The Benefits Of Having Rain Barrels

Did you know rain barrels have community as well as household benefits?

Beyond contributing to the heath of your beautiful flowers and plants, here are the major benefits of using a rain barrel as part of your eco-friendly gardening: 

Rainwater is better for your plants and soil.

  • Rainwater is highly oxygenated, free of the salts, inorganic ions, and fluoride compounds contained in tap water that accumulate in the soil over time and potentiality harm plant roots Use of rainwater in your garden dilutes this impact, making plants more drought-tolerant, healthy.

You’ll have your own water source in times of drought or watering restrictions.

  • If you collect rainwater, you’ll be able to keep watering and nourishing your garden with your rain barrel reserves.

You’ll help to reduce runoff pollution.

  • When it rains, runoff picks up soil, fertilizer, oil, pesticides, and other contaminants and pushes them into other areas of the landscape. These pollutants can increase algae growth in lakes, alter the habitat for fish, and even make lakes and oceans dangerous for recreational activities Your water collecting stops some of this damaging flow

You’ll contribute to erosion prevention efforts.

  • Rain runoff is also a particular issue in places where land erosion is a concern_ Your rain catch will be especially helpful in these cases 

You’ll cut down on the amount of water that must undergo expensive and energy-intensive sewage treatments.

  • Capturing rainwater and putting it straight to use in your garden eliminates the need for this processing cycle

You’ll have a fresh, green way to wash your cars and pets.

  • Rainwater doesn’t have the salt and other chemicals found in tap water and therefore will be kinder on you car and pets

Use to fill birdbaths, ponds, and water gardens

Captured rainwater can be used to fill bird baths, water gardens and small ponds, all of which can be used by backyard wild live to to drink, bath and as habitat for a host of animals such as frogs, toad, fish, turtles and many more

Rainwater is the eco-friendly option to keep composts moist.

  • Adding tap water to your compost doesn’t fit this sustainability practice; you’ll want to use rainwater instead 

Help control moisture levels around the foundations of your home.

  • Collecting rainwater before it hits ground levels will help to prevent flooding, damp, and mold 

You can reduce your water bill.

  • Garden and lawn watering accounts for 40 percent of residential water use during the summer, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Thanks to a rain barrel’s water catch, the typical gardener can save 1, 300 gallons of water during the growing season  

Related References

Lawn Care Basics

If you want to keep a beautiful, tidy looking garden, you need to pay close attention to the lawn with proper lawn care. Most Americans take great pride in their yards and so lawn care is important to them. You will notice when you see the results of a properly cared for lawn, it will give you a sense of pride. Of course, you could always pay a gardener to do it, but then you would get no real satisfaction as you would not have done it yourself.

Knowing Lawn Care Basics

Lawn care can be simple just as long as you at least know the basics. Firstly, the tidiness of the garden needs to be addressed. Is it clean? Is there anything on the lawn which shouldn’t be there? Leaves and rubbish spoil the garden, so you need to get rid of them by raking and picking up all litter before you start. You will notice that once you have removed the rubbish and leaves, your garden will already look so much nicer.

If you have bumps within the garden, they can be removed with a spade and you can either replace the sod or plant new grass seed. As well as boosting the appearance of the garden, by leveling it out, you are also ensuring that it is easier to mow and to keep in pristine condition.

Overall keeping the lawn looking good and keeping it trimmed is all part of primary lawn care. It is something which must be done if you are to have a garden of which can be proud.  A green and healthy lawn is very easy to achieve as long as you know Lawn Care Basics techniques and how to apply them correctly. Read the guidelines below so you can handle your turf properly and get incredible results in no time.

Lawn Mowing

• Find out the recommended cutting height for your grass type and follow it. If you’re unaware or unsure of how much grass to mow, cut only one-third of the total grass length as a general rule.

• Make sure you set your mower high enough. Cutting at a low setting will only damage your grass and prevent its roots from growing deeper.

• Use the appropriate mower for your lawn type. It must be well-tuned, sharpened and in good working condition at all times so you’ll be more efficient at mowing the lawn.

