Adding mulch to your garden helps you improve the structure and texture of the soil. As a result, mulching helps you protect the garden from weeds and harsh temperatures.
Organic mulch is the best when it comes to improving the quality of the soil. On the other hand, inorganic mulch is often used for aesthetic purposes.
There is a wide range of mulch types you can use to make your garden look more appealing. Before settling for a specific mulch type, consider evaluating all your requirements first.
Once you choose the most suitable mulch type for your needs, follow the right application procedure. Failure to do so reduces the effectiveness of the mulch.
If you have no idea how to go about mulch application, it would be best to hire a professional. In this article, we look at all the detailed steps involved in mulch.
A step-by-step process of mulching your garden
Step 1: Choose the right organic or inorganic mulch
The first thing to do is to identify the most suitable mulch that caters to your requirements. Gardening professionals often advise using organic mulch since it’s less toxic.
But note that organic mulch does not offer maximum aesthetics like dyed mulch. Some of the best organic mulch you can purchase include wood chips and grass clippings.
Organic mulch decomposes more quickly into the soil. You can make organic mulch by yourself or purchase it from a garden store. Inorganic mulch can also be a great option; it depends on your needs, preference, and budget.
Fortunately, most mulch types are affordable; you won’t have to break your bank when purchasing mulch.
Step 2: Decide the best time to mulch
The next thing to do is to decide when to mulch the garden. Gardeners can always mulch at any time of the year. Even so, late spring and early summer are the best times to spread mulch. At this time, the plants are coming out of their dormancy. Thus, they will greatly benefit from mulch.
Nonetheless, if you are spreading mulch to protect the plants from weeds, you don’t have to wait for summer to mulch. Always add organic mulch to young plants and trees.
Doing this will make the plants grow faster and stronger. However, note that inorganic mulch does not have positive effects on newly planted plants and trees.
Step 3: Prepping the surface
Once you find the best time to mulch your garden, start applying the mulch, but first, get rid of all the weeds present in the garden. You can pull out the weeds manually or use a garden spade to do this.
Regardless of the weed removal technique you choose, ensure you pull out the weeds from the base. Doing this ensures the weed does not grow back again.
Alternatively, use an effective herbicide if you have time. Removing weeds before mulch application is very important. Doing this keeps the garden safe from unwanted plants in the long run.
Consider creating a perfect mulching edge using stone. Also, remove the old mulch present in the garden using a shovel. Keep in mind that old mulch is not an excellent source of nutrients. Therefore, it can tamper with the nutritional value of new mulch.
Find a suitable location for discarding the mulch. How do you know you have completely removed the old mulch? You’ll notice dark brown soil with roots on the surface after removing the old mulch appropriately.
Step 4: Applying the mulch
After preparing the area, you plan to mulch, spread it over the garden. Spread the mulch across the entire garden using a wheelbarrow for easy transportation. Start by adding small piles to the area.
The thickness of the mulch should be approximately two to three inches. Exceeding this thickness can damage the plants. Ensure that the layer of the mulch is even across the whole garden.
Inorganic mulch is best spread using hands. During application, avoid spreading the mulch on buildings. Leave a distance of approximately six inches between a building and the mulched area. This way, you’ll protect your property from termites.
Step 5: Water the mulch
Once you finish spreading the mulch in the garden, water it; the mulch needs to stay moist for a longer period. This way, it will decompose faster and offer the right nutrients to your plants.
Besides, moist mulch is not easily blown away by the wind. However, avoid overwatering the mulch as this can attract pests and diseases.
Step 6: Monitor the mulch
It is important to keep track of the mulch from time to time. Always check the effect of the mulch on your plants. After 12 months, it would be best to replace the mulch.
Over time, mulch loses its nutritional value. So, you have to replace it. Additionally, replace the mulch anytime it does not look fresh.
What does mulching mean?
Generally, mulching is applying mulch to your garden. Mulch refers to organic matter like grass clippings and leaves used to improve the soil quality.
So, mulching is applying an organic protective covering (made of materials like wood, sawdust, compost, etc.) on the soil to protect it from erosion and improve its texture.
Mulching is, therefore, a common practice among a majority of gardeners. Mulching helps you grow strong and healthy plants in each planting season.
Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on mulching. Ultimately, applying mulch is a cost-effective method of improving the quality of your soil.
How does mulching work?
Effective mulch covers the soil in your garden. Hence, it helps the soil retain moisture and have the right temperatures. Thus, the soil remains loose and does not drain water too quickly.
