If you don't add a mulch layer to your living soil, you're missing the boat! Mulch keeps the top few inches of soil moist so beneficial microbes and fungi can break down top dressings and deliver those nutrients directly to the roots. When you pull the mulch layer to the side you should see an explosion of roots at the soil surface. Without mulch, the first 2 inches of soil are usually dry, without roots, and totally useless. What a waste!!! Barley straw works exceptionally well as it is a great fungal food as well as a great source of carbon for the soil and microbes.