Mulch, mulch, mulch, mulch, mulch; that’s the sound of happy soil biology.

The Natural Farmer

Great episode from Jagannath.

Comments: straw tends to be high in lignin which needs white rot fungi to break it down, which requires moisture and gives rotted wood it’s soft spongy characteristic. Straw is probably better as a winter rather than summer mulch which is why I have a rule of thumb to use soft mulch in summer and hard mulch in winter. Grow your mulch in spring for summer! Prune for winter!
Interestingly leaf litter can also almost contain as much lignin as straw. Sugar cane mulch on the other hand has about 1/3 the lignin of straw and corn stalks are half that again, sugar cane mulch has an ideal carbon to nitrogen ratio of 50:1 though. Corn can actually be quite good for building soil carbon so long as the mulch is left in place and a green added to it, like Jagannath’s planned legume companion.
Also, the allelopathic leaves mentioned can be used after a quick 3-day hot compost. Putting them in a black bag in the sun with some urine may work too.
I find legumes like beans are a great indicator of soil bulk density. They tend to thrive in loose soil where air gets the root zone. The other thing Jagannath may be missing for his soil and environment with such dry lifeless soil is the rhizobia inoculant that form the nitrogen-fixing symbiosis in the form of root nodules. Here in Australia there’s a trial going on to match the microbe with the legume so that farmers can inoculate at sowing time, apparently we don’t get the same level of root nodulation and yield compared to other countries because of our microbial species, so efforts are being made to breed and select for them.
Today I also learned that leaf litter suppresses herbivorous nematodes likely by increasing the fungi population that trap them, while on the other hand just leaving roots in the soil increases nematodes and bacteria over time.
Lastly, I like to measure my mulch depth in buried finger knuckle joints. One knuckle joint is good, two is better, three is best! And so is using three different mulches: green, brown and white. Green for bacteria (nitrifying), brown for brown rot fungi (cellulose), and white for white rot fungi (lignin).
As you can probably tell, I consider mulch the most underrated of topics! 😛

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