What Is The Right Way To Mulch Your Garden?

In spring, mulch suppresses weeds, seals in moisture, and adds nutrients to the soil. Mulch protects plants from harsh winter freezes, thaws, and winds in the winter. How can I mulch my garden to get the most out of it?

Apply mulch to the soil surface in a layer 2-4 inches thick. A thin layer of around 2 inches is appropriate for mulching in summer or spring. To create more warmth in winter, increase the thickness to 4 inches. Use shredded mulch as it is easy to handle.

Consider the climate, soil type, and budget when selecting mulch. While cocoa hulls have a unique aroma, they are toxic to dogs and quite expensive. Bark nuggets are abundant, but they can float away in heavy rains. 

Shredded bark or wood is inexpensive, but they do not add much to soil nutrients. Compost adds a lot of nutrients but is ineffective at deterring weeds. Pine bark or needles are cost-effective and long-lasting.

What Is The Right Time To Mulch?

The period from mid-to-late spring is ideal for mulching. During this period, the soil is warming up from the winter’s cold. When mulching in the late fall or early winter, ensure the ground has frozen.

Calculate how much mulch you need by using mulch depth and area. In cubic meters or feet, find the volume. 

Trees, Shrubs, And Flower Beds: How To Mulch Them?

Prepare the bed for mulching. Remove any dead, damaged, or diseased branches from trees and shrubs. Rake the soil and remove any rocks. Before applying mulch, remove all weeds if your primary goal is to suppress weeds.

Dump mounds of mulch in several places and spread them out. Repeat this until you have used all the mulch. 

Use a rake or your gloved hands to even the mulch out. Check the mulch depth and distribution for evenness. 

To help airflow, keep the mulch a few inches away from plants. Avoid mulching around trees like a volcano to prevent pests and diseases. Create a 6-inch crater around the base of your tree’s trunk if you have already created a volcano.

My Vegetable Beds Need Mulch; How Can I Do It?

Even out the soil surface by removing rocks with a steel garden rake. If you plan to use straw as mulch, apply it at least 4-8 inches deep. Avoid fungal diseases by leaving 1 to 3 inches of space around the stems. 

Use clean straw instead of hay, which may create weed problems. Apply a source of nitrogen to the soil before planting and mulching. You can use compost, worm castings, well-rotted manure, or a balanced organic fertilizer. 

To help germination, wait until your vegetables have grown for a few weeks. Weed your garden before applying mulch. Watch this video to learn about mulching.

How Often Should You Use Compost As Mulch?

You can use compost as mulch all year round. Apply a 3-6 inch layer of compost around the plant base. Continue periodic application of compost over the old layers throughout the summer. This process will give you the expected results from your mulch. 

In general, compost can benefit any plant. You need to be aware of its contents. When a nutrient is in excess, it can inhibit the absorption of other nutrients. The result will be nutrient deficiencies. 

As the mulch decomposes, it adds organic matter to the soil. Work the mulch into the ground at the end of the season for annual gardens. It will improve soil properties. Remove the mulch in the spring for perennials. It will allow the soil to warm up faster. 

For mulching purposes, compost does not need to undergo complete decomposition. Compost mulch offers the same benefits as regular, non-organic mulch. Applying half-decomposed compost in the fall will keep the soil warm in the winter. 

What Is The Difference Between Compost And Mulch?

Mulch can be any organic or inorganic material that covers the soil surface. Compost is an organic material that acts as a soil conditioner and fertilizer.

Compost can be leaf litter, manure, kitchen scraps, plant debris, or weeds. Compost is dark brown and crumbly when mature. It smells earthy and has particles like soil. 

The compost is organic by definition, but mulch is not always. Organic mulch includes grain straw, wood chips, pine needles, and other crop residues.

Use compost to boost plant growth or increase crop yields. Use mulch to control weed growth, prevent erosion, and keep soil moisture.

Inorganic artificial mulches include rubber, landscape fabric, plastic sheeting, cardboard, and newspaper. 

Natural inorganic mulches are gravel, pebbles, slates, crushed seashells, and stone chips. They are not degradable. 

Compost Vs Manure

Manure is an organic fertilizer derived from domestic livestock feces and urine. Compost is a mixture of organic matter, such as crop residues decomposed over time.

Green manure, compost, and animal manure are the three main types. Farmers have used chicken manure and cow dung for centuries as fertilizers. 

Different animals produce manure of various qualities. Compared to pig manure, sheep manure is high in nitrogen and potash. The nitrogen content of cattle manure and birds’ litter is high. 

In Preparation For Winter, How Can I Mulch My Garden?

The plant can remain dormant if the temperature remains steady. Use any loose, insulating material because you’ll need to remove it in the spring. 

Shredded mulch, straw, shredded leaves, or pine needles are better as they are easy to handle. 

The snow cover can also serve as mulch because it is an effective insulator and protector of plants.

You can mulch unplanted garden beds at any time in the fall. Or you can plant a winter cover crop and wait until spring to till it. In the absence of a cover crop, spread compost, manure, or shredded leaves on the soil to prevent soil erosion. 

Related: Should I Line My Raised Garden Bed With Plastic? Easy Guide for Beginners!

Spread 2-4 inch layers of mulch around plants to protect crowns and surface roots. Thick mulch is beneficial for grafted plants, such as hybrid tea roses. Here is a video explaining winter mulching.

Herbaceous perennials need a lot more mulch protection than wood plants. Keep the mulch several inches from the stems to prevent rodents like voles and mice. Once the ground thaws, start raking or removing winter mulch. 

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