Grassy vs. mulched garden aisles
are three main choices for aisles between permanent garden beds ---
tilling up the soil, planting grass (or another low groundcover), or
mulching. Tilling got deleted from my decision-making nearly
because of the potential for erosion and mud. And since we didn't
vehicle that could haul large quantities of mulch to the farm at the
beginning of our operation, grass chose itself for our aisles.
On the other hand,
grassy aisles have advantages too, like:
So far, each permanent
aisle technique is neck and neck, so let's look
at some data on how much mulched and grassy aisles cost us in time and
money. I decided to consider the mule garden (since it's easiest
to measure), which is about a third of our vegetable growing
area. In the table below, I compare our current management system
with the alternative of
buying enough composted
leaf mulch to keep
the 1,440 square feet of
I was shocked to see that mulched aisles would only save us 5.5 hours of labor over the course of the year! True, we might be able to cut that time a bit by getting more serious about talking tree crews into delivering wood chips, but we'd spend even more time shoveling those chips into the pickup truck (and add a lot of back-breaking labor) in order to haul them to the garden.
The mulch option would also be considerably worse for the earth. We all knee-jerk and think that mowing is bad, but our darling lawn mower probably uses 2.5 to 3.75 gallons of gas annually to mow the mule garden, which looks like a bargain compared to the 38 gallons we'd use to haul mulch home.
I guess I need to drop the dream of mulched aisles and instead start thinking of ways to make weeds less likely to encroach on the growing area. Mark's new weed eater might be the solution since it seems to do a great job of slipping under the edges of the mulch and cutting off runners before they gain a foothold, and I could also consider some sort of permanent weed barrier. And mowing will become quicker and quicker as I merge beds into long, wide rows, removing stumps that disturb fast passes of the mower.
Do you have tips for making grassy garden aisles as easy as possible?
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