Mulching 101

CandideZA
Published on February 18th 2020
92
Mulching is one of the easiest things to do in your garden and will produce incredible results. Taking it into your own hands will also help you save some costs in your gardening budget. So, you might want to ask “What is mulch?”.
Mulch is a layer of organic (living or dead: grass, straw, bark, wood chips, thyme) or non-organic (stones, rocks, brick chips or even plastic) matter on the ground which keeps your soil cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Naturally, mulch occurs in all forests and comprises of a mixture of leaves and branches mixed up with fungal and insect life. Mulch can be seen as a protective food layer to the soil.
It is good to mulch your garden as mulch keeps the moisture in the soil, suppresses weeds, improves soil texture, protects against extreme temperatures, improves water retention, and promotes life in the soil. When done well, mulching has the ability to improve the health of plants quite remarkably. One will notice more vigour in plants as well as more resistance to pests and diseases.
There are numerous types of mulch that one can use in the garden. Below is a list of organic and non-organic mulch types:

Organic

  • Pine needles (visit your nearby pine tree)
  • Wood chips, sawdust, shredded bark (easily obtained from a sawmill)
  • Peach pips
  • Vine cuttings (a bit more on the expensive side)
  • Straw (easily bought from an agricultural retailer)
  • Leaves (raked from the garden)
  • Grass cuttings

Non-organic

  • Stones (big or small)
  • Plastic in which holes or slits are made
  • Brick chips
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One might think that mulching only has positive benefits to garden beds and plants - but it would be wise to know that there are a number of things to be aware of that might not benefit your plants and garden beds:

Positives

  • Mulch reduces evaporation which will lead to less watering of your garden
  • Suppresses weed growth
  • Prevents soil erosion
  • Promotes life in the soil
  • Protects soil against extreme temperatures
  • Improves the general condition of the soil

Negatives

  • The cost of some materials might be a drawback especially to a large garden
  • It can provide shelter for insects and cutworms
  • Can prevent seeds from germinating
  • Nitrogen starvation can occur with a too thick layer of mulch - especially when it comes to sawdust and wood chips
  • Over-mulching is not good for your garden
  • Can inhibit bulbs and perennials to emerge from the soil.
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