If you’re one who thinks that the grass is always greener on the other side, it’s time to get your hands dirty on the mulch way of life. With testimonies and raving reviews barking up storms (high five to those who got the pun) of how mulch has been the godsend to healthy, vibrant green grass lawns, it’s time to see what the fuss is about!
Breaking things down to simple English, mulch basically means any material spread over the soil surface. This could be organic or even synthetic as the main purpose is to act as a moisture retention in the soil to surpass weeds while keeping the soil cool.
Organic mulch does offer the benefit of fertility in the soil thanks to natural decomposition as opposed to opting for synthetic or inorganic mulch. As a rule of thumb, the dryer and woodier the mulch, the slower the decomposition and lesser the nutritional value it has for the soil.
As good practice, it pays to find out the origin of the manure, compost or straw used in your mulch since these materials are susceptible to containing weed seeds that sprout (you’d hate to have sprouts coming out from your mulch!). A point to note on going organic is the downside of having to replace your organic mulch due to decomposition.
Here are the main types of organic mulch and the best uses for them.
And we’re not talking Woof! The best use for bark mulch is close to its home – trees, garden beds, and shrubs. These places are ideal as you won’t be doing much digging which means that the bark won’t mix into the soil which becomes a big pain when trying to remove them in soil spots intended for new plants. Woody mulch like bark will outlast the finer organic mulch options.
As long as the compost or composted manure went under a reliable process, ensuring that they are weed-free, compost mulch works well as an all rounder. Whether it’s for coating or side dressing your plants to be insulated and pump them with drip-fed nutrients, compost can be used pretty much anywhere, anytime.
Grass clippings work best when trying to suppress weeds. Given the high water content, grass clippings will decompose very quickly and can result in a slimy, unpleasant odour, which does make you think twice about using them. If the weather is too moist, the clippings will mat down which restricts water from passing through into the soil.
The most effective way to use grass clippings is through a mulching mower that clips the grass and mulches it, leaving the leftovers on your lawn.
Straw and hay
For those vegetable-lovers with proud veggie gardens, straw and hay are extremely popular for this purpose. With natural soil-borne disease resistance that stops lower plant leaves being infected, straw and hay mulch also help make walkways less muddy. Straw and hay decompose very slowly, which means easy management that will last all of growing season. The great thing about this mulch is in its ability to attract preferable pest-controlling insects such as spiders (great for plants not so great for mummies!). And to put the icing on the cake, straw and hay mulch comes really easy to rake up or work into soil when it’s time to hit the refresh button on your verge garden!
Synthetic and Natural Mulch
Now you may be one of those mums who stand strong by the term organic, but just for educational purposes, synthetic and natural mulch does a good job of retaining moisture and blocking weeds from growing.
Don’t expect these guys to add any value in fertile soil but they do come with a benefit of not decomposing, which means no need to replace them anywhere close to how many times you would organic mulch.
Ideal choices to place around foundation planting, shrubs and trees, plastic mulch prevent weeds from sprouting. Considering how these kinds of plants do not require constant fertilisation, you won’t be working actively on these beds so having an easy solution plastic mulch can make life much easier. The major drawback with plastic is in its heat retention, which means that during hot summer days, your plants may be at risk of being smothered in heat. To avoid this, make sure there is plenty of moisture and allow spacing between the mulch to optimise water flow.
Stone and gravel
These natural mulches are great for aesthetic value with the added benefit of reducing weed sprouting. Stone and gravel mulch are ideal in places where good drainage is required or with plants that love a little more heat (think Mediterranean herb gardens). As an FYI, stone is hard to remove so unless you’re prepared to do plenty of work or have someone else to fill in for you, do think twice before using stone or gravel mulch in your garden.
Which mulch you choose depends on the function and aesthetic you are looking for. There are more and more choices each year, so review your options before you start spreading and choose a mulch that will please you and aid your garden for many years.
Article provided by All Green Nursery