Mulch And Mulching Are Frequent Gardening Topics. But What Is Mulch, How To Mulch, Should I Mulch & Types of Mulch Are Frequent Questions I’m Asked. Here Are My Mulch Answers.
At this time of year mulch and mulching questions are filling my inbox. So I thought it time for me to answer some of the most Frequently Asked Mulch Questions (FAMQs)!
What is Mulch?
Mulch is any type of material that is placed on the soil to mulch it! This immediately leads to questions about why mulch? But let me first explain a little more about what mulch it. First of all, it can be organic or non-organic mulch. Compost, bark and leaves are examples of organic mulch. Old carpets, plastic sheeting and gravel are examples of non-organic mulches. Mulches can be permanent or temporary.
Mulch is normally applied to the soil for a number of reasons as listed below.
Moisture Conservation Mulches
Mulches protect the soil from sun and wind which stops it from drying out. This means the plants have access to water and reduces potential drought stress. Mulches can also reduce the need for water due to their moisture conservation properties.
Soil Fertility Mulches
I add compost as a mulch in my No-Dig garden as it increases soil fertility, drainage and soil biodiversity. The worms slowly incorporate the mulch which provides huge soil fertility benefits and this means healthier plants and crops. For example, I used grass mowings to mulch one area of the garden last year and it worked a treat.
Weed Suppression Mulches
Mulches are often used to smother weeds. Certainly, where I use compost on my N0-Dig beds there are few weeds. Light impermeable sheets can also be used to smother weeds. By cutting out light the weeds will germinate or grow but die due to a lack of light. This is a great way to organically reduce weed problems and can smother everything from nettles and brambles to docks and dandelions. By suppressing weeds we spend less time weeding and more time enjoying our gardens .. though I know a few people that enjoy weeding. By suppressing weeds we also eliminate weed competition of moisture, nutrients and light.
Visual Appeal Mulches
I’ve just mulched a new alpine garden with pea gravel. Part of the reason was to reduce weeds but the main reason was to improve the visual appeal of the bed.
Soil Cooling Mulches
Mulches reduce the amount of heat that reaches the soil and keeps root runs cooler. Some plants prefer or even need cool root runs.
It seems perverse but mulches can also be used to warm the microclimate. For example, rocks placed on the soil as a mulch will gather solar heat during the day and slowly lose it at night, this keeping plants warmer. It’s a bit like how buildings gain solar energy during sunny days and distribute it at night, this meaning cities are warmer.
Mulches such as bark and woodchip increase biodiversity in the gardens they provide shelter for insects and encourage soil fungi, which is generally a good thing. More on Mulches will appear very soon.