A month ago I wrote a blog about giving up composting, https://wp.me/p6bCCa-2Ft largely because I had a hunch that what was happening on the compost heap would be better happening in the soil. Today I looked at The Garden Professors™ – Advancing the science of gardening and other stuff since 2009 and there was the vindication I needed for my cranky behaviour. In an article about mulching, the nugget that compost offers very little nutrition for soil microbes; the labile carbon which the microbes would use for their food supply has already been consumed by the microbes in the compost heap.
I love Garden Professors and have dipped into it at intervals over the years. Recently though, I looked on YouTube at a video that Linda Chalker-Scott had posted about mulching. Mulches, the Good, the Bad and the Really, Really Ugly. There’s nothing like having an image of the person talking to bring an article you’re reading to life. I started reading a lot more of the blog with that image of a person behind the words. Made a big difference.
On the subject of mulches, hers is an American perspective, mainly a very different climate from mine. Conserving moisture is more important, but weed suppression, soil protection and improvement are the same. If you mulch you should watch the video. If she’d been a speaker at your garden club you’d have thought it the best value ever.
I’m not aware of a UK equivalent to what she and her colleagues are doing as part of their University Extension Service, getting science based gardening and landscape information and advice out to the public. I just looked at the RHS website at what they had to say about mulching. Some of their advice is in stark contrast to Garden Professors and it is the latter who are backing up their advice with references to relevant recent research.
I seem to be on something of a science kick at the moment. I’m currently reading “Acquiring Genomes” by Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan, explaining where the variation that gives rise to new species comes from, and it’s not from mutations. I’m just at the beginning but it strikes me as a fierce and fearless book, not at all a tone I was expecting and I can’t wait to read more. With only a Cormoran Strike tale betwixt them, I’d just read Frank Ryan’s Virolution, a more recent book than Margulis’s, explaining the contribution of viruses to evolution. Margulis is rather dismissive of viruses, Ryan makes it clear that we cannot afford to be. He was writing before the current pandemic and it shows all too clearly how predictable it was.