Are you sick of weeding or watering your garden all the time? Losing plants to hot summers and freezing winters? There may be a simple solution to minimize the impact of these challenges – Mulch!
What is Mulch?
Mulch is a material that is spread around a plant or over the soil surface as a protective layer. If you think of soil as a ‘cake,’ the mulch is simply the ‘icing’ or ‘topping’. It provides a huge range of benefits for you and your garden. Mulch comes from a wide variety of organic or inorganic materials. Mulch ranges in cost from free to expensive.
20 Benefits of Using Mulch in Your Garden
Why do you need mulch anyway? These are some of the reasons to use the ‘marvellous miracle of mulch’ in your garden.
1. Adds organic matter to your soil. This helps make your garden healthier and more resistant to pest and disease. (Saves money on pest control).
2. Provides valuable slow-release nutrients and prevents vitamin loss in plants. (Saves money on fertilisers).
3. Helps retain moisture in the soil for longer. Mulch prevents evaporation by shielding the soil from the sun. It also reduces water run-off during rain or watering. This reduces the amount of water needed. (Saves money).
4. Shades delicate seedlings from too much sun. (A mini umbrella).
5. Reduces time spent watering. (Saves time and money).
“Mulch can retain up to 70% more water in the soil than unmulched soil.”
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6. Is a great insulator by regulating soil temperature. Keeps roots consistently cool in summer and warm in winter. (Reduces plant stress).
7. Provides a natural barrier to stop weeds from growing and competing with plants for nutrients. How? By blocking the sunlight. You’ll find it easier to remove the few weeds that do grow. (Saves you time).
8. Increases biological activity in your soil. How? By providing beneficial micro-organisms and earthworms with food.
9. Improves soil conditions. Helps to bind sandy soils and open up clay soils.
10. Saves you time and energy cultivating the soil.
11. Stops nutrients from leaching out of the soil.
12. Protects plants from frost damage by acting as a protective ‘blanket.’
13. Provides a clean surface for produce like fruit and nuts to fall, ready for harvesting.
14. Improves soil drainage and structure as it decomposes.
15. Provides support around plants especially young seedlings.
16. Recycles waste materials. e.g. organic mulches like grass clippings and leaves.
17. Protects plants from mud-splash during watering or rain.
18. Prevents erosion and soil compaction particularly from foot traffic on pathways and play areas.
19. Improves the visual appearance of your garden.
20. Can provide a home for plant-friendly insects.
So regardless of where you live and whether your plants are in pots or beds, mulch is a key ingredient for a successful organic garden. Keen to save money, time and effort? Learn How to Mulch Your Garden for Free.
CLICK BELOW for mulch and soil building resources
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- How to Mulch Your Garden for Free
- 3 Steps to Prepare your Garden for Planting
- 5 Simple Secrets to Building Healthy Soil
- 7 Sustainable Garden Design Tips
- How to Use Compost and 7 Benefits of Composting
- Design Tips for a Productive Kitchen Garden
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Hats off to you! You did a nice job to hack the secret about mulch. I belong to Asia where mulch is almost free to get. My question is: Is Mulch an alternative to fertilizer? If we spread it then should we fertilize the plant or not? After reading this it’s a bit like confusion in my mind. Hopefully, you will guide me.
People in my area throw it away like a useless product. Now I will collect it from dumps and will use it for making plants healthy.
It’s not really a yes or no answer to your question! The type of mulch you use determines how much nutrient and organic matter it contains and whether it will help to feed the soil or not. Pebbles, for instance, are an inorganic mulch. They don’t breakdown but do perform a beneficial role as a decorative mulch that prevents weeds and retains moisture. Whereas grass clippings, leaves or bark chips are natural materials that will decompose and help feed the soil over time.
By ‘fertiliser’ though, I think you have in mind a specific plant food that you add to the soil in addition to the mulch. If you have poor soil, this is a way to increase minerals and slow-release nutrients to make them available to your plants. Make sure you are careful about where you get your mulch though. If you are collecting from dumps and don’t know the history of it, it could well be contaminated with chemicals. Better to find a source like neighbours who mow their lawns but don’t spray and usually throw their lawn clippings away. Then at least you know you’re not accidentally adding chemicals to your garden. Food for thought!
How many times do you add mulch to your garden each year?
Hi Tim, I apply it as needed. During summer some mulches break down faster than cooler months, but at least seasonally to keep the soil covered. Cheers Anne
I found it interesting when you said that mulch can be a barrier to weeds since it blocks the sunlight. My wife is wanting to get some mulch down on our garden this spring since we have to deal with many weeds where we live. Since we don’t want to repeat that experience this year, I’ll have to find some mulch we can get to spread throughout our garden this year.
