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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Why Do I Need to Mulch?

Are you outside yet, digging in the dirt, getting your hands dirty as you play in your garden beds? Actually, I have not gotten out to do much myself yet. The weather is still a bit nippy, and I have not had a lot of time free up yet.


But we have a large number of garden beds needing attention, and we have a daughter graduating from high school in June and will be having her party at the house. One of the things on the top of my list after cleaning up the beds, is to do mulching.

And here is why:


  • Protects the soil from erosion

  • Reduces compaction from the impact of heavy rains

  • Conserves moisture, reducing the need for frequent waterings

  • Maintains a more even soil temperature

  • Helps prevent weed growth

  • Keeps fruits and vegetables clean

  • Keeps feet clean, allowing access to garden even when damp

  • Provides a "finished" look to the garden.


Mulch Material
Bark mulch: Use 2-4 inches
Smaller chips are easier to spread, especially around small plants. Excellent for use around trees, shrubs, and perennial gardens. When spreading mulch around trees, keep the mulch an inch or two away from the trunk. A couple inches of mulch is adequate. There is no need to apply the mulch 6 or 8 inches high, as often is seen.

Wood chips: Use 2-4 inches
Similar to bark mulch. If using fresh wood chips that are mixed with a lot of leaves, composting may be beneficial.

Leaves: Use 3-4 inches
Best to chop and compost before spreading. If using dry leaves, apply about 6 inches.

Grass clippings: Use 2-3 inches
Thicker layers tend to compact and rot, becoming quite slimy and smelly. Add additional layers as clippings decompose. Do not use clippings from lawns treated with herbicides.

Newspaper: Use 1/4 inch
Apply sheets of newspaper and cover lightly with grass clippings or other mulch material to anchor. If other mulch materials are not available, cover edges of paper with soil. Applying on a windy day can be a problem.

Compost: Use 3-4 inches
Excellent material for enriching soil.


Bark mulch and wood chips are sometimes used with landscape fabric or plastic. The fabric or plastic is laid on top of the soil and then covered with a layer of bark chips. A caution to this practice: while initially the plastic or fabric may provide additional protection against weeds, as the mulch breaks down, weeds will start to grow in the mulch itself. The barrier between the soil and the mulch also prevents any improvement in the soil condition and makes planting additional plants more difficult.


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1 comment:

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