Mighty Mulch

Mulch can mean the difference between a flourishing garden and a weed-choked one.

By FamilyTime

 While no two gardens are alike, all gardens share one aspect. All should be mulched.

If you are a beginner, you might not realize the value of mulch. If you are an old hand, you probably have a pile of it delivered every spring, ready to be spread on your beds and along garden paths.

Why Mulch?
Most mulch is a biodegradable mixture sold in large sacks or “by the yard” whose purpose is to cover the earth, hold in moisture, enrich the soil, and keep weeds under control. After the garden is planted, wise gardeners spread a good, deep layer of mulch between the plants and around the edges of the beds.

Many gardeners don’t spread enough mulch — or don’t apply any at all — and do so at their garden's peril. Not only will the gardens suffer more when rainfall is scarce, meaning they will need to be watered more often, but the beds will be overrun with unsightly and discouraging weeds.

A healthy application of mulch does not mean you never have to water or pull another weed, but both are more controllable. It also makes the garden look neat and well kept.

Good mulching makes out-of-town weekends more relaxing as you don’t have to wish for rain at home (but clear skys where you actually are!). It also means you can enjoy your garden instead of feeling you “should” be weeding or watering.

Plan to spread several thick inches of mulch on all your garden beds. You may have to replenish the mulch as the summer progresses but if you’re lucky you can find a teenager with a strong back to help with the task.

A good layer of mulch will decompose and eventually turn into top soil. This means constant replenishing, and a healtheir garden.

What Kind of Mulch
Most gardeners prefer organic mulches made from degradable materials. They come in a variety of hues, from rusty red to deep, chocolate brown.

Mulch can be made from chopped or chunked pine bark, cedar, other hardwoods and even cocoa hulls and pecan shells. Some gardeners prefer finely chopped mulch that almost resembles dirt, while others like larger chunks. The choice is one of preference; both do a good job.

Inorganic mulch includes materials such as pebbles, crushed stone, gravel, and black plastic. The stones are useful in gardens with a lot of foot traffic or where the homeowner prefers a low-maintenance yard with little lawn.

Black plastic sheets are most often found in large vegetable gardens to keep down weeds and hold in soil heat and moisture. No one thinks there are attractive but they do the job very well.

Once you become a mulcher, you will be convinced of its value. And your garden will be healthier, more attractive, and easier to care for.