:23 pm

I would suggest mulching.  It keeps the soil cooler under the hot summer sun and it prevents drying and evaporation and also soilborne diseases from splashing up on your leaves when it rains and when you water.  Mulch breaks down in the soil so at summer's end, just leave it there.  By next spring when you get ready to garden again, it will have nearly disappeared.  It makes good 'food' for your soil.
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Post  Mikesgardn 6/10/2017, 7:44 pm

I have tried straw mulch and pine bark mulch over the years.  But now I don't use any mulch.  For me, I found the mulch to be a bit of a pain to deal with.   I don't mind having weeds in the garden as long as I pull them out before they get too big.  Works for me.
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Post  Mimi2 6/10/2017, 10:11 pm

I use leaf mulch in parts if my garden and the square foot gardens, and the worms love it. I did read the other day that mulch is not great for bees, so I really won't use it consistently, everywhere. I am more concerned about creating a bee friendly habitat.
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Post  MrBooker 6/11/2017, 6:15 am

I didn't mulch last year and MAN, did I pay for it. I had to water daily. Sometimes, twice a day. This year I mulched everything with a mixture of leaves I gathered last year and straw.

I haven't had to water much so far this year. Just a little shower in the early morning and evening. This fall I'll dig the mulch in and let it winter over.  IMHO: I say mulch, mulch, mulch. Then more mulch.  Very Happy
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Post  BeetlesPerSqFt 6/11/2017, 7:08 am

Mimi2 wrote:I use leaf mulch in parts if my garden and the square foot gardens, and the worms love it. I did read the other day that mulch is not great for bees, so I really won't use it consistently, everywhere. I am more concerned about creating a bee friendly habitat.
Did what you read explain how mulch hurts bees?
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Post  yolos 6/11/2017, 7:25 am

I use wheat straw mulch to help conserve water.
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Post  Judy McConnell 6/11/2017, 9:21 am

In the past I didn't mulch my beds. Last fall I had a lot of leaves ground into small pieces and decided to use them as mulch this spring. A thin layer of these have helped cut down on the weed pulling and hopefully will hold in moisture.

As to the question about mulch hurting bees, I found this article:

https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-help-native-bees-1968108
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Post  countrynaturals 6/11/2017, 10:45 am

BeetlesPerSqFt wrote:
Mimi2 wrote:I use leaf mulch in parts if my garden and the square foot gardens, and the worms love it. I did read the other day that mulch is not great for bees, so I really won't use it consistently, everywhere. I am more concerned about creating a bee friendly habitat.
Did what you read explain how mulch hurts bees?
That's my question, too.  Shocked
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Post  countrynaturals 6/11/2017, 10:57 am

I used several inches of leaf mulch in my beds over the winter (old school dirt -- not MM). This year I have thousands of rolly pollies and way too many slugs. They destroyed 3 plantings of daikon radishes and corn salad before I figured it out. I finally gave up on direct sowing anything in my sfg but the beasties don't bother starts with true leaves (as long as no leaves touch the ground) so I will simply adjust my methods and move on. Yes, I will mulch again this fall, but keep the ground "clean" around young plants during the summer growing season. Anything well established will still get mulched when the weather gets hot.
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Post  countrynaturals 6/11/2017, 10:59 am

countrynaturals wrote:
BeetlesPerSqFt wrote:
Mimi2 wrote:I use leaf mulch in parts if my garden and the square foot gardens, and the worms love it. I did read the other day that mulch is not great for bees, so I really won't use it consistently, everywhere. I am more concerned about creating a bee friendly habitat.
Did what you read explain how mulch hurts bees?
That's my question, too.  Shocked
I did a Google search on this and here's what I found:

Bees and Mulch


You probably use mulches to smother weeds and retain soil moisture. But if you're looking to attract native bees, mulch can be a deterrent. Many bees dig out cavities in the ground for their nests, but they need bare dirt for these structures. Anywhere in your landscape that has been mulched discourages ground-nesting bees. If you're looking to attract more native bees to your landscape, leave some mulch-free areas of bare dirt.
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Post  quiltbea 6/11/2017, 11:31 am

One year I mulched with hay. What a disaster. I got so many weeds it was a long hard haul to keep them pulled.
Next year I went with straw, and what a wonderful difference. No weed invasion.
Hay is live when cut and straw is not. That must be the difference.
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Post  CapeCoddess 6/11/2017, 2:13 pm

I use pine needles but only because my boxes are under pine trees and the needles were falling in there anyway. I got so tired of fighting them I decided to join them. Since I always have issues with some veggie or other every year I guess I'll never really know if the pine needles have anything to do with it or not.
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Post  sanderson 6/11/2017, 2:18 pm

I use a bale of cheap wheat bedding straw and chop to 4-6".  Straw is the remaining stalk and leaves after the grain heads have been harvested.  I do remove any remaining wheat heads while I chop.

I hot, dry areas, mulch can be a life saver.  It reduces surface water evaporation and keeps the MM cooler.


