Mulches are materials kept or layered over the soil to maintain the moisture level and improve soil condition. Mulching is the process of layering the soil with different mulches. The process of mulching is extremely beneficial for the health and growth of a plant, as it protects and maintains the properties of soil and provides all the requirements to the plant. Mulch reduces water loss from the soil, minimizes weed competition and improves soil structure. Mulches, if applied and layered properly, can give gardens and lawns a handsome and well-groomed appearance. However, to attain all these benefits, it is vital to apply mulch in a proper manner. If the layer gets deep or if the incorrect material is used, it can cause harm to trees and other landscape plants. This article provides you with tips and techniques for proper mulching.
Tips & Technique For Proper Mulching
- The first and foremost step before mulching the soil is to inspect the plants and the soil in the area to be mulched. Make sure that the drainage is adequate, and that there are no plants nearby that might get affected by the choice of mulch. While certain plants benefit from the use of slightly acidifying mulch, others do not.
- If the soil already contains some mulch, you should check in for the depth of the mulch. There is no need to add more mulch if there is sufficient layer in place. Rake the old mulch to break up any matted layers and to refresh the appearance.
- If you have a vegetable garden where you need to put the mulch, then homemade mulch made out of materials in your yard, like lawn clippings, is a perfect option. The mulch should be used immediately to avoid rotting. This mulch spreads easily around the small plants, due to its fine structure.
- Newspapers are another simple and cheap option to control weed growth. Make sure that you use the papers only with black ink on them, as color dyes might be harmful to the soil’s natural flora. Use 2-3 papers together and weigh them down with some other mulch material to prevent the papers from flying away.
- Pull out the mulch several inches if you find it covering the trunk and root of a particular tree. This will expose the trunks and root crown to sunlight and air.
- It is preferable to use organic rather than inorganic mulches, as the organic mulches have soil enhancing properties. However, before you use the organic mulch, ensure that it is well oxygenated and composted. Try and avoid sour-smelling mulch.
- The right time to apply the mulches in your vegetable or flower garden is after spring. This is when the soil is warm and humid. Seeds tend to germinate and gradually decay, if the soil is cool and wet. Make sure to de-weed the soil before mulching. It is also important to water the plants sufficiently before mulching.
- Composed weed chips with a blend of leaves, bark and wood can make a good mulching option. These fresh wood chips can also be used around established trees and shrubs. It is advisable not to use non-composed wood chips as mulch.
- If you have a well-drained site, put around 3-4 inches of mulch. In case of drainage problems, a thin layer should be enough. Do not place the mulch closer to the tree trunk. Instead place it out of the tree’s drip line or beyond.
- Leaves collected during the fall season are an ideal mulch option. These leaves can be shredded, using a lawnmower or a shredder. Decomposed leaves help give the soil an absorbent poriferous structure.
- If you are in the process of growing new plants, then sheet mulches, plastic sheeting or woven ground cover fabric are most beneficial to use. There is no need to worry about moisture, while using these sheets as mulch, since the rain water or the irrigation water will run across the sheets and enter the soil at the edges and planting holes.
- If you are using mulch in order to keep the ground warm during the winter, the right time will be during the late fall season, before it begins to get really cold. Start mulching the soil only when the ground freezes, otherwise the cozy environment created might attract rodents in search for a warm home. Loose material such as straw, hay or pine boughs are well-suited for places receiving snow fall. These will prevent the plants from getting pressed under the weight of snow.
- If you are looking in for a cleaner finish and a neat lawn, bark chips and composted bark mulch will be a good option. Hey and straw work are a good mulching options for vegetable garden. Seaweed mulch, ground corn cobs and pine needles are other few organic mulch options.
- For people who require only a limited quantity of mulch, bagged mulch is easier to tackle and store. On the other hand, for people who need large volumes of mulch, buying it in bulk is quite cheap.