Garden and Yard Care

Published on August 26th, 2011 | by Guest Contributor

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Mulch, Mulch, Glorious Mulch

Mulch

Mulch

Your garden provided the summer bounty for your and your family, whether it’s food or flowers. You’ve taken great care of it by adding  compost and weeding it,  and watering it throughout the season so that it can really work for you.

But now that fall is around the corner, what can you do maximize it’s potential? Of all the wonderful things you can do in a garden, mulching is by far the best, and this is why.

Moisture retention

Mulching does a marvelous job of keeping the moisture in the soil, which is exactly where you want it.  Watering the garden can be extremely time consuming, not to mention a terrible waste of perfectly good drinking water, so save your tap water for the tea pot!  It’s important to give the ground a good soaking before you mulch to ensure the moisture is locked in from the start.

Weed suppression

Let’s face it, no one likes weeding, so why bother?  A good, thick mulch will stop the light getting to all those pesky weed seeds and prevent them from germinating all over the garden.

Nutrients

A good organic mulch will rot down gradually and replenish the soil, keeping your hungry plants well fed.  If you make your own, it’s the perfect way to keep those vital nutrients in your garden.

Soil erosion

Your valuable topsoil would like nothing more than to run away with the wind and rain.  Soil erosion can be a huge problem in many gardens, but it’s nothing a good mulching won’t put a stop to.

Temperature

Soil gets cold in winter and hot in the summer, which for many plants can be damaging or even life threatening.  Mulching provides a natural form of climate control, keeping roots and crowns protected from frost, cold and heat.

Appearance    

The right mulch will bring your garden to life by providing a strong, consistent backdrop.  This tends to enhance the colours of the plants making them stand out look their best.

Disease

Mulching helps to stop fungal spores rising from the soil and infecting your beloved plants.  It will also protect the roots and lower stems of plants that are vulnerable to disease.

Which mulch?

You can mulch with almost anything, but to get the maximum benefits it’s important to choose the right mulch.

If you want to mulch your vegetable patch, try using straw or hay or grass cuttings.  You can buy hay bails from your local farmer for next to nothing.  It should rot down within a growing season, which releases nutrients and gives you access to your soil for the following year.  Give it a good watering when you first put it down to stop it blowing about in the wind too much.  It is likely to have a few seeds in it, which will probably germinate, but it will be nothing compared to the weeds that will grow without a mulch.

For perennials, ornamental boarders, fruit trees and bushes you might want to try a longer term mulch like wood chippings or wood bark.  This will take between 3 and 5 years to completely decompose, and releases nutrients into the soil slowly.  However, it will also make it tricky to get to the soil for planting new plants.  It looks great but can be expensive to buy.  It’s best to make your own if you can.

When to mulch?

A good time to mulch is in the autumn, to prevent weed growth over winter and to allow the nutrients to be slowly released into the soil in time for spring.  It is also a good idea to mulch again in mid summer to reduce the amount of watering required and prevent further weed growth.

Grab your Spade

So there we have it.  An afternoon’s work can save you a years worth of weeding and watering.  It is definitely worth getting your hands dirty for, so grab your spade and get on with it!

{cc photo courtesy of Dvortygirl On Wikimedia Commons}





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