Mulch is a layer of material, such as wood or bark chips, which cover the exposed soil surrounding your plant/s. It’s a powerful tool for water conservation and there’s a load of other benefits too. Read on for more!
There are many materials you can use for mulching, but the best types to consider using in your garden are from natural and biodegradable materials.
Wood chips, pine bark, leaves, straw, and grass clippings are all examples of beneficial mulch because they decompose and provide many benefits to your soil.
Natural materials that don’t breakdown or which take decades to break down like shells or stones are not considered biodegradable mulch (.. even if they look pretty!)
Steer clear from non-natural materials like plastic, rubber and other refuse items – they’re just an all-round bad idea and a bit of an eyesore too.
Aside from more practical reasons, mulch looks great! It can be the main motivation for some gardeners to use mulch. It can really highlight your lawn for instance and makes the plants in your garden beds look more groomed and cared for. Below are some more practical reasons mulch matters.
A layer of mulch blocks the sun while allowing irrigation to penetrate, thereby keeping soil cooler. Moisture evaporation from soil covered with mulch is typically reduced by up to as much as 50 percent. This insulating barrier also prevents evaporation from heat and wind. Mulch holds moisture in the soil, allowing you to dramatically reduce the frequency and duration of watering. It can make all the difference for the success of new shrubs and trees and encourages established plants to be more drought tolerant.
A big plus for mulching is that mulch blocks the seeds which blow in on the wind from reaching soil and taking root. With a layer of mulch covering your garden soil, the weed seeds lurking there don’t receive the light they need to germinate either. Weeds are inevitable in the garden, but use mulch properly and you will significantly reduce their numbers. The weeds which do manage to germinate will be smothered by mulch and less likely to become established.
Many of a plant’s feeder roots (which do the heavy lifting when it comes to taking up nutrients for the plant) grow in the first few inches underneath the soil surface. Those roots remain healthier when they aren’t exposed to extreme heat or freezing temperatures. A mulch layer acts as a buffer against temperature shift.
If soil without mulch on it crusts over it becomes impermeable to water and any rain and irrigation will roll over the surface and flow away, carrying with it particles of topsoil and any chemicals or excess fertiliser. Crusted soil like this is also more susceptible to erosion from wind.
Over time, natural mulch material breaks down. It feeds the soil food ecosystem which, in turn, feeds your plants. Organic matter also improves soil drainage over time. Native soils like clay and sand are often lacking in organic material and so mulch (and compost) is a great way to improve soil health.
This is one of our favourite benefits of mulching – it reduces waste! Many mulch materials would otherwise end up in the landfill if not used in the garden. Wood products, leaves, and bark are all too often dumped. Instead, think of them as nature’s gifts to gardeners. By using wood mulch products, we’re really helping reduce pollution by cutting down on landfill waste.
Once you’ve decided on the type of mulch you’d like to use it’s time to get spreading!
Mulching is a fantastic way to protect your plants, to reduce watering and retain moisture, it discourages weed growth and creates an attractive and neat looking garden. Whatever your motivation for mulching, be mindful of how you go about it and the particular conditions your plant species prefers before you get stuck in.
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