Mulch is not one that is promoted heavily throughout the world of the amateur gardener.
Mulching bark chippings, leaf mould, crushed shells and well rotted manure being placed on your beautiful garden is not appealing. We can see why, but you are missing out! It is in fact incredibly good for your garden; improving water penetration and air movement, moderating fluctuating soil temperatures and discouraging weed growth amongst other things.
It can be broken down into two categories, biodegradable and non-biodegradable. Biodegradable mulch breaks down gradually, releasing nutrients into the soil as it does. This does mean that the layers will need replacing overtime.
Whilst maybe more convenient, non-biodegradable mulches do not boost fertility amongst the soil. They do suppress weeds and can look decorative depending on what you use as mulch; some people have used CD’s, sea shells and tumbled glass amongst the familiar pebbles, gravel, stone etc.
If you are new to gardening, or mulching, and you want to get started- here are a few choices for your borders:
As the leaves start to change colour and fall from your trees in the garden, you can create a nutrient rich mulch for free. You will need to shred the leaves, either by hand or use a lawn mower with a bag attachment that will cut the leaves into the perfect size and they will collect them for you- perfect! The various colours of the leaves will provide a beautiful and colourful border for your flowerbed.
That’s right, grass from your lawn. If you are an avid gardener, you will mow your garden quite frequently, leaving you with glass clippings. These are another ideal mulch ingredient that will not cost you a penny! They will act as a natural fertiliser as they are high in nitrogen, giving your garden vegetables a boost!
Straw and hay:
Use salt hay or weed free hay for the most eye pleasing form of mulch. It contains all the benefits that other mulches do such as retaining soil moisture, keeping down weeds and adding extra matter to the soil as it breaks down. Ensure you use weed and seed free hay, and don’t put it right to the edge of your vegetable stems or trunks as you will be inviting all sorts of bugs to damage your garden.
Whilst mulch will prevent weeds from growing, it cannot get rid of the ones you already have so before you do anything, get rid of all the weeds from your garden. The mulch will ensure that light is excluded from your soil, slowing weed growth; any that do get through will be able to be pulled easily.
You want to lay your mulch thick. This is important as the depth of the mulch will affect how moisture is retained and how effective it is at preventing further weeds. Aim to lay about four inches of mulch, as stated above, do not put this right to the edge of plants and ensure any areas where new plants are being prepared has no mulch!