Mulches for the garden
What is mulching?
Mulching is where you place some product on the soil around plants or vegetables. There are several benefits for applying a mulch to your garden.
- To conserve moisture in the soil
- To keep weeds under control
- To control garden pests
By adding a mulch to the soil, it acts as an insulation and will help to retain moisture in the soil as only the top layer which is the mulch will dry out from the warmth of the sun until you water the garden. As the soil will retain moisture you will not need to water as often so in turn you will be saving on your water resources.
Adding a layer of mulch works as a blanket and helps to keep the weeds down. It blocks out the light which the weeds need to grow so slows down their growth. It does not affect the actual plants as you do not apply the mulch until the plants are of a decent size.
The mulches used are mostly textured which pests like snails and slugs do not like and their attempt to get to the lush plants is therefore thwarted. Also you will not have to resort to chemicals in the form of slug pellets as a pest control, making you a more organic gardner.
What do you use to mulch?
There are so many products you can use to mulch. Many are by-products and you can obtain it for free!
- Bark chipping - purchase, ideal for flowers but I personally would not use then around vegetables.
- Grass cuttings - free, ideal to put round vegetables and flowers, but if you want your flower borders to look pleasing to the eye then use either bark chipping, stones or slate chippings.
- Pine needles - free, if you or a family member or neighbor has a pine tree in the garden, then collect up all the needles once they have fallen in the autumn and use as a mulch. These are really good for fruit bushes such as blueberries.
- Human hair - free, now you might think this is gross however it is a fantastic mulch and once it breaks down is a superb nutrient and soil improver. Just ask at your local hairdressers for it, they will be only to glad to give it to you. Recycle and re-use and very organic. Slugs and snails will be cut by the hair so they will not get anywhere near your plants!
- Shredded paper - Purchase or free, this also makes a great mulch as it will break down into to soil. It will improve the soil and is organic. Ask friends and family for their waste paper and shred it yourself, again recycle, re-use and organic.
- Straw - purchase, this is another organic mulch and will help to improve your soil once it breaks down.
How do you apply mulch?
It is really easy to apply a mulch, just make sure your plants are of at least 4 - 6 inches high. Give the ground a good soaking a couple of hours before applying the mulch. You can lay down sheets of damp newspaper first which adds another layer or you can place the mulch directly on the ground around your plants.
Not all vegetables need mulching, generally things like beans, peas, cabbages, brussel sprouts, broccoli, infact most brassicas as these are a favorite of the snail and slug population. You can find more information on mulching in the links below.
How to mulch
Do you apply a mulch to your garden?
Additional information on mulching
- How to Mulch - Mulch for Weed Control and Soil Health
Mulch not only makes the garden look neat and tidy, but it suppresses weeds, maintains soil moisture, and adds nutrients to the soil as well. Different types of mulches have their pros and cons, and some will work better in one situation than another
- BBC - Gardening - Gardening Guides - Techniques - Mulching plants