Mulching is one of the best things you can do for your garden. This is the act of placing a protective barrier (mulch) around your plants and over your bare soil. This protective barrier can be made up of a variety of decomposing organic materials, including bark or wood chips (from various tree species), pine needles, straw, and cocoa bean shells, or non- decomposing, non-organic materials such as black plastic, landscaping fabric, recycled tires, pebbles, and river rock. Here are seven of the biggest advantages of mulching.
1. Controls Weeds
Through the use of mulch you can limit the amount of weeds that spring up in the open spaces of your garden. The mulch acts as a barrier, limiting the amount of sunlight that can find its way to the weeds.
2. Retains Moisture
Organic mulches absorb water. Organic and non-organic varieties both cover the soil and limit evaporation. Retaining moisture, especially during hot, dry seasons can not only help out your plants, but it can also help out your water bill.
3. Prevents Soil Erosion
Mulching not only keeps existing water trapped in the soil, it also keeps rain water from washing away your soil. It does this by breaking the fall of the water and therefore lessening the force when the water impacts the ground.
4. Maintains Soil Nutrients
No only does mulch keep soil nutrients from being washed away with the rain, but it also can release nutrients into the soil if you are using an organic material. This happens as the organic material slowly decomposes on top of the soil.
5. Controls Pests
Using certain types of mulch, such as cedar bark, can deter certain pests due to the fact that the cedar bark has natural oils that act as insect repellant. To reap the full benefits, be sure to find a mulch that is very fragrant, as it will have the greatest affect on insects. But be warned, some mulches can encourage insects to flock to your garden and sometimes your house, so be sure to research which type of mulch will best suit your needs.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Kathy Bosin suggests, "When adding mulch to your garden beds, avoid piling mulch up against the trunk or stems of plants. This can lead to insect and disease issues. Using too deep a layer of mulch can also be a problem — generally, 2 to 4 inches of mulch is recommended for most plants."
6. Encourages Earthworms to Move In
Using organic material for mulching can encourage earthworms to occupy your garden soil. And as any good gardener will tell you, earthworms help improve soil structure and nutrient cycling.
7. Polishes up Your Garden
Mulch can give a garden a finished look by filling in the empty spaces while being one of the easiest fillers to maintain. Grass, groundcovers, and other fillers may take extensive care, such as mowing and watering, as well as competing for resources with your garden plants. Mulch is easy to care for and never competes with your other plants.
TIP: Kathy adds, "Mulching around trees not only promotes a healthy growing environment, but it also helps to keep maintenance equipment such as weed whips far from the trunk of the tree."