Mulch is a must if you want a healthy, weed-free garden (either vegetable or flower), plus it makes the garden look more tidy. Certain types of mulch also act as organic pest control so your hard work won’t be destroyed by creepy, crawly varmints.
For those who wonder if mulching is just another term for composting, it is not. Mulching differs from composting in their purpose. Whereas composting is to enhance the soil and make it more fertile, mulching is to protect to soil from losing its nutrients. Composting consists of stuff that would decay fast and release nutrients to the soil, which is why compost is often organic-based “rubbish” , while mulch usually consists of material that breaks down slowly, which is why mulch is usually hard (but organic) material.
So what should you know about mulching? Here’s a concise run-down of mulching.
Regulates Soil Temperature
Mulch prevents moisture evaporation from the soil and helps maintain even soil moisture and temperature throughout the growing season. Plants require less water when mulch is applied to the soil, so that means less usage of a natural resource and less work for you.
Stops Weed Growth
A 2-4 inch layer of mulch prevents weeds from growing in the garden. The sunshine can’t penetrate through to the soil so the weed seeds can’t germinate, thus eliminating the competition for moisture and food among garden plants and weeds.
As organic mulch decomposes it adds nutrients to the soil to provide food for developing plants. The decomposing matter also improves soil structure, improves drainage and helps prevent soil compaction.
Organic Pest Control
Mulch also acts as an insect and disease trap, trapping and killing pests before they reach tender garden plants. Certain wood mulches, like wood bark and ashes from a wood heater, also act as an organic pest deterrent while improving the overall health of the garden. Slugs, snails, and other crawling pests avoid going across rough surfaces and will stay away from plants surrounded by wood mulches.
Tree bark mulch can be purchased in various shades of color to match garden decor, but it’s not necessary to spend money on mulch. Grass clippings, nut hulls, pine straw, leaves, compost, well-rotted manure and shredded newspaper all are excellent forms of free organic mulch. Some landfills offer free wood chips and compost if you’re willing to load and haul it yourself.
Inorganic items can also be used to keep weeds from taking over the garden. Plastic sheeting, roofing paper, shingles or any like item that you may have left over from a building project can be used. Inorganic mulch is not the best choice since it will not decompose and improve soil structure, but it will serve the purpose.
How to Mulch?
This is not necessarily the only way to mulch, but it’s a simple/easy method for beginners. Start by placing a single sheet of newspaper on the soil, then sprinkle lightly with Epsom salts, then add 2-4 inches of mulch. Keep mulch and Epsom salts at least 2 inches away from plants stems. As the Epsom salts dissolves it stimulates root growth and provides an energy boost for plants.
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