Mulching is placing a layer of material on the surface of the soil to protect plants.
Types of mulch
There are two types of mulch:
Organic: Organic mulching includes compost, bark, mulch, shredded bark, decorative bar, peat moss, grass clippings and hay/staw. The most effective mulch is the one that is heavy enough not to blow away in the wind and will retail moisture in the soil. Organic mulch will decompose over time and will have to be replace or refreshed from time to time.
Inorganic: Inorganic mulches include material such as black plastic or decorative rock. Landscape fabric is very effective at keeping out weeds,. Holes need to be cut out to allow plants to grow through. This can be tedious in an established garden but easier to achieve when developing a new flower bed. Decorative rock is very handsome in a garden but should not be used around young plants as they cannot grow strongly with such solid barriers. Rock works well around established trees and shrubs and large perennials.
Benefits of mulching
- Mulches conserve water by reducing the amount of evaporation of moisture in the soil.
- Mulch protects the soil from drying winds and the sun. Soils with mulch can be up to 10-15 degrees cooler. This avoids temperature and moisture fluctuation which is better for the plant.
- Mulches can prevent soil erosion, compaction and crusting.
- Reduces the number of weeds significantly thereby reducing competition for water and nutrients.
- Organic mulches release nutrients in the soil when they decompose.
- Mulches give a cleaner more structured appearance to the garden.
When to mulch
Mulch can be applied anytime during the year:
Spring – to prevent weeds and soil erosion
Summer – to retain moisture
Fall – to insulate the soil and reduce frost damage.