All About Mulch- The Unsung Garden Protector
The garden can be a tricky place. Sure, for almost every gardener, homeowner and landscaper out there it’s a spot on their property where one can relax, do some work for the day, or simply just to admire, but there are other times when it’s a pain. Most notably that aforementioned “work” part. When weeds sprout up, when the soil needs to be changed, watering, etc– all of these parts are the downside of owning a lush, beautiful garden.
There is a way to cut down on some of those pesky gardening tasks? What if there was a way to protect the average homeowner, gardener, or landscaper’s garden not only from extra work but from other sorts of pests and diseases as well? A solution that can work all over the world, from Stouffville, Ontario to Victoria, British Columbia. Well, there is a solution to all that and it’s a one word solution. That word… is mulch.
Today we’re going to be answering a couple of questions about this wonderful addition to any garden– what is mulch, why is it useful and how can one add mulch to their garden? All three have simple answers, especially the final one. Without further ado, let’s begin.
What is mulch?
First and foremost, we must answer the question of what exactly is mulch. If mulch is so useful for a garden, it must have natural components that help a garden thrive and grow, right? It must have something about it that is integral to the average garden, that will make the life of the average homeowner, gardener or landscaper much easier, right? Well, yes, the answer to both of those questions is, in fact, “right”.
At its most basic, mulch is defined as “any material that is spread or laid over the surface of the soil as a covering”. What does that mean, well, pretty much exactly what it says. Mulch is going to cover the soil in the garden bed, essentially protecting it and even improving the soil (but more on that later).
There are two types of mulch that one can use for their garden– organic and inorganic mulch. Organic, while it may decompose and need to be replaced, is actually much better for soil. Once decomposed, it will improve the garden soil’s organic content, making it stronger, and thus any plants grown in that soil stronger as well. Here are some examples of organic mulch:
- Shredded or Chipped Bark
- Grass Clippings
- Shredded Leaves
- Grass Clippings
The most traditional and most often used of these organic materials is the shredded or chipped bark. Why? Usually, because the drier and the woodier the mulch is, the slower it will decompose (and most gardeners, homeowners, and landscapers don’t want to be constantly switching around their mulch). However, what one gains in not switching around their mulch that often they lose in nutrients to their soil. The drier and woodier the mulch, the fewer nutrients the soil will get.
Inorganic mulch, on the other hand, barely needs any replacing. However, as expected, they don’t add much (if any) nutrients to the soil, as they barely decompose. Here are some examples of inorganic mulch:
- Landscape Fabric
- Black Plastic
Which of these three is the best? Well, black plastic tends to be bad for the environment, and landscape fabric tends to decompose, which lets weeds through. Stone and gravel are decent for drainage, but they can be a real pain to move around. Honestly, usually, these mulches are used for aesthetic purposes, and we usually recommend the natural mulches.
Perhaps the best course of action would be a combination of two or more of these mulches, but, that is something that will be answered in another section.
Why is mulch so useful for a garden?
There are many reasons as to why mulch is great for a garden. Organic mulch, for starters, adds nutrients to the soil when it decomposes. But the main reason people use mulch is because it keeps weeds from growing, meaning that gardens will be a lot less work. It also helps retain moisture, it helps keep the soil cool, it helps with the frost in the winter (for those in Canada, say, Stouffville, perhaps?) and finally, it makes the garden look pretty.
How does one add mulch to their garden?
This is possibly the easiest part of the article. Easier than choosing a mulch, easier than understanding why mulch is important. Adding mulch to a garden is one of the easiest garden tasks out there, almost any gardener can do it.
Step 1: Aquire Mulch. This is the hardest part of the mulch putting down process. We like the wood shavings, however, a combination of wood shavings and landscaping fabric is going to protect pretty well from weeds. We will use that combination for this example.
Step 2: Smooth Out Area Where The Mulch Is Going To Be Placed. Using a rake, or heck, even hands, the gardener is going to smooth out the area on which they wish to put the mulch. They should try to make it fairly level.
Step 3: Place Down Landscaping Fabric. The landscaping fabric should cover the entire area in which the gardener wants to put the mulch. This is going to help prevent weeds from sprouting all over the garden.
Step 4: Place Mulch. Next, the gardener will fill the area (which is now covered in landscaping fabric) with mulch. They must make sure it is evenly spread.
And that’s it. See? We told you it would be a very easy process.
And so, this article about mulch has come to an end. Today we learned the difference between inorganic and organic mulch, we learned all the different reasons as to why mulch is important for a garden, and finally, we learned how easy mulching a garden can actually be. Hopefully, gardeners, homeowners, and landscapers have now learned not only the importance of mulch but its exponential usefulness. And now, hopefully, gardens everywhere will be in the sweet embrace of mulch!