September 8, 2014
Mulch is the material that covers the soil in order to suppress weeds, keep the soil cool, retain moisture, and make the bed look neat. When organic mulch decomposes it enhances the fertility of the soil. Of course, organic mulch will have to be replaced regularly.
Bark is Tough
Bark is hard to dig through but, on the upside, it takes a quite a while to decompose. It’s best used in places where you won’t be plowing often, such as walkways or at the base of a tree.
Compost and Composted Manure: A Longtime Favorite
Compost and composted manure are a longtime favorite of many organic farmers. You can coat the soil like you would with any mulch, or even mulch around specific plants to insulate them and give them a few extra nutrients. Of course, you should make sure that this compost does not have seeds or weeds in it before you put it in your garden.
Use Caution with Grass Clippings
Grass clippings decompose very quickly and become slick and have a pungent smell. They also tend not to allow water to get to the plant because they have such high water content themselves. They should only be used if the lawn was untreated; some lawn care products and pesticides can kill plants.
Straw is Easy
Often used in vegetable gardens, straw makes garden beds less muddy and protects plants from various diseases. As an added bonus, straw composts slowly so it will last for the entire season, it’s easy to rake up, and it is a good habitat for beneficial bugs like spiders.
Newspaper is Easier
They are everywhere and they are easy to use. Since the majority of newspapers now use a safe, organic dye, using newspaper is becoming more popular amongst hobbyists and urban gardeners. Layered sheets of newspaper will retain moisture and keep soil temperatures regulated. The layers will kill grass which will add additional nutrients to new beds. Newspaper will last through the entire season as it slowly decomposes into the soil.
Inorganic mulches don’t add any nutrients to the soil, but they do not require replacement as often as organic mulches because they do not decompose.
Careful with Stone and Gravel
Always tread lightly here, since stone and gravel are hard to remove once they are added to a garden. That said, they offer some extra heat to the plants and they are perfect for gardens that need a good drainage system.
Plastic is Okay
Plastic is perfect for trees or other plants that don’t need to be fertilized frequently. Of course, plastic gets hot in the summer and, while it kills weeds, it also kills roots and beneficial nutrients in the soil. If you go this route you must also put holes in the plastic so that moisture can enter. If there are puddles, there needs to be more holes. Another more porous alternative is landscape fabric.
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