The purpose of this post is just to compare the effects of mulching some broad beans versus not mulching them.
I planted the broad beans in the field in January. I rotovated the field beforehand to get rid of the surface weeds. I made holes with a broomstick about 10cm deep and threw the broad bean seeds into the holes before raking over to fill up the holes. I used dried broad beans for eating from the supermarket.
On half of them I put a covering of about 3cm of chipped olive branches from my wood chipper. You can see the results in the photos below.
The mulch does a very good job of suppressing the weeds. I am influenced by the idea of no dig gardening. In strict no dig gardening there would be no use of a rotovator and the mulch would be well rotted compost rather than freshly chipped vegetable matter but for me this method works well. The use of a rotovator is abhorrent to some purists but many people don’t realize that they only just scratch over the surface.
The wood chipper
I used to burn all the prunings from the olive trees. They burn very well because the leaves contain oil however it seemed a waste of a useful resource and the carbon dioxide was released into the air. With the wood chipper I use all the shredded vegetable matter as mulch. This reduces the amount of time weeding and the vegetable matter improves the soil quality and increases the worm population. I imagine that is locks up the carbon the the soil for a while which is probably a good thing. There is more info and a video of the shredder here
John, at our allotments there are over 200 plots with over 200 different methods. Mine, for my sins, is the labour intensive, single dig every year with compost where I can put it. But I look on with envy at the no-dig, weed-free approach. Here they use cardboard, plastic, grass clippings, straw, anything they can to suppress weeds, while I for some obscure reason seem to prefer digging them out.
Digging can be very enjoyable as long as you do it right and not damage your back. I enjoy weeding sitting down with a knife or trowel and I can’t understand why. One of my theories is that it is similar too when gorillas like to pick fleas from each other’s fur. Maybe the joy of weeding is somehow hardwired into our brains.
Another extra advantage of mulching is that it prevents the soil from drying out. I mulch a lot around my strawberries and tomatoes. It means I don’t have to water so much which reduces work.