If you are new to gardening, you definitely need to give mulch some consideration. There are good reasons that many experienced gardeners use mulch. In short, mulch is good for both you and your plants. Here’s why.
Reason #1: Mulch Keeps Weeds in Check
Mulch covers up bare soil and keeps weed seeds from germinating. If any weed does manage to sprout, it stands a good chance of being smothered. And as for those few weeds hardy enough to poke their leaves up through the mulch, they will be spindly and rooted in moist, loose soil, and therefore easy to pull.
For this reason, mulch is a must around and in between all garden plants. However, it is important that by mulching you don’t introduce the very problems you are trying to solve. Choose a quality source—hay with weed seeds in it, for instance, is likely to give you a headache in the long run. Whatever type of mulch you choose, apply it thickly. A dense mulch such as wood chips can be spread on 6 inches deep; a light, airy mulch such as dry straw will need to be a foot deep to be effective.
Reason #2: Mulch Improves the Soil
Bare soil is typically not healthy. If it contains any clay in it, lying exposed to hot suns, drying winds, and pounding rains is a sure recipe for hardpan. In fact, the weeds that spring up on bare soil are nature’s tools for healing it and providing it with a protective cover.
Mulch works to improve the soil in both the short term and the long term. In the short term, it prevents the soil from hardening into a brick, thus providing an immediate improvement in soil structure and aeration. It also moderates the soil temperature, creating a more friendly habitat for garden plants and soil-building earthworms.
In the long term, mulch decomposes and adds vital nutrients and organic matter to the soil. It is staggering how much healthy soil can be built over one gardening season just by the use of mulch and compost. As your soil grows and improves, your plants will become healthier and more vibrant, better able to ward off the attacks of insect pests.
Reason #3: Mulch Keeps Soil Moisture Even
In wet weather, mulch is a useful tool to keep your plants from being drowned. As rain falls, the mulch intercepts the drops, preventing them from compacting the soil and forcing them to trickle down slowly to root level. In the process, the mulch itself will absorb some of the excess moisture. The organic matter added to the soil by decomposing mulch will also help out by allowing any surplus rainfall to drain away from the level of the roots, ensuring that the plant has adequate oxygen.
In dry weather, mulch is a must because of its water-conserving properties. Mulch protects the soil from rapid drying due to sun and wind. Without mulch, you may have to water your entire garden every day in the summer. With mulch, you can water less frequently, promoting deeper root growth that will in turn make your plants even more drought-hardy.
Are You Sold on Mulch?
Give it a try for one gardening season—you won’t go back!
For best results, we recommend cedar mulch around perennial plants, such as berries, asparagus, and some flowers. In parts of the garden where you will be rotating crops frequently, such as in the vegetable beds, use weed-free wheat straw.
And remember, apply your mulch six inches to a foot thick for best results.