By Sage Thee
Some of my happiest childhood memories are of gardening with my grandmother — or, more accurately, she would garden; I would play in the dirt with the bugs. She did not mind that I wasn’t helping. What mattered most to both of us was spending time together. We talked about everything under the sun, and then some.
To me, gardening is an act of love.
My grandmother has taught me (and continues to teach me) many things, not just about gardening but about life, too. One valuable gardening skill she has taught me is the power of mulch. I do not know what it is about mulch, but my garden is the most beautiful when I use mulch versus compost.
Now, there is nothing wrong with compost; the nutrients it provides are terrific for soil and plants, but composting is a lengthy process, and my family and I are an impatient bunch. Compost is organic matter (e.g., grass clippings, kitchen scraps, and garden waste) that has decomposed for about a year and is then mixed into the soil when planting, providing nutrients, assisting in moisture retention, and overall aiding in the health of your soil.
Mulch, on the other hand, is perfect for those of us who do not have the forbearance for composting because its ingredients do not take several months to prepare, and it is simply spread on top of the soil. Mulch works as a protective barrier on top of the ground, sort of like a blanket, and it helps to suppress weeds, retain moisture, insulate the soil during cold weather, and reduce erosion from the wind and rain. Mulch also improves soil quality by enriching the dirt with nutrients as it breaks down.
Use of both or either of these will do wonders for your gardens; I highly recommend giving it a try! Before putting in vegetable gardens, make sure to check that everything in your mulch is food safe!
You can buy mulch, but my favorite way — the way my grandma taught me — is to make your own. Making your own mulch and compost are great ways to save money, as well as to reduce and recycle waste. (And, as my grandmother always says, “Mother Nature thanks you!”)
When we make mulch, we typically use grass clippings, leaves, tea leaves, and crushed eggshells (which replenish the soil with calcium as they decompose). Tree bark is also a terrific addition to deter weeds and make your garden beds just that bit more beautiful.
To plant something, to nurture and aid it in its growth, and to finally see it bloom, is to love it — another lesson from my grandmother.
It inspires me to see my grandmother tend, year after year, to her garden. She pulls weeds and plants bulbs with the same amount of care and love she has shown to all of her children, myself included. Her propensity for reducing waste, and her love of the earth, are some of the things I admire most about her.
Shortly before my grandfather passed, he told my grandma to know, when her daffodils and tulips bloom in April, it’s a sign she is going to be okay; that life goes on.
It’s April now, and her flowers are preparing to bloom. My grandpa was right. Life goes on.