Gardeners have a special mantra: Compost, compost, compost. Mulch, mulch, mulch. It seems that almost anything that’s wrong in our flower beds can be solved, or at least improved, by the addition of both of those items.
At the request of a reader, today we’ll talk about mulch.
The definition of mulch is anything that covers the ground for protection. It can be organic, such as wood chips, straw, coffee grounds, fallen leaves or grass clippings; or inorganic, such as rocks, chopped rubber or sheets of plastic.
To protect the soil while improving it, organic mulch is preferred. As the mulch slowly breaks down, it adds nutrients back into the earth, improving soil tilth and health.
The benefits of mulch
- It prevents weed seeds from sprouting.
- The soil is better protected from erosion
- Mulch acts as an insulator, keeping soil warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.
- It helps the soil retain moisture by blocking the sun’s rays, lessening evaporation.
- In the winter, it can also absorb excess water during heavy rains, keeping the soil from becoming too saturated.
Proper use of mulch
- Don’t put mulch up against tree trunks, plant stems or your house. Leave a 2- to 3-inch buffer, which will prevent plants from developing root rot and stop creatures from using the mulch as a pathway to your home.
- Don’t skimp on the mulch. A layer of 3 to 4 inches will provide the most benefit.
- Choose your mulch wisely. Pine needles make a wonderful mulch, but they can make the soil a bit more acidic, which might not be good for all plants.
- Refresh your mulch at least once a year.
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