This might look like a piece of lawn to you, grass dotted with weeds (or wild edibles, depending on your point of view). It’s not. Well, it is, but on Dave’s farm, it’s more than that: it’s a crop.
See, Dave found inspiration some years ago in the classic book The One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka, in which the author farmed with as little outside input into the farming cycle as possible. Fukuoka had straw available on his farm, and using it for mulch kept it from becoming “waste” as well as held moisture on the fields and reduced the impact of weeds.
Dave doesn’t grow the big grain crops that would yield a fine harvest of straw, but he does have a few acres of grassy hills and avenues. So, when he mows, he gathers up the cut grass and piles it up next to his plots and fields in order to mulch the growing vegetables.
Now that I’m working for him, of course, that means that I am the one who gets to spread a lot of mulch. And so I do.
After transplanting seedlings from the greenhouse to field #3 last week, he mowed around the field and in between rows, scattering the cut grass over the kohlrabi, pac choi, radish, beet, and spinach seedlings.
Everywhere I plant and water new seedlings, I follow up with a layer of fine grass clippings, tucked around the individual plants and hosed down to keep the grass from drying out and blowing away.
Even older crops — such as this hardneck garlic planted in the fall, long before I came to the farm — are getting an extra thick layer of mulch as springtime weeds start to poke through the old layer.
Of course, I’ve known that mulch is a wonderful thing to use in the garden to conserve water and to protect the plants, but I had never been very consistent about applying it on my own plots. Not this year.
After planting garlic last fall, I mulched the area thoroughly. But this year, especially in garden #1, where we had a leftover bale of straw to use, I’ve mulched after every planting. I picked up strawberry starts from a friend on Saturday and planted them here yesterday, tucking straw around every plant. It’s not as neat and complete as the grass mulch, but until we start getting a pile of grass clippings for this garden, it will have to do.
And that’s just the point: you use what you’ve got. Fukuoka had straw. Dave has grass. Right now I’ve got straw and will hope to use grass later, but I could also use the newspapers that have piled up at home or matted leaves from last fall. All of them help.
It’s definitely better than nothing.