Organic Mulching

Mulching is a protective material, simple and most beneficial practice which can be used in gardens. It can easily be spread on the soil. Mulches can either be organic or inorganic. Organic mulches such as straw, bark chips and similar material while inorganic mulches include stones, brick chips and plastic. Both organic and inorganic mulches have numerous benefits but here we will discuss organic mulches.

Benefits of Organic Mulches

  • It protects soil from erosion
  • Reduces compaction from the impact of heavy rains
  • Conserves moisture
  • Reduces the need of frequent watering
  • Maintains more even soil temperature
  • Prevents weed growth
  • Keeps fruits and vegetables clean
  • Provides a finished look to the gardens
  • Improves condition of the soil as these mulches slowly decompose
  • Provides organic matter to the soil
  • Improves root growth
  • Increases infiltration of water and also increases the water holding capacity of soil
  • Inorganic mulches in contrast to organic mulches, may be difficult to remove because of their permanence

Mulch Material

MaterialAmount to applyNotes
Bark Mulch2-4 inchesIt is easy to spread smaller chips especially around small plants. It can be effectively used around trees, shrubs and perennial gardens.While spreading mulch around trees, keep the mulch 1-2 inches away from trunk.
Wood chips2-4 inchesIt is similar to bark mulch. Using fresh wood chips mixed with a lot of leaves may facilitate composting
Leaves3-4 inchesLeaves are best to chop and compost before spreading, If using dry leaves, apply about 6 inches.
Grass clippings2-3 inchesThicker layer tends to compact and rot becoming quite slimy and smelly.Add additional layers as clippings decompose. Do not use clippings from lawns treated with herbicides.
Newspaper1/4 inchesApply sheets of newspaper and cover tightly with grass clippings or other mulch material to anchor. If other mulch material is not available, cover the newspaper edges with soil.Applying on a windy day may be a problem.
Compost3-4 inchesCompost is an excellent material for enriching the soil

When to apply mulch?

Time of application depends on what you want to get from mulching. Mulches applied as an insulating barrier between the soil and the plant moderates the soil temperature, which means that the mulched soil in the summer will be cooler than adjacent non mulched soil while in the winter the mulched soil may not freeze as deeply because mulch acts as an insulating layer. It is best to apply mulch after the soil has warmed up in spring. Cool wet soil tends to slow down germination and increase the decay of seed and seedling. In adding additional layers to the existing perennial beds, wait until the soil has warmed up completely. Applying mulch before the ground has frozen may attract rodents looking for a warm overwintering site. The late application of mulch should prevent this problem hopefully creature would already have found to nest. One of the benefits of winter application of mulches id the reduction of freezing and thawing of soil in late winter and early spring. These repeated cycles of freezing at night and then thawing in the warmth of sun cause many small and shallow rooted plants to be removed out from the soil. This can cause their root system to be completely exposed and results in injury or death. Mulching helps to reduce the rapid variation in soil temperature.

How to apply Mulch

Begin by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What do I hope to achieve by mulching? Whether it is for weed control, Moisture retention, soil improvement or beautification?
  • How large is the area to be mulched?
  • How much mulch you will need to cover the area?
  • Determine what mulch material you want to use and purchase or gather what you need.

Collect the leaves in the chop with a lawn mower or shredder. If we use whole leaves as a mulch, it will compact if wet or blow away if dry. Chopping will reduce the volume and facilitate composting. Freshly chopped leaves may disturb the normal growth of certain crops therefore it may be advisable to compost leaves over winter before spreading them. The amount of mulch to apply will be determined by material you are using.

General Guidelines

  • Avoid to apply mulch directly in contact with plants.
  • Leave an inch or so of a space next to plants to help prevent diseases flourishing from excessive humidity.
  • Remove weeds before applying mulch.