Wood chip mulch provides an immediate, cumulative, and incredible
change for any landscape.
Bare soil is harmful
Bare soil allows the sun to beat down on the earth and degrade it. Any chance of life is squandered and the topsoil becomes dust. This exposes the land to be easily eroded from rain and wind which also degrades any development of soil ecology that may have gotten to occur. The soil becomes more and more challenging to develop. Mother Nature wants to be covered.
Move beyond rock-based mulch
Often, I see excessive rock mulch use in the Verde Valley. This can be a good option, as it is a strong erosion control and it shades the underlying soil. Rock mulch can also, over time, add minerals to your soil. But rock mulch also accumulates more heat and is often controlled to stay bare through additional herbicide use. Rock mulch perpetuates the desolate, desert environment that some are forcing to keep bare and hot. What we want to do is promote succession towards a the desert ecosystem that this environment so desperately wants to move towards. This includes organic mulching.
Rock mulch is valuable for heavy erosion control. Great for paths as well as keeping the structure of natural drainage systems intact.
Organic matter blankets our soil with life
When we add organic material to soil, there is an incredible cycle of growth and development that happens.
Wood chip mulch serves similar purposes as rock mulch: it shades the soil from the damage of direct sunlight and it prevents heavy rains from eroding the topsoil. But mulch also adds nutrients to the soil, which creates a cumulative benefit where soil ecology can develop. This feeds necessary fungi, bacteria, nematodes, and more and adding even more organic matter to your soil. When soil ecology develops, it holds the soil together, continuing to prevent erosion and increases the water retention of the soil. Seeds and insects begin to grow and plants that are adapted to this unique, high-desert ecosystem, rise from the soil to better develop the soil, shade the earth, and create beauty.
So much mulch!
Compost mulch, wood chips, leaf litter, cardboard... All of these protect and add to your soil.
Sheet mulching is using solid, biodegradable materials like cardboard and paper that gives you an option to bury what is on your landscape like "weeds" to further build soil and greatly suppress their growth so you can do something new. The material takes time before subsurface plants grow through it, but it still allows in moisture for the majority of it to decompose. The subsurface plants add to your soil ecosystem, and the new layers of soil and mulch above your solid layer(s) has time to develop and introduce preferred plants to your landscape.
Learning to let grow
Another big step for us is going to be the acceptance of plants growing. This is Nature's law and all of history has created an incredible world of growth. It is unnecessary work to try to prevent this natural law from occurring, so when we try to bare our soil or constantly weed whack nature down, we are harming an incredible process that has developed to nurture life and water.
So if you are removing "weeds" from your landscape, consider why you are doing that and with what plants you want to replace it. Otherwise, nature will do so, and it may be what was already there since that is what the soil was prepared to grow anyways.
Learn about what is growing as well! Is it edible like lambsquarters or medicinal like dandelion? You can simply "chop and drop" your plants to build soil and trim your land, or you can actually be harvesting your land.
Also, we call them leaves for a reason...
Leaving your leafs on the ground where they fall contributes to organic mulching, building soil and increasing water retention. You can also "chop and drop," where you leave prunings at the base of the plants, chopping them into pieces for similar benefits and reducing organic waste being sent "away."
Cottonwood/ Camp Verde