Mulching Comparison Experiment, Part 2

1935 USDA Yearbook of Agriculture; A different time with different solutions

I find it necessary to address the sustainability of each of the methods of growing that I will be comparing in my Mulching Comparison Experiment, Part 1. Sustainability is very important to consider when undertaking any agricultural venture. When I say sustainability I mean it very literally, not just speaking from an environmental standpoint. Can this method be sustained indefinitely under the current or foreseeable future conditions?

More precisely I am after whether the method can be sustained indefinitely by relying on as little as one human power, very little to no financial input, and few if any inputs from outside of the property. Gardening should be a profitable venture, a creationary act, the basis of production. It should be a net positive at the bottom line of your finances and of your quality of life.

The most sustainable options would be the control (digging and mulching with hay or grass clippings) and the fall leaves. These two methods can be maintained with only labor – and lots of it (Hard Work and Faith)– and materials readily available on site. The digging and mulching is most easily achieved as it can be mulched with clippings from right beside the bed, and not every inch of every bed needs to be dug every year. The fall leaves does require quite a bit of moving materials from one point on the property to another. This is most easily done with a tractor, but could be much more tediously accomplished with a wheelbarrow.

In the middle I would say the chisel plow is modestly sustainable in that as long as I already have the tool itself and a tractor, the largest input is the tractor maintenance and fuel. It will be providing only a single row every 8 feet or so rather than a garden bed environment, but in between those rows will remain something akin to a hay and wildflower meadow environment, which will allow for many benefits including high pollinator populations, high fertility, high predatory insect populations. This also comes with its own challenges including high weed (grass) pressure, high rodent population, and access and maintenance difficulties.

In the least sustainable column would fall the mushroom soil and wood mulch methods. This is not to say that they are not sustainable options, just that I feel they are the least sustainable within my experiment. They are waste byproducts from different industries, so in that regard they are not contributing to any environmental degradation, in fact purchasing them for use in gardening is reducing landfill burden. My concern mainly lies in the fact that they do require financial expenditure and they are impossible for me to provide for myself in the quantities required for effective use. In the scope of things, the financial cost is not horrendous and can easily be justified if it produces results that exceed the control by a modest amount. That is what this experiment will bear out, whether the increase is indeed worth the expenditure, if there is an increase at all.

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