• Never mow over wet grass. Always cut when the turf is dry so you can discourage the presence of weeds and diseases.

• To prevent sunburn, mow your lawn during the coldest part of the day, usually, in the morning after any dew has lifted.

When deciding which lawn mowers is right for you, you need to consider the size of the lawn you are going to be cutting and the type of finish you wish to achieve. If your yard is large, then you will want to look at the petrol lawn mowers are not limited by a power cable and tend to have larger grass collection bins meaning less stopping to empty the bin.  If you have a small area of lawn, you might only need a small electric mower.

Lawn Watering

  • Where lawns are concerned watering more frequently in short durations is better than long soaking, which may cause water to run off and wasted.
  • You don’t have to water your lawn all the time. Feed it only when it’s necessary, or you think it’s a bit dry
  • Be sure to your local communities water restrictions and permissible schedules.  Your local communities water restrictions should be checked regularly as they can change throughout the growing season.
  • Water early in the morning-never late in the afternoon or evening because this promotes pests and diseases to develop.
  • Avoid overwatering your lawn. The advisable amount is around 1-2 inches of water per week, but you may have to adjust depending on the season and the required water supply for your particular grass type.
  • Be sure to spread and sprinkle the water throughout the entire lot. You don’t want one area to be soaked and other parts to become dry due to lack of supply.

It is a known fact that grass will not grow and will die without water which will cause some brown patches to show on the lawn. It is essential to understand what type of soil and grass you have to supply it with only the appropriate amount of water. It is also important not to over-saturate the soil with water as this could cause the grass to die. The ideal time of watering the lawn is during the early morning or at sunset because it is during these times that the water is more likely to soak into the soil than just evaporating.

Weed & Pest Control

  • Weed the turf especially during the fall and spring seasons.
  • Choose organic weed and pest control agents, as a last resort, to get rid of unwanted elements without causing damage to your lawn.  If you must apply chemicals, please use them as directed and apply them only where truly necessary.
  • Take out crabgrass as soon as you see it so you can prevent it from developing roots and spreading throughout the lot.

So, those are the basic techniques that you need to apply if you want to make your lawn more beautiful. Be sure to use them the right way so you can see improvement in your lawn’s overall health and appearance.

The best way to achieve that perfect garden is to start carefully and make small but steady improvements over time. A few basic lawn care tools are necessary, but you can buy lawn care tools at any number of places.

fertilizing your lawn

Fertilizing the soil is also essential. However, you will need to know what type of soil you have before proceeding. Knowing your soil type is important because it will allow you to get the correct fertilizer for your lawn, whether organic or chemical. It is essential to understand that using too much fertilizer can harmful to your yard, to the environment, and your family and pets.

Overfertiliation can leave lawns vunerable to Insect attact.

Most people hardly realize that the roots of the grass need air to This is why people who are in the know aerate their lawn to make it healthier. One good way of checking if your soil needs aerating is by pouring a small amount of water to the soil and see if it soaks down through quickly. If it does not, then it is required for you to aerate your lawn.

If you can stay away from the herbicides and weed killers, Consider interplanting perennial clover or Alfalfa. If you can get an established mix of 30 to 50 percent of clover or alfalfa, your lawn will be healthier and require little or no additional fertilizers, as the grass will get its nitrogen from the clover and alfalfa. Additionally, during hotter weather when your lawn grasses my stall or go dormant, assuming adequate rainfall or irrigation has been applied, the clover and alfalfa will continue to be lively and green. If you live in a location where you can let the clover and alfalfa go to flower, you will be attracting and help the local native and honey bee population.

Related References

Catchment – ​ Water Reuse – What is Rainwater and Greywater

Rainwater capture and storage tank at a local restaurant used to irrigate vegetable garden.
Rainwater capture and storage tank at a local restaurant used to irrigate vegetable garden.

What is catchment?

