What is the purpose of mulching? Mulch is a must for healthy garden soil and productive plants. It’s a multi-purpose soil amendment that will do more for your plants than anything else you could add to the soil.
Most gardeners have their favorite type of mulch and their favorite time to apply it, and that’s okay. As long as some type of organic mulch is being used, your garden (vegetables, herbs and/or flowers) will be happy and productive.
Retain Soil Moisture
The primary function of mulch is to retain soil moisture and prevent evaporation. A layer of organic mulch will also maintain an even moisture and temperature level in the soil for growing plant roots.
Prevent Weed Growth
A 2-4 inch (5 – 10 cm) layer of organic mulch on top of garden soil will prevent weed growth. This means less work for you and less competition among the plants for moisture and nourishment.
Improve Soil Structure
Mulch helps to prevent the soil from compacting and smothering plant roots. Loose soil allows tender plant roots to grow deep and spread out in search of nourishment. Air circulation and water drainage are improved when soil is not compacted.
Organic mulch will slowly decompose and add nutrients to the soil and increase fertility. Mulch is an organic fertilizer that keeps the garden soil well fed so it, in turn, can keep the plants well-fed.
Organic Pest Control
Mulch that is hard and jagged keeps a lot of pests away from plants. Pests that creep, crawl and slither won’t go across a surface that is jagged and rough because it would cut them. Caterpillars, snails, slugs and other garden pests will stay far away from your tasty garden plants when they’re surrounded by hard, jagged mulch.
Mulch benefits the garden even during the off-season when nothing is growing. A 2-4 inch (5 – 10 cm) layer of mulch will prevent soil erosion and protect underground bulbs from freezing during the winter.
Best Mulch Types
The best organic mulch for your garden is wood mulch. The small pieces of chipped trees and bark provide all the benefits your garden needs and it can often be obtained for free.
Fallen tree leaves, pine straw, hay, grass clippings, well-rotted animal manure, shredded newspaper, and compost are also excellent sources of mulch.
Inorganic mulch can also be used in the garden to prevent weed growth, but it won’t improve soil structure. Inorganic materials like old carpeting and roof shingles can be used in pathways to prevent weed growth.