Here are some of the
basic ideas about mulching your garden and a bit of information about each of
the materials used. Each material has its own merits so consider the
benefits and drawbacks to see if mulching is right for you.
It is important to make
sure that you don't drown the plant in mulch and level the material so it
doesn't look uneven. Since mulch is always in the process of composting, you
will need to replenish it from time to time. It is an ongoing process. Remember
what is good for one plant, may not be good for another, so review the list of
mulches below and pair them to your plantings.
3.Insulates Soil – Warm in Winter, Cool in Summer
5.Improves soil fertility and structure
6.Keeps fruit, vegetable and plants clean
7.Provides clean places to
8.Makes the garden look neat and tidy
1.Soil can become too wet, causing plants to rot
2.Mulch can be keep sun from warming the soil
3.Insects and rodents can breed and hide
4.Annual seeds can’t get through
5.Not good for seeded areas or seedlings
6.Some mulches can drain nutrients from soil
Straw vs. Hay
I recommend only using
straw as it contains almost no seeds. If you must to use hay, as it is often
less expensive option or free, try to get a second or third cutting as it will
contain less seeds and keep the mulch extra thick. Just know that if you get that free hay from
the farmer that let it get too moldy for livestock, you will need to deal with
the seeds that come with it. Both hay and straw breaks up into flakes and is
lovely to lay beside plants keeping them safe and warm. When it breaks down you
can till it into the soil.
First, never use grass
clippings on your vegetables that have been sprayed with weed killers or insecticides.
Grass can become very hot and burn your plants so it is imperative that you
keep the clippings from touching your plants. It is advisable to let them dry out
a day or two before using them. Grass also decomposes quickly and looks
somewhat messy in a flower garden. It can be used to warm up the soil in the
It is best to shred larger
leaves like maple before placing them over ground covers or herbaceous plants
as they tend to pack down and create a heavy mat when laid whole. Smaller leaves, such as oak make for a much
lighter aerated material.
Many gardeners use black
plastic for weed control, then place another material on top to keep it in
place and make the area more pleasing to the eye. If you are using plastic as a
mulch, make sure you secure it well to the ground and poke some holes in it so
water doesn’t pool and seeps to the earth.
Buckwheat Hulls come in
large easy to manage bags. Sprinkle directly from the bag to tidy up your
garden. It is not a very good weed
control as the hulls are very light weight. If your garden is in a windy spot,
I would choose a different material. However, the hulls clean up a flower
garden and do stop many annual seeds from germinating.
Newspaper and Cardboard
Cardboard and newspapers
are easy to come by. I have used cardboard extensively for fighting weeds between
my vegetable rows as you can often get boxes from the market for free. I like to put wood chips on top to make my
garden look a bit tidier and keep a barrier for the soil. If you water it all
down well at the start it helps to hold it in place. In the spring, it is easy
to pull up or I have even tilled it into the soil.
Cocoa Shells also come
in a handy bag and is another light mulch that looks nice in a traditional
garden setting, cleaning up pathways and making things look tidy.
Evergreen Branches and
For those gardeners that
live in the north, evergreen branches can be used around perennial beds to
create a basket of snow, protecting roots from alternate thawing and
refreezing. Pine Needles can be used and
can look quite lovely, however they are acidic and this should be taken into
account before placing around some plants. However, acid loving plants such as rhododendrons
and roses would love it.
Cotton sheeting can be used,
especially with another heavier mulch to weigh it down. There are many cloth materials sold as mulch.
Some of them are even biodegradable. Just
make sure it is pure cotton and not a blend of something else.
If you live near the
seaside, this may be a fun option. Seaweed is very heavy and can be awkward to transport
and distribute. It should be rinsed before using. It used as a winter mulch and tilled into the
garden in spring.
Sometimes you can get these
from sawmills or purchase in bags. Be careful of using shavings or sawdust from
carpenters as it often contains chemicals from plywood or chipped boards and
can harm your plants. Bark always cleans up the area nicely and lasts a long
time. However, it can deplete the soil of nitrogen.
Stone, Rocks, Pebbles
Pebbles need to be
several inches thick to deter most weeds. If you use a plastic material
underneath, you only need to cover the plastic, but make sure you poke holes in
the plastic or use a manufactured cloth that allows moisture to seep through.
Mulching your garden and
plantings can be a very effective way of keeping the soil moist and keeping
weeds under control. Happy Mulching!