Catchment is a water reuse strategy which involves collecting water, especially, the collection of rainfall ( also, called rainwater harvesting) over a natural drainage area such as roofs, gutters, drainage ditches…etc., for reuse.  Greywater can be part of a water reuse strategy, but should be outside of the catchment process.

A rain barrel setup to catch rainwater from the roof
A rain barrel setup to catch rainwater from the roof

What is rainwater? 

Rainwater is water that has fallen as rain, rather than water that has come from a a well, reservoir, stream, or municipal water source. Rainwater may be stored for future, but may require algae and pest controls (e.g. mosquitoes).

What is greywater? 

Greywater is waste water from baths, sinks, washing machines, and other kitchen appliances, which is the relatively clean and may be reused for landscape waiting, if properly managed and or filtered.  Greywater should be used immediately and not stored for future use.


Rainwater should be consider non-potable (not drinkable), unless it has been properly sanitized.  This is especially true of runoff water, which have any number of pathogens along the way.  Greywater is definitely non-potable nor should it be allowed to come in contact with the skin, nor is should animals and livestock be allowed to use it as a drinking water source. 

Related References

How To Create a Great Garden Culture?

Cabbage in Garden Patch
Cabbage in Garden Patch

Gardens are ecosystems like any other – but unlike other ecosystems, we as gardeners have the power to influence what happens within their borders. While all areas in the natural world can be shaped to a degree – it is our gardens where we have the greatest level of agency and control.

In our gardens, we can shape the natural environment and work with nature to meet our own needs and desires. The key to designing, creating and maintaining a successful and sustainable garden lies in understanding what we as gardeners can do to work with nature to achieve our goals. The tips below will help you to create a great garden culture – a holistic system that works for you and for all the plants and wildlife with which you share your space.

Promote Biodiversity in Your Garden

One of the biggest mistakes that can be made in a garden is attempting to grow mono-cultures. One of the main problems with large-scale food production is that too few crops are grown over too large an area. Growing only one type of plant en masse can lead to all sorts of problems. Not only are mono-cultures more likely to succumb to pests and disease, but they are also less resilient to changing weather patterns and can cause a degradation of the overall ecosystem.

The same that is true of large-scale agriculture is also true in a garden. Organic gardeners have discovered the benefits of creating polycultures (cultures with a diverse range of plants). By growing a wide range of species, organic gardeners can reduce the likelihood of disaster and improve the resilience of their growing areas. Interplanting various different plants can increase the range of beneficial interactions between them, as well as making it easier to garden organically. Of course, having more plant species can also help to attract a wider range of beneficial wildlife.

To promote biodiversity, interplanting (creating polycultures) is crucial. Annual food crops can be interplanted with other secondary crops of herbs, other vegetables or flowers, while perennial planting schemes form ‘guilds’ of plants which help one another in a wide range of different ways. Companion plants may:

  • Provide shade for other plants.
  • Provide ground cover around plants which reduces moisture loss from the surrounding soil.
  • Dynamically gather nutrients (nitrogen from the air, or nutrients from far below the soil surface) which can be taken up by neighboring
  • Attract pollinators (such as bees and other insects) that allow pollination to occur and fruits to set.
  • Attract predatory insects or other animals such as birds or mammals which eat pest species and keep an ecosystem in balance.
  • Serve as ‘trap’ crops to attract pests that would otherwise damage or destroy more valuable crops.

As well as concentrating on creating a biodiverse planting scheme, organic gardeners can also take other measures to improve the biodiversity (and resilience) of their gardens. For example, gardeners can:

  • Create a wide range of different habitats – g., wild corners, brush piles, meadow, woodland/forest areas, a garden pond, etc.
  • Provide food for birds during winter/ periods of scarcity.
  • Provide ‘housing’ for bees, bugs, birds, bats and other beneficial garden creatures.

Squash Bugs On Melon Vine
Squash Bugs On Melon Vine

Control Pests and Disease

Creating a biodiverse garden is the number one way to control pests and mitigate the effects of the disease. The more biodiverse a culture is, the more harmony will be found within the system. This means that pest species are far less likely to get out of control. There will be no need for harmful chemicals to control pests when the wildlife can do a lot of the job for you.

