There’s always lots of jobs to do in the garden so do you have to spend time mulching the beds after you have finished planting? Will it make any difference to the outcome and are there any advantages of mulching?
Before we find out the answers to these intriguing questions, let me explain what mulch is first of all. Mulch is any covering placed over the soil with the aim of protecting or improving the soil and plants.
Mulch comes in many shapes and forms and is used for many purposes, which I’ll go into later. It can be organic, that is made from natural substances such as straw, leaf litter, wood chips or grass clippings or it can be inorganic, such as pebbles, black plastic or landscape fabric. Mulch can be purchase in bags or in bulk from hardware stores or garden centers. However, it’s free and easy to make your own from leaves, leaves, grass, kitchen scraps etc. and it is a fantastic way for you to reduce your trash which normally goes to landfill and at the same time help the environment. Just make sure it is well rotted before use and you’ll find your garden soil and plants will be much healthier.
If you’re unable to make your own compost or get a regular supply for whatever reason, maybe you could get hold of pea straw or lucerne hay. These decay quickly and provide nitrogen to the soil. I recommend you do not use other types of hay which tend to have a high mixture of weed seeds.
Because of the necessary continual watering that your plants need to survive during the year, along with any rainfall, you will find that your fertilizer can be washed away too. To ensure the plants receive the nutrients they need in order to grow you will need to keep adding more and more fertilizer. If you don’t realize that your plants are not receiving the nutrition that they require you may end up with a poor harvest or, the worst case scenario, plants that die of starvation. Your topsoil also gets eroded with the continual exposure, a vicious cycle isn’t it?
So what does mulching do you ask, well first of all, without mulch you run the risk of all the above. Mulching your garden beds will help stop your soil from eroding and prevent excessive run off, so your water goes where it’s supposed to go, onto the roots of the plants.
Using mulch, which is designed to retain moisture by reducing the evaporation from the soil, you save time and money with less watering. You can reduce substantially the amount of fertilizer you use, that equates to further savings. If you’re smart and use organic mulches, then as the mulch breaks down, it provides further nutrition for your plants and also helps to maintain a good soil structure.
Mulching will also deter the weeds which compete with your plants for moisture and nutrition and that mean less work for you. A more even soil temperature can be provided for the plants so keeping the roots cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
Just use a little imagination, and your mulch can also greatly enhance the appearance of your garden, what a great problem and money solver mulching is. Before mulching, remove all weeds and give the soil a good, thorough soaking. Now put a two to four inch layer of mulch on the garden beds, just spread it over the soil, don’t dig it in. Spread it evenly round the plants leaving a small space around the stems to prevent them rotting to give you maximum benefits.
If the mulch is coarse, it should last a season before you have to top it up, but if it is fine you may have to repeat during the season as most mulches break down to become part of the soil. A thick layer of mulch looks much better in a garden than bare soil.