Mulch refers to any material that you lay over the surface of the soil in your garden to keep it covered. Gardeners use mulch to retain moisture in the soil and keep weeds from growing. As an added benefit, mulch can make your garden look better. When you add mulch to your garden, you’ll find that you have to weed and water your garden less plus have fewer pests to worry about.
Types of mulch
There’s an abundance of different types of mulch available to gardeners, including bark, grass clippings, straw, composted manure, or compost. These are all organic mulch materials that you can collect on your own or purchase.
You can also use inorganic mulch, such as black plastic or geotextiles. Inorganic mulch doesn’t provide additional nutrients to the soil and won’t naturally decompose. We promote sustainable methods here at Galil Soil Farm, so we prefer to guide gardeners to use organic mulch materials.
Bark mulches are popular, in part, because they look nice when you put them around your shrubs, trees, and garden beds. They don’t really mix into the soil well, so put them in garden beds only if you don’t plan on doing a lot of digging. Bark mulches are better than woodchip mulches if you want to use something wood-based.
Shredded leaves are easy to get and can be used to mulch anything. As a bonus, they’ll bring more worms to your garden. Layer shredded leaves on your garden in the autumn so they can decompose over the winter.
If you have a backyard garden and are unconcerned with visual appeal, then shredded leaves might be the best way for you to start using organic mulch. Gardeners who have a more formal garden and care about how it looks to visitors might want to choose a different type of mulch.
If you have compost already, or if you can easily buy some, add some to your garden as a side dressing to get nutrient rich mulch.
When to mulch your garden
Lay mulch down in your garden when you plant it. Make sure the soil has already been weeded and that you lay a thick enough layer that weeds won’t be likely to grow back. A good rule of thumb is to lay mulch in layers that are four to six inches high.
Some mulches, such as wood bark, retain moisture and so slow down soil warming. You’ll need to be mindful of removing mulch in spring to make sure your soil warms up enough for perennials and bulbs to grow.
Another thing to watch out for is creating a space for pests or mold to grow. When you mulch, make sure to keep it about an inch away from stems to prevent wet mulch from piling up and rotting your plants. If you’re adding mulch near shrubs or trees, keep it about six to twelve inches from the trunk to avoid creating a space for rodents to nest.
When you use organic mulch for your garden, you’ll find that you need to replace it over time since it decomposes naturally. But that shouldn’t deter you. When organic mulch decomposes, it improves the fertility of your soil, providing a better space for your plants to grow.
When you combine mulch with other gardening practices, including soil amendments, you’ll have a beautiful garden that’s full of fertile soil and plants.