To Mulch or Not to Mulch, that is the question….
Before you make a decision on whether to mulch your garden, it’s best to get an understanding of what it is and why it’s done. That will be a good base to your decision as to whether your patch of land needs it.
What is mulching?
Mulching essentially means when you place a barrier between the soil and the air via the various mediums of mulch. A little blanket of protection, like humans have on a bed is a good analogy.
Benefits are many : not only does it provide a suppression of weeds it also stops more weeds growing (mulch prevents sunlight allowing weed germination). Additionally, it also provides insulation, whilst retaining moisture more effectively. And depending upon the mulch you chose, it also puts nutrients back into the soil as it breaks down (which is why it’s a good idea to use organic mulch). Some gardeners also prefer to mulch as it looks aesthetically pleasing and finishes the garden beds off with a bit of order/uniformed colour.
What types of mulch?
So, now you know that organic mulch is best. But what you choose will depend upon your budget, how much space you wish to cover and what is available to you. Remember there are many varieties to choose form including : pea straw, old newspapers, carpet, leaves, dried up grass clippings, nut husks, compost, cardboard, gravel, mushroom compost, rocks, fabrics such as shade cloth and other geotextiles, straw, bark, plastic, chop-and-drop grasses and other plants you have growing in your own garden, seaweed (use sparingly as it may cause too much salt into your soil).
When to mulch?
Most gardeners do an Autumn and Spring mulch. Avoiding Winter is a good idea to pile up the mulch as that’s the time of year that it will capture the cold too much – causing rot in your plants.
Given mulch suppresses sunlight onto the soil as mentioned previously, garden beds with seeds sown direct need you to remove the mulch to the side of the crop you plant, so wait until they are established if you have an entire garden bed with newly sown seeds, before applying the mulch. If you have a row of directly planted seeds amongst other established plants, you can still mulch, just peel back to mulch for bare soil to show, and allow the row of directly planted seeds to get the required sunlight to grow. Cover back with mulch when the seedlings are tall enough.
How to mulch?
It’s dead easy. Just spread the mulch out around your area you wish to cover, avoiding it hugging any plant stems/tree trunks as that can cause mould, and ensure it’s evenly dispersed : covering the entire area but no thicker than 5 centimetres deep.