It keeps weeds down, mainly by blocking out light they need to germinate – and if a weed manages to poke through, it’s easier to pull it out when rooted in a layer of mulch than in the soil.
Conserves soil moisture by reducing evaporation, and helps prevent erosion caused by rain and wind. Bare soil often gets a crust on it that prevents rain from penetrating easily.
Moderates soil temperatures. Keeps soil cooler in summer and helps to reduce the risk of damage to plant roots in winter.
Keeps soil from splashing onto leaves, which keeps plants looking neater and helps prevent soil-borne fungal diseases.
Organic mulch adds all-important humus to the soil as it decomposes, and keeps the top layer of soil loose and airy.
Garden mulching how-to:
Depth: All you do is just layer the stuff two inches to four inches deep over bare soil around your plants.
Just don’t put it right on top of perennials, and keep it from direct contact with the bark of trees and shrubs, as excess moisture right up against the bark can cause disease and rot.
When to apply:
Do your mulching in spring before hot weather comes and while annual and perennial plants are still small enough to work around easily.
How to protect plants:
If you happen to have a few spare one- or two-gallon nursery containers, put them over top of your plants and then you can shovel the material right onto the bed without worrying about covering your perennials. As for what to use, see your choices below.
This doesn’t actually keep plants warm, but maintains a more even soil temperature – a good thing in areas where winter brings alternate periods of freezing and thawing and where there isn’t enough snow cover to give plants a thick insulating blanket.
- Bark or shredded wood chips
- Cocoa bean hulls
- Grass clippings
- Fall leaves
- Pine needles