Laying down mulch in garden beds may be an arduous task but is undoubtedly one that pays off in the long run. Mulching is a common practice that farmers use to suppress weeds and improve garden soil quality.
Below are the different types of mulch, their purposes, and how to use them for your gardening endeavors.
Mulch is any kind of protective material used to cover the soil. Below are the main benefits of using mulch in the garden:
- Keeps down weeds.
- Preserves moisture in the soil.
- Improves the condition of the soil.
- Protects the soil from compaction during extreme weather conditions.
- Keeps the ground warm.
- Prevents soil erosion.
- Restricts damage from some pests and wildlife.
- As they decompose, they impart valuable nutrients into the soil beneath.
- Enhances the attractiveness of the garden.
Overall, mulched soil leads to a healthier, more eye-catching garden.
Different Types of Mulch
There are two basic kinds — organic and inorganic. Inorganic materials like landscape fabric and gravel can be used effectively but do not decompose.
On the other hand, organic mulches include things that were once living — grass clippings, wood chips, compost, paper, etc. These have more benefits for the soil, your plants, and the environment. They are better to use because they decompose naturally, adding organic matter to the soil.
These are the most common types gardeners use.
You can use this as a cheap biodegradable plant mulch if you already have daily or weekly newspapers in the house.
It is safe for gardening as most publications now use dyes and pigments that contain organic materials for their printing. For this reason, this method has become more popular in organic gardening recently.
Put down sheets of newspaper on top of the soil before wetting it. Additionally, using stones or bricks to hold the edges will protect them from blowing away.
You can also put a layer of several sheets with organic mulch such as grass cuttings over them. This will help to keep the papers in place.
2. Grass Clippings
Again, this is cost-effective where there is a regular supply of cut grass. Points to ponder with this method are the tendency of wet clippings to get slimy and smell.
Therefore, it is best to let grass clippings dry before spreading them out. Left too long without forking over, they can become a slimy mat, preventing air and water from getting through.
What’s more, they do rot down quickly to enrich the soil.
3. Wood Bark
This is one of the more attractive mulches and can be bought in gardening stores.
Shredded bark from cedar, pine, hemlock, or spruce is long-lasting, and can sometimes be acquired free from woodcutters in the area. Additionally, it breaks down slowly and is one of the best types of mulch.
Use cardboard in much the same way as the newspaper.
It is relatively biodegradable and is most useful in suppressing weeds and providing warmth. However, wax-coated cardboard limits water absorption and is best avoided.
Using a layer of straws or hay over the cardboard before wetting it will help keep it in place. Some farmers also use rocks to prevent them from blowing away.
5. Straw and Hay
These mulches are the most popular choices for organic vegetable gardens. They bed down well and are easy to handle.
Moreover, beneficial insects enjoy the warmth and feeding opportunities they provide. Straw and hay are also useful in protecting seeds from birds or being washed out by heavy rainfall.
To use straw mulch, place a handful between plant rows in layers three to six inches thick. However, be careful not to stifle plants — keep away from roots and leaves. For hay, create a thick layer over garden soil.
They biodegrade slowly and you can easily find space through them when planting out seedlings.
When planting seeds, simply remove the mulch. As the seeds germinate, replace them around your plant roots.
6. Shredded Leaves
This method is another way of recycling the natural resources on the farm. Shredded leaves will form an attractive layer, smother weeds, and enrich the soil as they decompose.
7. Gravel and Small Stones
These are the most attractive inorganic types. They are permanent and useful on driveways, around trees and shrubs, and for mulching flower beds.
Stones and pieces of gravel may need a protective film like newspaper underneath to prevent some weeds from getting through. However, they provide good drainage and warmth in rock gardens where colored stones can be particularly pleasing to the eye.
The downside is that these will not improve the condition or add nutrients to the earth beneath.
The most obvious benefit of compost is the enrichment of the soil as it degrades and leaches nutrients into the earth beneath. A layer of this will provide all the same usefulness as other mulches, plus more.
9. WeedGuard Plus
This commercial product from the Arbico gardening store works differently and is safe for use in organic gardening.
The fine paper-like material is obtained from cellulose fiber. The product is designed to cover weeds as they germinate, preventing light and stifling growth.
Furthermore, the opaque material is resistant to heavy rainfall. WeedGuard Plus is also long-lasting and high-quality.
10. Pine Needles
Also known as pine straw, this lightweight carbon-rich material is great for some flower beds. If you have plenty of pine trees around, make use of the needles as they fall. Besides, the cones are useful as well.
There are many mulch garden ideas. However, the right type can suppress weeds and protect plants from damage from weather conditions and more.
They can help shield the soil against drought, compaction, erosion, cracking, and extremes of heat or cold. Mulching can also improve soil conditions, cover wet and muddy areas, and be an ornamental feature in the garden.
Choosing the right type for the objectives and laying it down are important tasks for the gardener but ones that will produce healthy plants at the end of the day.