Learning About Mulch and its Benefits

A yard with mulched shrubs in front of a house.

Mulch is any material used to hide the surface of the soil around plants. It helps keep the moisture in. It also helps stop the nutrients from being washed away. It maintains even soil temperature and blocks out sunlight to stop the growth of weeds.

There are many various mulches, organic and non-organic. The organic mulches are natural ones like leaves, grass clippings, bark, and straw. As organic and natural, they decompose over time to have more nutrients. They also provide better fertility for the garden bed.  Sample inorganic mulches are gravel, pebbles, black plastic, landscape fabrics, and even old newspaper. These are long-lasting but don’t contribute much to the soil.

Types of Organic Mulches

You can use organic mulches like natural garden waste. Below are also some types of organic mulches that you can choose from for your garden. Straw may be a great mulch for use in vegetable gardens. It decomposes quickly. It also improves the soil because it decays and helps grow crops better.

Another organic mulch is sugar cane, which comes from dried sugar cane leaves. It provides a beautiful finish in garden beds and also encourages helpful soil organisms. Pine bark is great for use in garden beds and pots. It has a dark natural color that easily blends with the soil. Thus, it is visually better in any garden.  

There is also coir, a fiber derived from the outer husk of coconuts. This is a more decorative mulch, which can quickly expand once you add water. Another example of organic mulch is hardwood mulch, which is great for suppressing weeds. The advantage of hardwood is that it takes a short time to decompose so no need to replace it often.

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Lucerne mulch gives the soil extra nitrogen because it breaks down. Lucerne is ideal for roses, flowers, vegetables, and fruit trees. Wood chips are great in beautifying the garden. Using wood chips also provide good weed control.

Grass clippings are useful in growing a lush green lawn. After mowing, try drying out the clippings.  Then add a 6cm layer over your lawn. The last example of mulch is the leaves that are lying around the garden. Gather them up and you can shred them first so they don’t get blown away easily by wind.

Types of Inorganic Mulches

Inorganic mulches do not offer the same level of fertility to the soil. However, these are the simplest soil insulators because they don’t easily break down. They keep soil warmer for an extended period. The effect is promoting helpful bacteria.

Gravel and pebbles are more permanent. They are best used for foundation plants. They create an appealing design feature. Black plastic or weed mat is best for use as a weed control. However, it can break down in sunlight so it’s best to bury the plastic under your soil so it can last longer.

Landscape fabrics let air and water through better. Lastly, old newspapers are often reused or recycled as mulch. The newspaper also keeps the weeds down and makes the straw last longer.

Benefits of Adding Mulch

As discussed earlier, mulch comes in many various forms both organic and inorganic. Mulch ranges from compost, bark and wood chip products to varied grades of pebbles and gravels. Below are some benefits of adding mulch

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Weed control

Mulch reduces the time and energy required to combat aggressive weeds that compete together with your plants for moisture and nutrients.

Moisture retention

soil dries out quickly on a hot day, which robs the plants of the moisture they have. Mulch then acts as a blanket on the soil, reducing the speed of evaporation by up to 60 percent. This means your soil stays moist for a longer time.

Protection from extremes

Mulch helps to guard plant roots and moderate soil temperature during the extreme heat and cold weather.

Soil protection

Mulch adds stability to the soil surface. It also helps to scale back the compacting effects that heavy rainfall brings to the soil.

Soil conditioning

Organic mulches like straw, wood, and bark help condition the soil as they break down. Mulch adds nutrients and humus which supports the worms and microbes that keep soil healthy and aerated.

Good looks

a garden with plenty of mulch, evenly laid and out and texturized across the surface always looks good.  Even garden beds with only a few plants look better with mulch.

Determining the Quantity of Mulch Needed for Your Garden

The amount of mulch depends on the dimensions of your garden and on the thickness of mulch required for the type of plants you will be growing. There are mulch suppliers who offer 100% organic mulch to help in protecting your garden or landscape.

A standard application of mulch is estimated to be about 10cm (4 inches). A premium application is around 15cm (6 inches). In calculating how much mulch you will need, you have to decide if you are applying a typical or premium level of mulch. 

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Mulch is useful in protecting plants and trees from weeds, moisture loss, and damages due to temperature changes.  However, mulch should be applied correctly. It must be applied at the right depth around the plants. If the mulch application is not done right, the advantages would be minimal. 

In fact, mulch can harm plants when applied too deeply. This is because it can cause an excessive amount of moisture that can build up, which can inhibit aeration to the soil beneath. The right depth depends on the mulch and what type of plants you would be growing within the mulch bed. 

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