No matter whether you are new to gardening or you are looking to transform your current outdoor space, you would likely have heard the term mulch being used. What does this strange term refer to, though, and how can you utilize it in your home?
Mulch is a unique method of helping to retain moisture in your garden soil, prevent weeds from growing, keep your soil cool in summer, prevent it from frosting over in winter, and help to make your flowerbeds look more attractive.
What Is Organic Mulch, and What Are The Benefits?
Organic mulch is made from materials such as grass clippings or newspapers and can help to enhance the structure of your soil, improve its drainage, and maximize its ability to hold nutrients. This ensures that your flowers are able to grow to their full potential, keeping your garden looking its best all year round.
Organic mulch does decompose over time, though, meaning that it will need to be replaced. A good rule to remember is that while the drier and woodier the mulch, the longer it will last, but it will provide fewer nutrients.
What Are The Different Types Of Organic Mulch?
There are many different types of organic mulch available, but some of the most common include:
The use of bark mulch is best utilized for shrubs, trees, and garden beds where there will not be a lot of frequent digging. While this type of mulch does not provide a huge array of nutrients, they do last for a long time and can look fantastic in the right setting.
Pine needles are another great type of organic mulch, providing essential nutrients and helping your soil to retain moisture more effectively. This type of mulch does take a little while to break down, though.
Using grass clippings for your mulch is very popular, thanks to it being completely free to produce. Keeping your trimmings after mowing your lawn will help you to create the perfect mulch, with grass clippings known for suppressing weeds. However, they do break down very quickly and are known to have an unpleasant smell as they degrade.
When using grass for mulching, make sure that you have not used any kind of pesticide or weed killers on the lawn, as this could cause harm to your flowers and vegetables. Any grass cuttings that you do not use for mulching can be added to your compost bin.
Using newspaper as a form of mulch is becoming increasingly popular, particularly with most modern newspapers now using organic dyes. While shredding newspaper has been utilized for years to help keep the roots of a plant moist when being shipped, layering it on your flowerbeds can help your soil to retain water far more effectively. Layering sheets of paper on your soil can also help to prevent weeds from finding a way through, alongside helping to control the soil temperature.
When using newspaper for mulch, then you should aim to place around four to eight layers of paper around each plant. To prevent them from blowing away, moisten the paper first and then cover with a layer of another type of organic mulch; this should ensure that it will be able to last the entire growing season.
The use of shredded leaves as mulch is one of the most popular and effective methods. Using leaves helps to encourage earthworms to your garden, which can be very beneficial in helping to improve the quality of your soil.
While there can be no denying the benefits that come from using leaves as organic mulch, some gardeners do find them unsightly. If you are not keen on their appearance, then consider adding a layer of leaves in the springtime before your plants have spread out. This helps to ensure that they blend into view within no time.
Leaves can be used across a wide range of plants, including your vegetable patch. Leaves do have a tendency to mat together, though, which can prevent water from seeping through to your soil. If this happens, a rake through the mulch can help to break this down.
Straw is a particularly great choice of organic mulch for use in your vegetable garden. Thanks to it decomposing very slowly, straw is a very long-lasting solution and can help to stop soil-born diseases from impacting your plants.
A good layer of straw mulch will be able to last the whole growing season, and encourages positive insects to set up home, minimizing your pest problem.
What Is Synthetic and Inorganic Mulch?
As the name suggests, synthetic and inorganic mulch is the use of materials that do not break down as quickly and are designed to help you keep moisture in your soil and prevent weeds from growing through. However, while they are very effective at doing this, they do not add any nutrients to your soil.
While some gardeners prefer the longevity that synthetic mulch offers, others do not like the look that it offers. In this instance, adding a layer of organic mulch over the top can help to improve the visual aspect.
What Are The Different Types Of Synthetic and Inorganic Mulch?
As with organic mulch, there are a huge array of different types of synthetic and inorganic mulch. Some of the most common include:
One of the most common types of inorganic mulch is the use of black plastic. This is a fantastic choice for use as a foundation around your trees and large shrubs, especially those that do not need regular fertilization.
The durable solution is great at preventing weeds from ruining your flowerbeds. The plastic can get very hot in the summertime, though, which can impact how your plants grow unless there is enough moisture. That is why it is a good idea to cut holes into the plastic so that water can soak through.
Landscape fabric is a good alternative to black plastic, offering all of the same benefits while the porous nature allows water to flow through freely. This porous material is designed to prevent weeds from growing through your flowerbed, while also helping to maintain the moisture levels. The fabric does break down over a couple of years, meaning it will need to be replaced.
Stone and Gravel
Finally, the use of gravel and stones can be a great choice for areas where good drainage is required, or with plants that require additional heat. Stone can be difficult to move and more costly, so make sure that you think carefully about this choice before making your decision.
Finding the right style of mulch for your garden can be tough, but you should always look for a solution that is not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing. If you are not sure on the best solution for your garden, speak with your local nursery or garden center who will be able to help you.