Mulching for Max


Gardening in the harsh desert climate of Las Vegas really brings to the forefront the necessity of utilizing every drop of moisture as efficiently as possible. The Fruity Chicken orchard/garden utilizes several techniques to help maximize this utilization. My baseline moisture is supplied by a sub-surface irrigation system over the entire area whose primary source of water is greywater from laundry. This system does have a supplemental input of fresh water of approximately 35 gallons every other day during the height of the summer which I estimate to be about 1/3 of the total input. This freshwater input tapers down to 35 gallons a week in the fall and 35 gallons a month through the winter months. My orchard/garden area is currently 20′ x 40′, due to the 6″ to 12″ layer of mulch over the general area the soil stays reasonably moist year round. On the the other hand my raised beds are above this moisture source necessitating a drip system to keep seedlings and shallow rooted veggies thriving.

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The drip system in my main 4’x12′ beds is 3 laterals running the length of the bed with .9 GPH emitters spaced @ 12″ intervals, this system runs 1 hour a day early in the morning applying roughly 35 gallons a day. Up to this point in the season this system has thoroughly watered those beds and resulted in enough seepage coming out of the downhill end to keep the comfrey planted there to scavenge nutrients flourishing. With the recent increase in heat the moist area has been noticeably receding, rather than increasing the run time on the drip system I have been focusing on mulching to reduce loss through evaporation. In the picture above the green mulch that was planted initially can be seen, this is primarily red wheat which has really exceeded my expectations.

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That green mulch gets cut down about every other week and laid between the crop plantings. Now that the heat is coming on that mulch just isn’t enough so I have started supplementing it with straw.

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My experience with trying to mulch with straw hasn’t been positive but this time appears to be different. In the past I had done things the traditional way, spreading straw over the whole bed then pulling that mulch aside to do my plantings. This method always resulted in straw blown around everywhere except where it was needed, due to already being used to cutting and placing small amounts of green mulch I just kinda kept up the same process. Rather than throwing down a big ole flake off the bale I have been sitting down next to my beds with a pile of straw, picking up a handful, tearing it in half and then sorta weaving in between the established plants. This method has resulted in the mulch being where it is really needed and staying in place, a side benefit is that I am spending quality time up close and personal with my garden. Pests get spotted sooner and so far have been able to be controlled by manual means rather than using chemicals. Additionally it is right in my face when a plant is struggling a bit allowing me to either adjust my spray mixture or do some spot amendments such as a leaf or two of comfrey smushed up and pushed under the mulch for a bit of boost.

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5 thoughts on “Mulching for Max

  1. artsifrtsy says:

    What are those purple flowers – I love those? I have used straw here, but with the moisture it breaks down so fast.

  2. teri gray says:

    I’ve found that pulling the straw flake apart, accordion-style works pretty well, although not if you’re working with tall, established plants.

  3. I’m fairly new to your blog (and honestly to gardening in general) but you have mentioned the use of comfrey to suck up run-off nutrients and as a supplemental green mulch. why is that? Any good places to learn about the joys of comfrey?

    • Max says:

      I think I first read about comfrey on permits.com Originally I wanted to grow it for high protein feed for my chickens but once I started reading more about the stuff and got interested in gardening in a more natural style my eyes were opened to its other uses. I could not find it anywhere in Vegas and ended up ordering mine from http://www.coescomfrey.com The owner is a great guy and his prices are good. Comfrey is a staple with organic/natural gardeners due to its ability to convert nitrogen sources that would burn other plants into usable forms, it also sends down long tap roots to “mine” minerals from the soil and again convert them to readily available sources for other plants. I have a couple small volunteer plants in my beds that I would be glad to dig up and give you, they grow like weeds.

  4. Very interested in your comfrey conversation. The website is very informative, too.

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