What did you do this last beautiful weekend? In my neighborhood, it was perfect weather to work outside in the garden and add mulch and new flowers. It's a big job when you do it by yourself, but luckily, my husband helped me get this big job done.
I love how new mulch looks in a garden. It looks so neat and manicured. Mulch not only makes your garden look better, but it benefits the garden too. Keep reading this article from Home Made Simple for the benefits, types and how to properly use mulch.
Benefits of Mulching
Mulching to an optimum 3” depth helps prevent weeds to lighten your workload, plus it de-stresses plants, reducing their need to compete for nutrients and water.
- Mulch insulates the soil, keeping warm ground warm and cool ground cool.
Tip: Mulch cool weather vegetables and annuals (like pansies), and they’ll produce abundantly into the warmer weather. Likewise, growth of warm weather plants can be extended into the early days of fall.
- It conserves moisture, eliminating the need to water as often.
- Not only does mulch keep soil nutrients from being washed away with the rain, it also can release nutrients into the soil if you use an organic material.
- Mulch encourages the growth of earthworms. Workhorses in the garden, earthworms irrigate by loosening the soil, and their waste is high in nitrogen.
- It prevents soil compaction by breaking the fall of water, therefore lessening the force of it on the soil.
Tip: Mulch does not increase soil fertility, so continue to fertilize as you have done in the past.
Types of Mulch
Compost: Crumbly, brown compost makes excellent mulch, especially last year’s fall leaves. Other suitable materials include straw, peat moss, coarse sawdust, rice hulls and pecan shells. Avoid grass and green clippings because they generate too much heat during decomposition, which will damage your plants.
Chopping Tip: Chop compost before adding to your garden to lessen compaction. Place it on a driveway and mow over it with a bagging mower. You can also run it through a chipper or shredder mulcher.
Commercial: Purchase bagged or bulk mulch from your local garden center. Bagged is easier to maneuver into the garden but it’s more expensive than bulk. However, you can purchase smaller quantities over a longer period of time and work at your own pace. The most common types of commercial mulches are:
- Hardwood: Available in a variety of dyed colors, hardwood mulch is effective when applied at a 2-4” depth. Most will deteriorate and need to be reapplied annually.
- Pine Bark: Made from the bark of pine trees, it can be incredibly coarse, or shredded. A coarser version is good for walkways because it lasts longer, but doesn’t give the well-manicured appearance of finer mulches.
- Pine Straw: Dried needles of pine trees, pine straw is light and airy, but resistant to wind. If used for prolonged periods of time, it can acidify the soil, but is excellent, natural mulch that doesn’t break down quickly.
- Cocoa shell: Just what its name implies, the mulch is cocoa bean shells. It has a wonderful chocolate aroma and makes beautiful mulch, but can be expensive. Pet owners should avoid it because it’s toxic to cats and dogs. It may not be readily available in all areas, but can be purchased online.
Tip: Some mulch comes with an additive designed to prevent seed sprouting, especially effective for keeping weeds at bay. But if you’re developing a self-seeding garden with plants such as Echinacea, these herbicides will prevent all seeds from sprouting—good or bad.
4 Tips for Mulching
- Make sure your garden and yard is weed-free before applying mulch.
- All plants benefit from mulch! Use it around annuals, perennials, vegetables, roses, shrubs and trees.
- Mulch to a depth of 2-4", and avoid covering newly growing plants. Leave breathing room for tree trunks, especially for young trees, since mulch can soften the wood and cause the trunk to rot.
- Refresh the mulch when it begins to deteriorate.