Last edited by sanderson on 6/13/2017, 2:51 am; edited 1 time in total

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Post  BeetlesPerSqFt 6/11/2017, 2:29 pm

countrynaturals wrote:
countrynaturals wrote:
BeetlesPerSqFt wrote:
Mimi2 wrote:I use leaf mulch in parts if my garden and the square foot gardens, and the worms love it. I did read the other day that mulch is not great for bees, so I really won't use it consistently, everywhere. I am more concerned about creating a bee friendly habitat.
Did what you read explain how mulch hurts bees?
That's my question, too.  Shocked
I did a Google search on this and here's what I found:

Bees and Mulch




You probably use mulches to smother weeds and retain soil moisture. But if you're looking to attract native bees, mulch can be a deterrent. Many bees dig out cavities in the ground for their nests, but they need bare dirt for these structures. Anywhere in your landscape that has been mulched discourages ground-nesting bees. If you're looking to attract more native bees to your landscape, leave some mulch-free areas of bare dirt.
Would bees be able to dig out stable cavities in MM, or would it be so loose it would just collapse?  Has anyone had bees (not wasps) nesting in their MM? I'd suspect mulching and/or use of weedblock in un-planted areas of landscape beds would be more of a problem than mulching the surface of ANSFG beds, especially with all the activity in a vegetable garden vs a flower/shrub area.
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Post  sanderson 6/13/2017, 2:58 am

I posted the following under this thread:  https://squarefoot.forumotion.com/t20996-bumble-bees-in-trouble?highlight=bees

Here is a nest found in a SFG bed during spring amending!  to mulch or not to mulch Bee_bu10
The gardener put up a sign identifying the nest. to mulch or not to mulch Bee_bu11

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Post  BeetlesPerSqFt 6/14/2017, 8:36 pm

Still been thinking on this -- Might an answer/compromise be: Don't mulch in the spring when the bees are establishing their burrows. Instead wait until summer, when the mulch will be most valuable for cooling the soil/reducing evaporation, and remove the mulch as part of fall cleanup so it isn't in the bees way the next spring. ?
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Post  sanderson 6/15/2017, 2:44 am

Beetles, Did you look at the follow-up photos of the bees repairing the nest in the thread I posted? I think they are on the following page.

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Post  BeetlesPerSqFt 6/15/2017, 8:04 am

sanderson wrote:Beetles,  Did you look at the follow-up photos of the bees repairing the nest in the thread I posted?  I think they are on the following page.
I did, it was nifty. I guess I'm trying to re-frame the question as "How can I use mulch without it preventing bees from nesting in my garden?"

I also re-read about trying to construct inviting boxes/cavities for bumblebees. It's not hard to do, but I don't have many locations that are dry (i.e not in the frequently flooded area by the creek), not in the sun, and not frequently disturbed. I may have found a place - the base of the juniper the robin is now nesting in. I'm hoping her nesting there means it's a sufficiently 'quiet' spot. But I need to learn whether the ants in the area are a problem.

http://bumblebeeconservation.org/images/uploads/Making_a_bumblebee_nest.pdf
Here's one of the sites describing how to make a house bumblebees might move in to ^
I've read about making boxes before, but this upside-down pot version seems much easier to construct. The only tricky component for me would be to get some used rodent bedding - bumble queens are apparently attracted by the odor of old bedding.
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Post  SwampTroll 6/26/2017, 6:39 pm

http://bumblebeeconservation.org/images/uploads/Making_a_bumblebee_nest.pdf
Here's one of the sites describing how to make a house bumblebees might move in to ^
I've read about making boxes before, but this upside-down pot version seems much easier to construct. The only tricky component for me would be to get some used rodent bedding - bumble queens are apparently attracted by the odor of old bedding.
I'd suggest talking to a pet store that carries rodents.   It may not be ideal bedding, but it'd have the proper smell I'd think.
Just an idea.
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Post  68carguy 6/26/2017, 7:34 pm

I use last falls broken down leaf mold that is filtered thru a 1/2 screen around all my plants, they seem to love it..compost tea as a bonus each time it rains or I water, keep the moisture level up to if I leave for a few days too. I recommend it. Very Happy
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Post  BeetlesPerSqFt 6/27/2017, 6:10 am

SwampTroll wrote:
http://bumblebeeconservation.org/images/uploads/Making_a_bumblebee_nest.pdf
Here's one of the sites describing how to make a house bumblebees might move in to ^
I've read about making boxes before, but this upside-down pot version seems much easier to construct. The only tricky component for me would be to get some used rodent bedding - bumble queens are apparently attracted by the odor of old bedding.
I'd suggest talking to a pet store that carries rodents.   It may not be ideal bedding, but it'd have the proper smell I'd think.
Just an idea.
Thanks! That actually hadn't occurred to me... Embarassed   My usual pet store, where I occasionally buy bird seed for the wild birds, occasionally has shelter cats for adoption, but no animals for sale. But the big box pet store in town likely has a large selection of rodents.

My beekeeping neighbor looks to be moving out (I saw a rental listing for his place) so if I set up hives next spring I'll no longer have to worry about competition/disease-transmission with/from his honey bees if I am lucky enough to get bumbles.
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Post  llama momma 6/27/2017, 7:36 am

68carguy wrote:I use last falls broken down leaf mold that is filtered thru a 1/2 screen around all my plants, they seem to love it..compost tea as a bonus each time it rains or I water, keep the moisture level up to if I leave for a few days too. I recommend it. Very Happy

Thank you for this reminder because  I have a lot of leaf mold.  Need to dig it out and put it to good use.
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Post  sanderson 6/27/2017, 11:40 am

The bumble bee info is interesting.

Back to mulch, it is finally cool enough at night and in the morning to chop straw for mulch.  I set up the paper cutter I bought for a one time use for a class reunion project.  Bag of straw on the left, then empty screed pan for bundles of straw, then the paper cutter and drop into the waiting tray.  The rolling wood frame held a screed pan (on the ground) of MM for proposed strawberries (ha!)  I removed it an put in an empty one to catch the chopped straw.  Probably cut the time down to 1/3 the time.  If I turned things around, I could even watch TV in the family room.   Very Happy to mulch or not to mulch Mulch_10

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Post  has55 7/10/2017, 7:43 pm

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