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    The benefits of mulch

    Find out how mulch can elevate your garden and what types are available

    Alex | Oneflare

    Mulching is beneficial for new and established gardens alike. If you want to make your garden look healthy and beautiful, you should definitely consider applying a layer of mulch. Mulching is the application of a top layer of organic or inorganic material over your garden’s soil and can provide so many benefits to your garden. 

    Mulch benefits

    • It conserves water in the soil
    • Organic mulches add nutrients to the soil
    • It helps prevent soil erosion
    • It keeps your plants from getting too hot or too cold
    • It helps prevent weeds from growing

    Types of mulch

    There are a number of different mulches that fall into two broad categories, organic and inorganic.

    Organic mulches

    Organic mulches are made from biodegradable plant-based materials, and they fertilise the soil as they break down over time. Common types of organic mulches are:

    Bark and wood chip mulches are attractive, stay in place well and don’t blow away in the wind.

    Sawdust mulch is inexpensive and it acidifies the soil, so it’s a good type of mulch to use around plants that require acidic growing conditions. However, it’s light and tends to blow away during windy weather, absorbs nitrogen from the soil, so you may have to fertilise more often and does very little to stop weeds from growing.

    Straw mulch is even less expensive than sawdust, and it does a great job of keeping weeds from growing.

    A house with a front yard covered in mulch
    Mulch will help newly planted plants to grow / Source: Nature Build

    Inorganic mulches

    Inorganic mulches are made from a variety of non-biodegradable materials. They last longer than organic mulches, but they don’t break down over time and don’t fertilise the soil. On the other hand, they don’t remove nutrients from the soil either. Some common types of inorganic mulches include:

    Gravel and crushed stone mulches are available in a variety of colours, which allows you to add a bit of colour to your garden beds. To prevent the small stones from mixing into your soil, place a layer of landscape fabric underneath.

    Plastic mulch does a good job of keeping weeds from growing, and it helps prevent moisture loss from the soil. Plastic also prevents the soil from absorbing water, so a watering system needs to be installed underneath it. One big disadvantage to plastic mulch is that it isn’t environmentally friendly and can potentially leach toxins into the soil or underground water supply. In addition, pets and wildlife may eat it, which could cause intestinal blockages.

    Fabric mulch comes in large sheets of tightly-woven fabric. Fabric mulch is excellent at preventing weeds from growing. Because fabric mulch isn’t very attractive, it’s usually topped with another type of mulch.

    Applying mulch

    Firstly, when you apply a layer of organic mulch around your plants remember that the best time to spread mulch which is in late winter/early spring. Secondly, remember to never mulch when the ground is frozen. Thirdly, remember to feed the plants before mulching and finally remember that too much mulch will stifle bulbs.

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    Depth of mulch

    If you’re using chunks of cedar, put them about 5-inches below the surface. They’re bigger and need additional time to breakdown. Same holds for other large organic materials like eggshells, banana peels or things that have gone to rot in your refrigerator’s crisper section. Grass clippings should be used only an inch-or-so down. You don’t want to use toxic materials where you’d like to grow good things.

    Separate from the plant

    Keep the mulch separated from the plant. Putting your plants too close to decomposing materials can breed diseases that could infect the existing growth.

    Separate from your house

    The wood that’s used to build your house can be severely damaged by termites. Mulch harbours wetness and these wood-eaters love moisture.

    A front yard with small enclosed gardens containing mulch and plants
    Ensure mulch is separate from your home / Source: The Landscaped View

    Other considerations

    We recommend taking an inventory of the soil and the plants and soil where you’d like to mulch. Consider how the drainage is and what type of covering might enhance the growth of the plants. Also, think about whether these plants grow well in acidy soil. Fortunately, most available mulch is pretty neutral and can be applied just about anywhere. If you already have a cover of mulch, rake it to break it up. Avoid mulch that smells sour. Also, be aware that some products can be dangerous to pets. Read the warnings carefully or ask the salesperson if the mulch is animal-friendly. Creating a compost bin will let you make your own mulch. Add wood chips, leaves, bark and wood to the area you’ve set aside. Let it sit for a month, then turn it over. Give it a little more time. Repeat the mixing process and shovel as much as you need into a wheelbarrow. Presto! DIY mulch.

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