Although I started late, my plants and seedlings are making good progress. When I have a free moment (mwuuahahaha! That’s rich!) I de-stress by wandering barefoot in my garden, pulling the odd weed or determining if it might be edible and should I let it get larger. I enjoy the sound and feel of the gentle crunching of the layer of dry hay/straw on top, and I can also do this after a rain and there is no mud. Last fall I got a large load of old/rotten hay and laid it down thickly, then left it alone, and that was pretty much the sum of my hard work. There is still enough left, plus 2 bales I left in place for such a time as this (filling in any thinner spots).
The soil underneath is moist and friable although this year has vacillated between unseasonably hot, then cool, then dumping buckets. The worms are happily eating my mulch and enriching my soil. Slugs and snails infest the neighborhood and, yes, my rather shady garden is yet another one they like to visit. I used to bait with beer, but I find that slug bait sprinkled around the base of at-risk plants and along the edge of the garden where they come from keeps them in check easily. Chickens would be helpful, but that’s not currently possible.
A HUMOROUS OBSERVATION: In my personal experience, it seems that it is women who are most inclined to try mulch gardening (me; a friend; and Ruth Stout, who is my mulch hero and model, etc.) and men seem to want to: till, weed, swear, weed, plastic mulch, weed, , swear, spray, weed, and so on. Not all, mind you, but many. I believe it is because God told Adam “Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you, and you shall eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, until you return to the ground…” Well, God said that to Adam, not Eve, so we don’t feel it necessary to do it the hard way if we can find an easier one (is not the pain of childbirth enough?).
My male gardening neighbors, my husband, and my friend’s husband all pooh-poohed the idea and often asked me when I was going to “till it under” (Answer: “Never.”), but I must tell you, I HAVE BEEN DOING THIS FOR FIFTEEN YEARS and the ONLY time I have had to battle weeds is the year I didn‘t get my mulch, and my plants are healthy and huge, bugs and disease are rarely serious problems, and I never spray or fertilize. If God made a covering for them then I shall cover the ground. No naked earth!