In addition, mulching protects the soil from extreme weather conditions that could cause severe soil erosion. Moreover, mulching gradually decomposes into the soil over time to provide the right nutrients.
At the end of the day, this effective gardening practice helps you obtain a plentiful harvest at the end of the planting season.
What are the best mulching materials to use?
Nowadays, there is a broad spectrum of mulching materials you can use for your garden. Some of them include wood chips, sawdust, and chipped bark. These materials are easily available; hence you can always create your own mulch.
Alternatively, you can purchase mulch from your nearest garden store. Always consult the gardening professional on the best type of mulch to use in your garden.
You can find most mulch materials in your normal kitchen and garden waste. Below are some of the materials you can use for your mulch material.
- Grass clippings
- Chipped bark
- Gravel, chippings, and stones
- Shredded wood matter
Mulching your vegetable garden
When mulching your vegetable garden, you need to use the right techniques and adhere to all guidelines outline by professionals. Remember, mulching attracts more pests and diseases to your garden.
This is because they trap moisture and warmth underneath the soil. And this creates the perfect habitat for termites, snails, and rodents. Therefore, avoid applying thick layers of mulch.
Also, avoid overwatering the mulch to boost proper aeration. Finally, do not apply mulch close to surfaces. Doing this attracts termites that cause damage to your buildings.
What are the benefits of mulching?
As seen earlier, mulching is good for the soil. Below, we look at some of the benefits of your garden.
Protecting plants from harsh climatic conditions:
One of the major benefits of mulch is protecting your plants from harsh external conditions. When left bare, soil can easily erode on rainy and windy days. Mulch acts as a protective cover for the soil by keeping it fixed on the ground.
Additionally, mulch regulates the soil temperature. In particular, it keeps the soil cool and moist during warmer seasons. As a result, it protects the plant roots from heat damage.
During winter, mulch protects the soil from rapid freezing. Hence, your root crops can still grow healthy during winter. All in all, mulch helps you grow strong and healthy plants.
Keeps soil moist longer:
Applying mulch helps you save the time and effort required in watering plants. Plants require frequent watering to thrive. When you apply mulch to the garden, it reduces the rate of evaporation in the soil.
As a result, the soil is likely to stay moist for longer periods. So, you won’t have to keep watering the soil. Also, the plants stay hydrated at all times.
Nevertheless, always avoid overwatering the mulch. Otherwise, the mulch would become soggy and be a major attraction point for pests like spider mites, rodents and termites. Moist soil is also loose; thus, it allows easy penetration of nutrients into the soil.
Prevents the growth of weeds:
One of the major advantages of mulching your garden is to prevent weed growth. Weeds are unwanted plants that compete for nutrients with your plants. Weeds are therefore detrimental to plant growth.
They prevent crops from growing to their maximum potential. Luckily, mulch serves as a protective cover for the soil. It hinders the penetration of sunlight and water into the soil.
Subsequently, it prevents weeds from germinating. However, you have to be careful about the mulch you use. Some mulch types contain seeds that encourage the growth of weeds in your garden. Avoid adding chicken litter to the mulch.
Protects the plants from dirt:
An effective mulch layer protects the plants from soil and other underground debris. For instance, soil cannot splash onto your plant foliage easily if you use mulch.
Consequently, this helps you protect your plants from pests and diseases from the soil. In turn, you are in a better position to obtain a plentiful harvest.
Additionally, your garden will stay neat at all times. This makes your yard space more aesthetically pleasing.
Mulch is beneficial to the soil:
With time, mulch slowly breaks down into the soil and becomes humus. Humus is one of the best substances you can have in your soil. If your soil has humus, your plants undoubtedly grow strong and healthy.
Typically, humus improves the water and nutrient retention properties of the soil. Humus also protects the plants from pests and diseases. In addition, when humus is present in the soil, the soil becomes loose.
As a result, water, air, and nutrients can easily pass through the soil to the plant roots. Ultimately, humus is an amazing addition to the soil.
The best type of mulch to use
There is a wide range of mulch types you can use for your garden in this day and age. Usually, mulch exists in two main forms; organic and inorganic. Each type of mulch offers unique advantages and disadvantages.
Choosing your best mulch option requires you to evaluate your requirements. Let’s take a look at the most popular organic and inorganic mulch options.
Organic mulch options
A good percentage of gardeners love using straw as their mulch. Straw mulch is perfect for growing a young garden. It safeguards the seeds from getting washed away by the soil.
