By Cheryl Harrison, Master Gardener
Mulch may be used as a noun or as a verb. I make a list to pick up some “mulch” (noun) at the garden centre so that I can come home and “mulch” (verb) my flower garden.
I mulch my gardens including my vegetable garden, my flower gardens and my container gardens. Mulch is amazing and is even used by mother nature without any human intervention. If you walk through a pine forest, you will notice that the pine needles are in a thick layer on the forest floor. Mother nature does this for a reason!
Benefits of Mulch
Mulch helps to:
- moderate soil temperature – it keeps soil cooler in summer and warmer in winter.
- reduce weed growth – covers the soil to reduce sunlight for weed seed germination and weakens growth of sprouted weeds.
- retain moisture – it provides protection from drought.
- build good soil structure and improve soil texture as it decomposes.
- protect the soil – reduce erosion by water and wind.
- protect plant foliage from soil splash which can transfer fungus to the leaves of plants.
There are so many types of mulch to choose from that there is sure to be something to suit every gardener.
- Adds nutrients to the soil as it decomposes, living mulches may be fragrant and attract pollinators.
- Grass clippings, dried shredded fall leaves, leaf mould, conifer needles, clean straw or hay, wood chips or sawdust, shredded newspapers, shredded bark, coconut/nut husks, finished compost, cover crops, creeping groundcover perennials (eg. Thyme – covers the ground well and it flowers) or even closely planted gardens.
- Permanent, does not break down easily and does not add nutrients to the soil.
- Geotextiles (landscape fabric), plastic and stone.
Yes, mulching your gardens is work but the benefits are definitely worth it.
Apply mulch to damp soil, 5-10 cm (2-4 inches) deep using a shovel, a garden fork or a bucket. It really depends on the type of mulch which tool will work the best for you.
Do not cover the crown (centre of plant where the stems originate) or mulch right up to the trunk of your trees. You may smother your plant if you cover it with mulch or attract insects to your tree’s trunk if you mulch too close. You will need to re-apply organic mulch every couple of years as it breaks down and becomes part of the garden soil.
Mulch may be purchased in bulk or in bags. Be sure to ask questions about the product. You want mulch that is free of weed seeds and disease. If you prefer dyed mulch, you will want mulch where the dye used is not poisonous to you or the other critters in your garden.
Oh, I forgot one of the most important benefits of mulch … your soil and your plants are healthy and happy, so enjoy those beautiful gardens!