304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
Whether you’re taking care of vegetable gardens or flower beds, mulch is the ideal time-saving tool in gardening. Mulching itself can be a bother, but it has a lot of advantages: When applied correctly, mulch reduces the amount of time needed to irrigate, weed, and control pests. Overall, this results in more wholesome fruits, vegetables, and flowers.
Before you lay any old mulch down, read on to learn how to determine the best kind of mulch for your garden and tips on how to distribute it efficiently.
Mulch comes in two fundamental varieties: organic and inorganic.
While both kinds of mulch prevent weed growth, organic mulches also enhance the soil as they break down. Although inorganic mulches don’t decompose and improve the soil, it doesn’t imply they aren’t a wise choice for your garden. As an illustration, black plastic, a common type of inorganic mulch, heats the soil and radiates heat at night, keeping heat-loving plants like cherry tomatoes and eggplant warm and thriving.
Chipped wood or shredded leaves
To mulch your flower bed and shrub borders, you can purchase bags of ornamental wood chips or shreds of bark from a nearby garden center.
If your property has trees, you can make nutrient-rich mulch at no extra expense by shredding the fallen leaves. A lawn mower with a bagger will collect leaves and chop them into the ideal size for mulching, so you don’t even need a separate machine.
Wood chip or leaf mulch can be applied anywhere on your property, but flower beds, shrub borders, and garden walks are where it looks best. Of course, a woodland or shade garden is the perfect place for it. Wood chips are not a wise choice for vegetable and annual flower beds since they will obstruct your path as you excavate the beds every year.
Another commonly available mulch is grass clippings, though it’s a good idea to save some of them to use as organic lawn fertilizer. Use leftover grass clippings as nitrogen-rich mulch in vegetable beds when you have any leftovers.
If you have extra compost, use it as mulch to expand the uses for it. Although it will improve the soil and cheer up the plants, keep in mind that when any form of mulch is completely dry, plant roots cannot thrive there. It follows that you might wish to save your compost for use as a thin mulch around plants and cover it with another type of mulch, like finely chopped leaves. This enables the compost to maintain its moisture and biological activity, giving your veggies, fruits, or flowers the greatest possible benefit.
Straw or Hay
Consider covering your vegetable garden with straw, salt hay, or weed-free hay if you’re growing it. This kind of mulch not only keeps the soil moist, discourages weed growth, and contributes organic matter to the soil as it decomposes, but it also has a tidy, crisp appearance. To avoid slug and rat damage, just be sure to use hay free of weeds and seeds and avoid putting it around the trunks of fruit or vegetable trees.
Black plastic film can work wonders as a mulch in a vegetable garden. Black plastic creates a microclimate that is around three degrees warmer than an unmulched garden when it is tightly spread over a smooth surface of soil. Of course, the mulch also keeps the soil moist and inhibits weed development.
Although they are more expensive than regular black plastic, infrared transmitting (IRT) plastics can produce even higher yields. In raised bed gardens, cover the entire bed with a sheet of plastic. Put rocks on the plastic to weigh it down or bury it at the edges. Then use a bulb planter to make holes in it, and put seeds or plants within. You cannot rely on precipitation to adequately hydrate your plants because water cannot pass through plastic. Instead, before you lay down the plastic, place soaker hoses or drip hoses on the soil’s surface.
Mulch shouldn’t be placed beneath shrubs, especially because plastic damages the shrubs’ long-term health. Roots grow very close to the soil surface, sometimes even just beneath the plastic, in search of hydration and oxygen because water and air cannot pass through the plastic. Extreme temperature swings, a lack of oxygen and moisture, and shallow roots are bad for plants. The plants become sick and eventually die.
Landscape fabrics or geotextiles allow air and water to reach the soil underneath while inhibiting the growth of weeds. However, there are a few issues: Geotextiles deteriorate over time when exposed to light. Put another layer of mulch on top of them to extend their lifespan (you should anyhow because they are unsightly).
Keep geotextiles away from shrubs, just like plastic mulch does. You will need to rip the landscaping fabric in order to remove shrub roots and weeds since they grow up into the fabric.
The use of mulch to control weeds must adhere to two fundamental principles. Lay the mulch down on already-weeded soil first, and then spread it out to a thickness that prevents new weeds from poking through.
Although a two-inch covering is typically sufficient in shaded areas, a four-inch layer of mulch will deter weed growth. Plants should be placed where they will receive adequate water, newspaper should be spread, and mulch should be added on top.
The warming of the soil can be slowed by mulches that also hold moisture (such as wood chips).
Keep mulch about an inch away from crowns and stems.
Mulch that is heaped up against the woody stems of shrubs and trees can rot the stems and encourage rodents to build nests there, including voles and mice. Keep thick mulch six to twelve inches away from tree trunks.
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