Mulching is a
good thing!!! Some of the good things about mulch includes:
It keeps moisture in the
soil. I like to put on 2 to 4 inches just after a rain.
Mulching also prevents
erosion during a hard rain. The rain hits the mulch which slows down its
Mulching also absorbs a great
deal of the moisture and thus helps to keep the surface from drying out.
If you walk in a flower bed
it will compact the soil but since mulch is spongy the effect will be
During the very hot days of
summer the soil dries out rapidly and you need to water more often but a
layer of mulch is a good temperature regulator.
In winter it will keep the
soil colder or frozen on a warm day and thus help prevent the soil from
thawing and then freezing again which raises the soil and lifts out roots.
In a long warm spell the roots may start growing only to be frozen later
when the spell ends. It also acts as a blanket so the soil does not become
frozen as deep.
The blanket affects roots in
summer too as the heat cannot penetrate as deep.
If you have areas that reseed
themselves, you may need to leave the soil exposed until they come up.
When your plants are up the mulch can be applied, but don’t put it
directly on the stems to cause rot. By the same token, wherever you have
mulch deep enough it will prevent weed seeds from sprouting.
Transplant survival is aided
by mulch. The plants were probably crowded into a 2 to 3 inch pot so
can’t get water from a large area. If
roots are too crowded, carefully pull them apart before planting so that
they don’t continually go in a circle. Water them well and then add
mulch to keep the soil from drying out. This
will help to get the roots established so they can support the stem and
Mulching will encourage
earthworms nearer the surface to eat the organic mulch.
This enables them to create more “castings”. One can buy
castings but not cheaply so why not make your own.
With a good worm crop plus all the other critters such as fungous,
bacteria, etc., you might have to renew the mulch again in a season.
As the mulch is slowly
digested by worms, fungous, bacteria, etc., nutrition is added to the
soil. Depending on their
activity, especially earthworms, one needs to watch the level of mulch.
A good example of necessary
mulch is under roses. The
fungous spores of black spot drop off the affected plant or are already in
the soil. Then when it rains
and the drops hit the spores, they are splashed back onto the leaves.
The mulch keeps this from happening.
Tomatoes especially need a
mulch to keep the soil water even to prevent blossom end rot.
They need to have an even amount of moisture, not a puddle of
water, in the soil at all times.
On a perennial bed, mulch in
winter will keep the soil cool longer so the plants don’t come up so
early in a “false early spring”, and then get frozen. Some of my
perennials are not zoned for 5 so to keep them alive, I put a cage over
them and fill it with compost after a hard frost.
This way they will be warmer in winter and stay cold longer in
spring in case of a late frost. Our native plants do not need this “baby
sitting” but mulch is worn down by spring and they can come right
are a few things to be concerned about when mulching:
One is disease. Do not put
diseased plants in your compost pile unless you are sure it gets hot
enough to kill it, usually at least 160 degrees F.
If you use a sawdust mulch,
all the soil critters will work on it and use up the nitrogen doing so.
Later on this will be released back into the soil, so when I use
sawdust in any bed I also put lawn fertilizer on top to keep food
available. Lawn fertilizer is
always higher in nitrogen than anything else.
Wood chips are not as bad since they break down so slowly.
Too deep a mulch is not good
as it can keep oxygen from getting into your roots and may keep everything
so wet that root or stem rot occurs. When
I see a tree with 1 to 2 feet high mulch volcano around it and pushed up
to the trunk, I am tempted to write down the date to see how soon the
Grass clippings are a good
mulch if dried before using. A
deep layer of fresh green mulch is slippery, smells terrible, and heats
up. But the dry grass returns nitrogen to the soil.
Some people, especially those
with Hosta, do not like mulch at all as slugs love to spend their days in
cool mulch and eat the plants at night. There is a slug bait now (iron
phosphate) that you can get to put under your Hosta that feeds iron to the
plant, doesn’t poison your dog or cat, but kills the slugs. It is sold
under different brand names but available in most garden centers.
Mulch is very good for
your garden and landscape but like many things, must be used wisely and