Was asked why I mulch my garden and what plants I mulch? As the garden season goes most of the garden will be mulch. About the only thing that doesn't get mulched is the onions.
One of the reasons for mulching is to keep the weeds down. I do not have a large area for a garden so my rows are planted close together, which does not allow me to use a tiller. All of my weeding is done with a hoe and by hand. Using the straw mulch makes it so all I have to do is pull out a few weeds here and there that come up through the straw. You can also put newspaper under the straw to help keep weeds down. This year the farmer had barley straw.
Mulching also helps to keep the moisture in the soil. Our garden soil has some clay in it, with the mulching we seldom have to water the garden even in the dry times. I have also found that with mulching the soil has a lot more earth worms, which is very good for the soil. If you pull back the mulch the soil will be nice and soft underneath which brings the earth worms up closer to the surface.
Mulching around the tomato plants helps to keep them healthy. During a rain or when watering the garden dirt splash up on the leaves which can cause diseases. Mulch also keeps any low fruits off the soil helping to keep them from rotting.
I do not mulch the potato plants until they have been hilled two or three times. We put grass clippings around them and between the rows before adding the straw. The grass is used so it doesn't take as much straw, my supply is limited. I also use grass clippings by the carrots after they have grown some, just a light covering of the soil. Most of the mulching is done between the rows and I pull the mulch up close to the plants.
The only place in the garden that black plastic is used is for the peppers. We lay out the plastic where the peppers will be planted up to a week before planting. When it's time to plant the peppers just cut an x in the plastic where each pepper plant will go and dig your hole. I like to add a little compost with each pepper plant. Peppers like the soil very warm. I always had trouble getting my pepper plants to produce until a friend shared how she always uses black plastic around her peppers. Mine have done beautifully since planting them this way.
One thing that I have learned over the years is to never use regular hay to mulch with, it has a lot of weed seeds. Makes for a lot of weeding the next year! I have had times that we could not get straw, then we just keep putting a thin layer of grass clippings on the garden each time my husband mows. You don't want to put them on to thick at a time or they heat and mold.
Mulching also helps to add humus to your soil when it is tilled in after the garden season.
We're having a beautiful day for working in the garden.