The question came during a car ride to the annual co-op tree sale, when my farm apprentice asked one of our passengers, a seasoned self-described permaculturist, for a definition of what she did.
After a few halting starts describing site-planning and sustainability and organic and natural, she said, “Basically it just means I mulch a lot.”
We all laughed, but the truth is that mulch is a really big deal. So much so that I consider it to be every gardener’s secret weapon. It is simple, often inexpensive or even free, easy to use, and effective — yet many people are not aware of the wonders of mulch.
It may be easier to define mulch than permaculture, but it, too, is a practice which is wildly diverse and highly personalized. It can be made of virtually any material, used in multiple ways for myriad purposes, and infinitely customized.
What is mulch, exactly? An Internet search of the word yields plenty of opportunities to purchase it but not much in the way of actual definition. In two words, mulch is “ground cover.”