Of course, there are also other things that you can do to control pests and disease in your garden. Maintaining a great garden culture involves understanding the mechanisms by which pests and disease will spread and doing what you can to reduce the risk of these problems occurring too often in your growing areas.

Good plant hygiene, tidiness and an orderly approach can help to stop things getting out of control. For example, gardeners should:

  • Avoid growing certain annual crops in the same growing area year after year. A good system of crop rotation for plants in the tomato family, brassicas, alliums and legumes can help keep the disease at bay and keep things running smoothly.
  • Keep on top of weeds to avoid excessive crowding or competition. (Weed little and often in main growing areas – though remember some weeds can be useful to the garden as a whole.)
  • Keep paths, greenhouses, polytunnels and garden furniture clean and clear of debris.
  • Avoid spreading disease from one area of the garden to another or from one season to the next on garden tools, pots or containers, gardening equipment or through compost.
  • Only incorporate plants into your garden that come from a trusted source and not damaging biosecurity by importing non-native plants or species, or items that may have come from an infected site.
  • Promptly remove all plants in your main vegetable garden that are past peak-production or have come to the end of their useful life, so the disease cannot fester and the area can be used for successional crops.

If you do have an outbreak of pests or disease in your garden you should:

  • Treat pests/disease organically where this is possible.
  • Where plants will not recover, remove all damaged or diseased materials as soon as possible and dispose of them well away from other crops. (Burning items where necessary and making sure they don’t end up contaminating your growing areas or composting area.)
  • Thoroughly clean all garden tools, gloves, etc. that have come into contact with the diseased
  • Wash hands, pots, etc. thoroughly before using them for any other jobs around the garden.
  • Look for ways to promote better harmony/ greater biodiversity in your garden culture in the future.

Feed And  Protect the Soil in Your Garden

Promoting biodiversity and taking measures to reduce the incidence or spread of pests and disease will go a long way towards creating a great garden culture. But there is one more vital element that will ensure that you can keep your garden culture sustainable over the years to come: care for the soil. No matter how well you tend your garden in other ways, if you do not care for the soil – production and appearance will soon begin to suffer.

In an organic garden culture, feeding and protecting the soil should always be a number one priority. As mentioned above, crop rotation is one of the important ways to make sure your garden thrives. As well as reducing the incidence of pests and disease, moving annual crops from one growing area to another on a rotational basis each year will also help to ensure that the soil retains a good balance of nutrients. For example, legumes planted the year after brassicas or other leafy plants will help to replace the nitrogen in the soil.

Other methods that should be used to protect garden soil include:

  • Adoption of a ‘no-dig’ approach
    • A no-dig garden is one in which the soil is disturbed as little as possible. This allows the soil’s complex web of biota to function as it should. Bacteria and fungi and larger soil creatures such as earthworms all, serve important functions in the soil web. No dig gardening allows these creatures to flourish – to the benefit of the plants and, ultimately, the gardener.
  • The use of organic mulches
    • In a no dig garden, rather than digging compost/ manure or other amendments into the soil, the gardener simply leaves these materials on the soil surface as an organic mulch. It has been shown that this material is naturally incorporated into the topsoil below without the agency of a spade. Using compost, fall leaves, grass clippings, comfrey leaves, seaweed, straw, bark or other materials to cover the ground around cultivated areas helps to complete the natural cycles and return nutrients into the system. Choosing the right mulch materials for the right situation can help the garden culture to remain healthy and even to be improved over time.
  • The use of green manures to protect and enrich the soil
    • ‘Green manures’ are simply cover crops that protect the soil surface from erosion and degradation. Nature abhors bare soil in most situations and leaving soil bare for too long means causing damage to the fragile topsoil ecosystem. Cover crops create a ‘green carpet’ over an area to make sure the area of soil is preserved. Green manures are cover crops which have been chosen to not only protect but also to enrich the soil. These are cover crops which are chopped and dropped to return the nutrients to the topsoil system. Like other organic mulches, these ‘green manures’ can form an important part of an organic garden system.