You got me when you said that mulching can help you to block sunlight which can help you to easily remove weeds. My husband and I want to have a green lawn. What we want is for our plants to be healthy and get the right amount of nutrition, so we’ll make sure to consider hiring a mulching service soon.
Mulch is definitely an important aspect of gardening! My garden is usually covered in mulch, I always mulch around small plants and newly germinated seeds. Thanks for sharing this helpful info!
Anne, merci, pour tous vos conseils, moi je suis en France, dans le Morbihan, avec un micro climat, j’apprends beaucoup avec vous et j’adore jardiner!
bon wk, Amitiés, Annick
Salut Annick, merci beaucoup pour vos commentaires. Heureux de vous aider à apprendre et profiter de votre jardin. Trouver la joie dans chaque jour dans les petites choses que vous voyez. L’abondance de la nature est partout, si nous prenons le temps de regarder et apprécier. Bénédictions, Anne
I grow a lot of Kale here in Vancouver.
I’d like your opinion if Cypres tree and Pine needles residue (falled from tree and has spend rotting most of winter) mixed with sawdust would make a good mulch.
I have about 1/2 m2 from a 96 sq feet 99% recycled green house I built.
I was going to put it into my compost pit, but thought maybe I can put it a mulch around my kale plants.
Also for growing garlic would you recommend buy garlic from local farmer markets. We are two and eat one full garlic every day in our food I cook Asian and stirr fry a lot. But when to plant it in a region like Vancouver where it rains a lot and we have coldish sometimes snowy winters otherwise very wet most winters. I have a full south exposure plot unused and could grow it there its above a stone wall so very well drained. Thanks love your blog.
You’re growing a fantastic garden. Loved the pics of your kale ‘trees’ and raised beds especially. Despite your sunlight hours your soil must be good to produce healthy crops.
The pine needle/sawdust (especially partly composted) make a great mulch – just need consistent moisture to ensure the microbes are active. These materials will add organic matter and slow release nutrients to your garden at the same time. They are also ideal ingredients in compost so you could add some to increase the variety of ingredients you use in your system.
Re garlic, see my post on growing garlic [https://themicrogardener.com/5-step-guide-to-growing-gorgeous-garlic/] for more tips on suppliers and sourcing clean, organic bulbs. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask and thanks so much for your feedback.
Congrats on a great garden – keep up your efforts. Cheers, Anne
Anne thank you for your help in regards the magnolia. I followed your instructions and I have been waiting patiently for a whole year now; looking at the tree every day; and as you wrote to me;
your encouragement was such a healing process while my beautiful magnolia was almost dead
the tree is now ready to flower. It’s 10.00pm so I cannot take a photo but I will send you the result of your help.
You make a lot of people happy.
Everyday you were in my mind because I see that tree 8hours a day.
thank you Anne.
Great to hear from you and that it’s happy news about your magnolia. I remember it was in a very sad state a year back when you sent the pics. I’d love to see an update and how it is now thriving under your care. Your patience has paid off! Thank you for your lovely comment and so thrilled my advice has made a difference.
Warm regards, Anne
All of your newsletters and topics are so inspiring and much needed to have a good harvest. Thank you. What is the best kind of tomatoe for pot planting? I live in a subtropical area (Guatemala, Central America), with almost no temperature variation (between 80 to 72 all year round). Our dry season starts in November and I´m about to plant my garlic, for the first time!!!; I´m excited!.
Have a blessed day. Krimhilda
Thanks for your lovely comments and so thrilled to hear about your garlic. Tomatoes are a big topic – you need a large deep pot for them to do well and preferably stake them or add a vertical trellis of some kind. You may want to consider a determinate tomato variety (i.e. where you know the mature height) rather than an indeterminate one although it’s worth experimenting. I suggest choosing an heirloom or organic variety (avoid GMO or hybrids) so you know you are eating safe food. Ask questions from local gardeners if you can to see what grows well in your area. Swapping seeds via a seed saving network is also a way to access good varieties. Also try contacting local seed organisations such as http://www.kokopelli-seed-foundation.com/tomatoes.html
Here are a few links with info that may help you learn about different varieties. http://goodmindseeds.org/?page_id=16; http://sustainableseedco.com/tomatoes/ and http://www.wintersown.org/wseo1/Your_Choice_Tomato_SASE.html has an extensive list you could research further. Or check my page on other sources @ https://themicrogardener.com/saving-and-sourcing-open-pollinated-seeds/. Hope this helps.