Using Mulch for Crops in Hot, Dry Climates
I raise vegetable crops as a hobby. Physical work in the garden is a refreshing change from long hours spent behind the desk in my office. Raising my own vegetables provides a sense of accomplishment. Home grown produce is fresher, better tasting, more nutritious and cheaper than vegetables from the supermarket. The growing season in western Kansas is often hot and dry. It is not unusual for temperatures to exceed 100 degrees fahrenheit or 38 degrees celsius. Typical annual rainfall is slightly over 20 inches or 50 centimeters, much of which falls during the growing season. Based on my experience, mulch is a key to successfully growing vegetables in hot arid climates. I use organic mulch from local sources. These include leaves that fall from trees in the Autumn, grass clippings from lawns, wheat straw from local farmers and even shredded waste paper from local offices.
I receive the following benefits from mulching my garden. 1) A thick layer of mulch reduces evaporation of water from the soil. This ensures plants have a uniform supply of water needed for growth. It also reduces the need for supplemental irrigation. 2) Mulch kills weeds by blocking sunlight from reaching them after they germinate. 3) Mulch prevents the soil from getting excessively hot by insulating it from the sun's heat. 4) When the mulch decomposes, it enriches the soil with organic matter and nutrients. 5) As a result of the preceding benefits, I spend less time watering and weeding my garden and do not have to buy commercial fertilizer.
Growing conditions in South Sudan are similar to the hot, dry summers in western Kansas. Mulch is beneficial in western Kansas. If I lived in South Sudan, I would definitely experiment with using organic mulch on vegetables and other crops.
Following are photographs showing the use of mulch in my western Kansas vegetable garden.
From left to right are carrots, green beans and sweet potatoes.
Notice there are no weeds growing through the
mulch between the rows of vegetables.
Close-up view of newly emerged spinach (foreground) and radishes
(background). I pushed the mulch aside when planting the seeds. (A
layer of mulch would smother newly germinated vegetables just as it
would smother weeds.) I will add mulch next to these plants after
they grow a little taller.
Carrots viewed from above. The mulch around them
is a mixture of tree leaves and grass clippings.
Green beans (left) and sweet potatoes (right)
with mulch visible between them.
Yellow squash (left) and sweet bell peppers (right).
Watermelons with mulch beneath the vines and fruits.
Fruits, such as watermelons & tomatoes, seem less likely to rot if a layer
of mulch prevents them from having direct contact with the soil.
July 9, 2011
Congratulations to South Sudan!
South Sudan became a new nation on July 9, 2011. This is the dawn of a new era for its people. National independence will not mark the end of difficulties and conflict. But I hope that when the people of South Sudan look back on this day, they will see that it was an important turning point.
God made the following promise in the Bible: "When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place." (II Chronicles 7:13-15, New International Version of the Holy Bible)
I pray that the Christians in South Sudan will be unified in prayer and will claim this promise as their own! If they do, God will use them to bless their new nation and the surrounding nations as well.