The above should help organic gardeners to plan and implement their garden cultures in a way that will ensure that the culture is not only great, but also sustainable, and can continue to provide food and other resources for them and their families for years to come.

Related References

A Guide to Conserving Water in a Permaculture Garden

Pound in Woods
Pound in Woods

Conserving water is always essential in a garden, and especially so in a climate such as the one experienced in Texas. Whether you believe in climate change or not it is prudent to take measures to use water more wisely and more sparingly. This guide to conserving water in a permaculture garden will help you to do this in your own backyard.

Permaculture emphasizes the importance of managing water successfully, as well as reducing the amount of water we require to grow our food. For gardener’s converse water, it is essential to understand how water is stored in a garden.

During rainfall, the water will flow through the landscape in predictable ways. It will be stored in the soil and be taken up into trees and plants. Permaculture teaches us practical ways to ensure that the water cycle of our planet continues to function as it should, and ways to manage the flow of water on our sites to make use of this natural resource to grow our food.

A rain barrel set up to catch rain
A rain barrel set up to catch rain

Harvesting Rainwater in a Permaculture Garden

Water will naturally flow downhill. In sloping sites, creating a pond or basin in a dip on the lowest part of the site is one way to gather and store rainwater for later use. We can also collect rainwater from the built environment by attaching butts or barrels to the downspouts on our homes.

We can also slow the rate at which water escapes from our gardens by creating earthworks such as on-contour swales (or ditches). These swales are depressions filled with organic materials which catch and store water. By planting along swale lines, we can make the most of all the rain that falls on our land.

Conserving Water in a Permaculture Garden

Catching and storing rainwater in our gardens is only part of the picture. We can also take measures to reduce the amount of water that we require to grow our food.

  • Drought-Tolerant Planting

One of the things we can do to conserve water is chosen the right plants for the right places. When choosing plants for your garden, always consider how much water they will require. Consider drought-tolerant plants native to your area if you live in a low-rainfall area. Salvia, phlox, and verbena are three wildlife-friendly examples of drought-tolerant plants native to Texas.

  • Shade Creation

In addition to considering planting drought-tolerant plants, it is also a great idea to consider planting trees and shrubs for shade. Shading the soil will slow the rate of evaporation and reduce water loss during the summer months. Great drought tolerant shade trees include the Chinkapin Oak, the smaller Lacey Oak, and deciduous holly.

  • Mulching & Ground Cover

You can also reduce water evaporation from the soil in your garden by taking care to cover the soil with mulches of organic matter or ground cover plants.

  • Low-Water Use Irrigation Methods

Of course, water will still be required by your plants. Choosing low-water-use irrigation methods can help you to direct the water to exactly where it is needed, without using more than you need to. Low water use irrigation methods include wicking beds and clay pot irrigation.

These are just some of how you can catch, store and save water in a permaculture garden.

 Related References 

Organic Vegetable Garden Mulches

 What is Mulch?

Simply put, mulch is an additional layer of material placed on top of soil that is intended to protect or enrich the soil underneath. Mulch can be created from a wide range of materials and can be tailored for specific climates and plants. At its core, mulch serves as a mechanism for plant protection, weed prevention, and moisture retention. But, because organic mulch itself decomposes, it also serves to enrich the soil. Although mulch is not the most glamorous aspect of gardening, it should not be overlooked—it is an essential aspect of vegetable gardening and overall garden culture.

What is Organic Mulch?

Generally, there are two overarching types of mulch: organic and synthetic. Organic mulch is usually composed of organic plant and/or animal by-products, whereas synthetic mulch is usually made of plastic or rubber. Each type can serve unique purposes, but I will focus on the benefits and use of organic mulch.

What are the Benefits of Using Mulch?