Additionally, straw mulch keeps off rodents and birds from your garden. Straw also helps the soil retain moisture required for seed germination. Nevertheless, always identify the difference between straw and hay.
They look similar; so, confirm with your gardening professional before purchasing straw.
- Grass clippings or shredded leaves:
Shredded leaves and grass clippings are some of the most affordable mulch options available today. Grass clippings simply refer to grass cuttings. Once you trim your grass, do not discard the chopped-off sections. Instead, store the clippings for future use.
Grass clippings are ideal for perennial beds and vegetable gardens. However, avoid spreading grass clippings in thick layers; otherwise, they won’t benefit the plants.
On the flip side, shredded leaves work best for trees and shrubs. Do not store grass clippings treated with synthetic herbicides or pesticides. They may be harmful to the plants.
- Wood chips, nuggets, or bark:
All these materials are byproducts in paper industries. Softwood mulch options work well for shrubs and trees. On the flip side, hardwood mulch options work for perennial beds and trees.
You can find this mulch type in any of your nearest garden stores. Bark and wood chip mulch come in bags and may have different colors. Before purchasing this mulch, ensure it is 100% organic.
- Cocoa chips:
Did you know you can use cocoa chips as mulch for your garden? Cocoa chips are lightweight and rich in color. Thus, they offer exceptional aesthetics for your garden.
Besides, cocoa beans slowly decompose into the soil to provide your plants with nutrients. Therefore, during application, do not spread more than one inch of cocoa beans.
Also, avoid overwatering cocoa chips. Although beneficial to the plants, note that cocoa chips are a more expensive option. Also, they pose a danger to animal life when consumed.
Inorganic mulch types
- Rock or crusher dust:
Crusher dust and rocks are an ideal mulch option for pavers and walkways. They do not break down; hence you need not replace them over time. Nonetheless, avoid using rocks and stones around trees and shrubs since they can lead to overheating in plants.
- Rubber mulch:
Ever heard of rubber mulch? Rubber mulch offers maximum longevity and is an affordable mulch option. It is therefore perfect for crowded or small yard spaces. However, note that rubber does not break down into the soil. Moreover, rubber mulch can be toxic to your plants.
Ultimately, the best mulch option depends on your requirements. But generally, it would be best to use an organic mulch option.
Advantages and disadvantages of mulching
Mulching offers a wide array of benefits to the soil. But this does not mean that mulching does not have disadvantages. So, before mulch, it would be best to weigh the pros and cons of this practice.
Disadvantages of mulching
- Suffocation of plants:
Applying thick layers of mulch can choke and suffocate the plants. When mulch is in excessive amounts in the soil, it does not facilitate a proper flow of water and nutrients onto the plants. And this can lead to plant suffocation.
- Breeding ground for pests and diseases:
Mulch locks in moisture and warmth underneath the soil. This creates the perfect habitat for pests and diseases. Most pests inhabit moist areas under the soil. Therefore, mulch can create a perfect habitat for pests.
Some of the most common pests you’ll find around mulch include snails and slugs. So, avoid overwatering mulch to prevent this problem.
- Expose plants to too much heat:
When you mulch wrongly, you expose your plants to too much heat. In turn, this hinders the healthy and strong growth of plants. Most plants thrive in moderate temperatures. Thus, when you expose them to high temperatures, they wither and die in the long run.
Advantages of mulching
- Prevents weed growth:
Mulching is a great way to prevent weed growth. Mulching provides a protective layer across the soil that inhibits the penetration of sunlight and moisture underneath the soil. This inhibits weed germination.
- Provides nutrients to plants:
As time goes by, mulch slowly decomposes into the soil to release beneficial nutrients. These nutrients are usually important for healthy plant growth. Thus, mulching helps you obtain an abundant harvest at the end of each planting season.
- Protects plants from harsh environments:
When done correctly, mulching helps you maintain the right temperatures around the soil. Mulching protects the soil from extremely low and high temperatures. Also, it protects the soil from erosion on rainy and windy days.
Why add mulch to your garden?
Ultimately, mulching is an important practice for gardeners. Mulching helps you grow strong and healthy plants. In addition, it keeps the soil life healthy, hence promoting healthy plant growth.
However, before mulching, it is essential to weigh all the pros and cons of mulching. From there, it will be much easier to determine whether you need to incorporate this practice.
All in all, mulching prevents weed growth and provides numerous nutrients to the plants. Nonetheless, you have to follow the correct process of mulching for you to obtain the best results.