One of the first things I do when the weather warms up enough to go out and “play”, is replenish the mulch in my garden bed.
There’s a lot that can be said about this simple, organic garden helper. Mulch…
1. Acts as an Insulator. Mulch is a great insulator in both the winter and summer.
Adding a thick layer of mulch, right before winter, to plants that are just above the plant hardiness zone you live in, might allow them to survive the cold weather. The mulch will act as an insulator. However, if you live in a zone 9, don’t expect a layer of mulch to keep your zone 4 plants alive.
If you find plant hardiness zones a little confusing, check out my Gardening 101: Plant Hardiness Zones post, for an easy-to-understand explanation.
2. Provides Nutrients to the Soil. As mulch breaks down and decomposes, it provides nutrients to the soil. These nutrients are some of the same active ingredients you’ll find in store bought fertilizers.
The rate of breakdown is directly proportional to the size of mulch. The more pulverized-looking mulch will break down the fastest, then the larger mulches, and, lastly, large wood chips.
3. Slows Down Evaporation. In the hot summer days, when the soil quickly dries up, plants start to wilt. Adding a layer of mulch around the plants will help slow down the evaporation of the soil’s water. This allows the plants to endure the same amount of time between watering, without as much stress to the plant.
4. Prevents Soil Erosion. Without some form of ground protection, dirt will erode quickly. Mulch is one means of preventing soil erosion.
5. Eliminates Mud Splashes. Without mulch around plants, a hard rainfall will both erode the garden bed, and cause mud to splash all over the plants.
Mulch also keeps our kennel from becoming a complete mud pen after a rainfall. We use a type of mulch called “tender turf.” We were using a different type of mulch until a vet appointment a few years ago. Bunker, our doberman, likes to sometimes eat the mulch. During a “cavity search” (fecal exam) at the vet, the veterinarian pulled out a pulverized wad of mulch. So… we switched to tender turf because it’s about ¼ to ½ the size of what we were using, which makes it safer for our omnivore doberman.
6. Helps Control Weeds. Adding a layer of mulch to the ground will aid in the control of weeds. Blocking both the access to the ground (for wind-blown weed seeds) and sunlight (for seeds that are on/in the ground), significantly reduces the number of weeds you’ll have to contend with. If the mulch is thick enough, the weeds will become more “leggy”, which makes them easier to pull.
7. Improves Aesthetics. Mulch does a lot to improve the overall appearance of an area.
If you live in a heavily shaded area – one that creates a challenging opportunity for a lawn – bringing in a few loads of mulch might be the solution you’ve been looking for.
Mulch can also be used as a relatively inexpensive garden pathway. It will improve the looks and utility of pathways between your raised garden beds.
The calculators page will help you calculate the amount of mulch needed for an area.
In an upcoming post, I’ll share some important things to know about using mulch – some do’s and don’ts.
What other benefits of mulch can you think of? Have I missed any?
What’s the number one reason why you use mulch?