Reduces Weed Growth

Weeds can be a menace to your vegetable garden. Beyond just being unsightly, mature weeds steal the moisture and nutrients from the soil that your vegetable plants need. While it is possible to remove weeds by hand, this arduous task can be reduced through the proper application of mulch. A thick layer of mulch helps keep weeds down by creating an almost impenetrable layer on the soil. This layer will suppress most weeds by creating an environment in which they find it hard to grow.

Conserves Soil Moisture

While weeds are a threat to your vegetable garden, hot dry weather or drought can be an even more deadly killer. One way to combat drought is to apply a plentiful layer of mulch. Mulch retains the moisture obtained from seasonal rains and irrigation and will help to create a more balanced and steady moisture level over time. In other words, it helps ensure there is never too much water or not enough and this consistent moisture level encourages steady plant growth. Finally, mulch can reduce costs and prevent the unnecessary waste of water by requiring less rainfall and/or irrigation. In other words, mulch helps you grow the same plant, with less water.

Keeps Soil Temperatures Stable

The ability of mulch to
stabilize soil temperature is a benefit that is often ignored to the detriment of the gardener. Preventing extreme fluctuations in soil temperatures is critical because certain plants are more sensitive to and/or react inappropriately because of changes in soil temperature. For example, strawberries will stop producing if they get too hot, whereas many cold weather plants will “go to seed” too soon (i.e., when a vegetable plant begins to flower and stops producing vegetables and goes dormant). Mulch acts as a buffer for temperature fluctuations and will provide a more stable soil temperature than would be the case with bare ground. As such, the proper application of mulch will help provide your plants with the most optimal growing temperatures, and extend the amount of time that they are producing delicious vegetables for you to eat!

Reduces Soil Erosion

Soil erosion can create more issues than just washing away all of your good soil, it can cause river pollution downstream and increase your gardening costs by forcing you to continuously buy more dirt. Mulch reduces the amount of water runoff, which helps to keep your garden soil in place. This is especially helpful immediately after cultivation when the soil is loosest and most vulnerable to erosion or on sloping ground. In addition, mulching reduces soil compaction caused by driving rain and overhead watering.

Reduces Disease and Disease Severity

The combination of improved growing conditions, the reduced need to compete with weeds, a reduction in pests, and improved soil quality tend to make garden plants less disease prone and more able to recover when treatment is necessary.

Keeps your Crops Clean

hard rains or forceful irrigation is used, soil inevitably splatters onto your garden plants. Mulches help keep your fruits, vegetables, and flowers in picturesque shape. Plant cleanliness also improves plant health by not moving fungi and bacteria onto your plants and depriving them of a habitation which to grow.

Reduces Fruit and Vegetable Spoilage

RBecause fruits and vegetables grown in organic mulch tend to be healthier, cleaner, and grow more evenly, you will find that less spoilage (e.g. fruit cracking) will occur in your garden and they store longer before spoiling.

Grows Plants Faster

As a result of improved conditions provided by mulching, plants tend to grow more rapidly and mature more quickly. This means you will be able to start eating your home-grown vegetables sooner! Even if you planted your seeds late or are on your second round of planting, you may find that seeds planted in organic mulch will tend to catch up with those seeds planted on time. This increased rate of growth can be enhanced when organic fertilizer (e.g., composted cow manure) is applied before mulching.

Raised Garden Bed With Mulched Paths
Raised Garden Bed With Mulched Paths

Tool for Attractive Landscaping

The selection and use of a good quality mulch can be a tool in creating an attractive background for plantings and tend to make the garden look well-tended. As a side effect, you will find yourself spending more time in your garden, even when the weather condition is less than optimal.

Reduces Manual Labor

Mulch reduces the need to weed, cultivate, irrigate, and treat plants for pests and/or disease significantly and, thus, reduces the level of work required to have a highly productive and healthy garden.

How Much Mulch Should I Use?

Depending on the type of mulch you are using, you may need to use thicker layers of mulch. Looser, less dense mulch needs to be more thickly applied than, heavier more dense mulches, to create the same effect. Normally, a layer between two to four inches is appropriate for most organic mulches. You can apply more mulch in travel paths or between rows for greater weed control.

