February 9, 2015

Great Gardening Ideas: Mulching

Mulching is basically the application of organic or inorganic materials on the soil to protect plants and provide them with nutrition.

It is a great way to prevent the growth of weeds, which are notorious for stealing the nutrients that are meant for your garden plants.

It can also help retain water and maintain a temperature that’s conducive to root growth.

If you’re on a mission to make your home greener, mulching should be one of your objectives.

You can do it anywhere in the garden – from the trees and shrubs to the vegetables and potted plants – throughout the year.

Just keep these simple guidelines in mind:

Spring – Don’t use a heavy layer of mulch to allow the soil to warm up and prevent parasite growth.

Summer – Apply mulch on the soil only when it is moist. Make sure to let rain into the soil before covering it up with mulch.

Autumn – Loosen up the ground before mulching. If you have herbaceous plants, applying mulch is the best way to protect them from the cold weather of the next season. It can also make the soil more fertile for springtime.

You can choose from these different types of mulch:

Organic – Made of plant material, organic mulch eventually degrades into humus and increases soil fertility. Grass clippings and leaves, for example, only take weeks to decay and become part of the soil. Wood chips and bark nuggets, however, can last for years. These durable mulch materials are ideal for trees and other perennial plants.

You can be creative when using organic mulch. In fact, nut shells, cocoa bean hulls and similar food wastes can be added into it.

Artificial – Plastic mulch is widely used, often in the form of a tarp stretched over the soil. Woven cloths and other artificial materials are also used, but since they are not biodegradable and rarely look visually appealing, their organic counterparts are preferred by more people.

Mineral – Perhaps the biggest advantage of mineral mulch is its unlimited lifespan, owing to the fact that it is non-biodegradable. Plus, it can help make the soil warm, making it ideal for heat-tolerant plants. Clay pellets and broken pieces of material are used not only for their thermal properties, but also because they can be used as decorative elements.

Similar to organic mulch, food waste can also be added to mineral mulch.

So how do you set up mulch?

To choose the right mulch for your garden, consider your plants and how long they need to be protected and fed. And remember not to apply mulch if the winds are too strong or the ground is frozen.

Before mulching, water the soil and remove weeds. Mulching may prevent them from growing, but it will not remove them permanently.

Start by spreading a layer of mulch over the soil. Make sure not to cover the neck of the plants between their stems and roots. A good rule of thumb here is to keep the layer three inches thick. But for seedlings, you can start at one inch and add more as the plants develop. This way, they can benefit from it early.

Mulching is an important technique that you should not overlook. Needless to say, even if you have the best nursery supplies, your plants won’t have a good chance of growing healthily if you shy away from it.