It is that time when mulching is most appropriate. Too soon in the season and there is a risk of covering up seeds that have not yet sprouted, or damaging tender seedlings. But too late and weeds will most certainly over-run the garden. Now don't get me wrong, there are plenty of weeds already, and particularly so for me as I'm quite lazy in this aspect.
But there are other benefits to mulch other than weed suppression, including holding in moisture, and, depending on the type of mulch, it can also add beneficial nutrients to the soil.
And I was given some wood chips by a friend which I have used between the raised garden beds. I will need a lot more to cover the areas that I want and am considering renting a wood chipper at some point (this will help to clean up fallen limbs from the winter and I can use wood chip mulch almost anywhere).
Potatoes get an extra benefit from this mulch - they can actually grow in hay. The containers in the greenhouse holding potatoes had a layer of hay at the bottom. The potatoes in the outside garden have hay on top. It will help to keep the sun away from any potatoes that grow close to the surface.
|The small plants in the front are fingerlings planted later|
Another experiment is sheep fleece as mulch. From what I have read, I understood that sheep wool no longer demands the same premium that it used to, and farmers often have to burn the wool when it can't be sold (it requires a lot of cleaning and preparation to be sold as a fiber for manufacturing clothes). A friend of mine knows Fred Baker, sheep producer extraordinaire from nearby Mountain, Ontario, so she hooked me up with him to get some wool. Although it was not free, the price was worth the great dinner and an evening chatting with Fred who seems to know everything about everything (and now I have a great contact for getting some lamb meat).
The rest of the fleece went on the newly planted pumpkin/melon patch. I thought it best to use fleece on vegetables with a thick skin so that it does not stick to the vegetable when harvesting.
The original pumpkin patch was covered with hay.
Most mulches behave basically the same, so I suspect it will mainly come down to aesthetics. I am used to the look of hay, and I think it looks nice once it has been wet down once or twice and settles in. I am not used to seeing the big white blotch of fleece in the middle of the yard, nor am I used to the mild stench (I have read reports of wool mulch attracting fox - I am more concerned about my neighbour's dog!).
So in the long run, it will simply come down to my own preference, with cost (free?) being most important, and simplicity and looks following close behind.