Common Organic Vegetable Garden Mulch Materials

Organic garden mulches are mulches, which can be cultivated into the soil to improve ground quality during site preparation or at the end of the growing season. Organic mulches may also be moved to the compost pile to complete the decomposition process and then cultivate into the soil. Organic mulches average soil temperatures providing more ideal growing temperatures and soil culture longer. Cultivating in a small quantity of slow release fertilizer (e.g. compost, cured manure, blood meal, etc.) before an organic mulch is applied is highly recommended, as the decomposition process will leach some nitrogen from the soil.

Grass Clippings

Allow lawn clippings to dry before applying to gardens. Fresh, green material may settle and form a dense mat or produce an unpleasant odor. If the lawn has been treated with a broad-leaf herbicide, don’t use the clippings until the lawn has been mowed two or three times after the application. The best source of lawn clippings is a well maintained, non-chemically treated, lawn. Grass clippings from a weed-infested lawn will undoubtedly contain a large amount of weed seed.


Leaves should be shredded or composted before applied as a mulch. Shredded or composted leaves do not mat down as readily as whole leaves are less likely to blow away in the wind and decompose more quickly. Shredded or composted leaves are an excellent mulch for vegetable gardens, raspberry plantings, annual flower beds, and around trees and shrubs. Even though the leaves of some trees (such as oak) are acidic, they can be safely used in the yard and garden. The small amounts used by home gardeners have little effect on soil ph. Leaves are a poor winter mulch for strawberries and herbaceous perennials.

Chili Peppers mulched with wood shavings
Chili Peppers mulched with wood shavings

Sawdust or Wood Shavings

Sawdust or wood shavings are easy to apply, weed free, and decompose slowly. Generally, sawdust should be composted or allowed to age/weather for a year before being applied. If fresh sawdust is used, apply only a 1-inch layer and make sure the sawdust doesn’t cake. Also, I have found the local farm supply store an excellent source of clean wood shavings used for animal bedding, usually at a reasonable cost, which makes very nice mulch.


A straw that is free from crops and weed seed is an excellent mulch for the vegetable garden. Suitable materials include wheat, barley, oat, and rye straw. Straw may provide winter habitat for mice, slugs, and other rodents, so, fall removal and inclusion in a compost bin away from the garden site is recommended. An alternative to removal is to ‘Sheet Compost” the mulch by cultivating the mulch into the soil at the end of the gardening season.

Spoiled HaY

Hay which has become damaged due to exposure to the elements, especially moisture, make excellent mulch provided they have decomposed enough to kill any seed that the hay may have contained. Hay as the same habitat characteristic as straw and should be likewise treated.

Shredded Office Paper Mulch
Shredded Office Paper Mulch

Newspaper and shredded office paper

Newspapers shredded or whole, as well as, shredded office paper may be used in the vegetable garden. When using newspaper sheets, place a layer of 6 to 8 layers sheets between plant rows in the garden. Water the sheets so they stick to one another and to the soil surface, then weigh them down to prevent them from blowing away. I have used shredded office paper from a local office to great effect, once you get used to the color White in the middle of your garden) and your neighbors’ questions. Use, in pathways and around established plants has worked very well; especially, as it was free and did not take up space in the local landfill.

Cleaning up

Mulches should be cleaned up as your garden year progresses to reduce habitat for disease and pests. In general, your vegetable garden mulch should be cleaned at the end of the gardening season, when preparing to succession plant, and upon crop rotation during the year. Mulch may provide a habitat for mice, slugs, and other rodents if left in place during the non-growing season. So, removal and inclusion of old mulch in a compost bin away from the garden site are strongly recommended. If removal and composting is not an option, then vegetable garden mulches may be “sheet Composted” by cultivating the mulch into your garden bed and permitted to compost. However, care should be taken to rotate your garden crops, so that, you do not grow the same in the same place two seasons and/or consecutive succession plantings.

Related References