Mulching in Your Flower or Vegetable Garden
If you have flower beds or garden beds in your yard then you should be mulching. Mulching our gardens provides many benefits and is easy to do. Mulching around your plants is literally one of the best things you can do for your garden. Here is all the information you need to help you get started.
There are several benefits to mulching. Mulching around plants will help your garden (vegetable or flower) to retain moisture. A lot of the water that we put on our plants ends up being evaporated by the sun, but mulching will help prevent that. Mulching also helps prevent weeds from growing. It blocks the sun and water from getting to the weed seeds, making it harder for them to take root in your garden. Mulching also adds beneficial material to your soil - kind of like food for your soil. Lastly, mulching will help stop erosion and hold soil in place.
If you didn't pick up on it already, mulching will save you a lot of work down the road. A little work at the beginning of each season will prevent a lot of work later on in terms of watering and weeding less. Mulching does such a good job of preventing weeds from growing that it will also cut down on the use of chemicals in your yard. You really can't beat it for time and money well spent.
But mulch doesn't have to cost money. You can create your own free mulch if you have a wood chipper. Even if you don't, you could still obtain free mulch. If someone on your street is having some trees taken down, you can talk to them and the tree company about what they plan to do with the mulch after it is chipped. Many times the tree company would have to pay to dispose of it, so they are happy to dump it in your yard.
There are many types of mulches available with wood chips being one of them. You can also use other yard material such as grass clippings and leaves. We chop up our leaves with our blower and spread them around the garden beds in the fall. This type of mulch will break down over the winter adding wonderful nutrients to the soil. We also have a compost pile that we use as mulch when it is ready. All of these mulches are free for us.
There are also mulch options that you might have to pay for. Straw, hay, and colored decorative bark are a few of these options. I purchase straw for my garlic and strawberry beds each year. In the summer when it is time to remove the straw I add it to my compost pile to be recycled into a different type of mulch. You can purchase many different colors of decorative bark from your local hardware store and many people like to use this. This type of mulch has chemicals and artificial colors added to it, though so be careful where you use it.
Some people put down a layer of plastic or newspapers as a barrier before adding a prettier form of mulch. While this can prevent weeds, the plastic can leach chemicals into the soil. It also prevents rain from soaking into the garden beds, which will hurt your plants, not help them. I do use newspaper sometimes, particularly when I am creating a new bed. This provides a temporary barrier for weeds and grass until I can get other things planted. It will decompose gradually over the season.
Mulching can take time each year and some years it is tempting to skip it, but I always regret it when I go that route. Mulching in the spring makes every type of gardening easier for the rest of the year.
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