In nature, there is a living carpet covering the ground in forests and wooded areas. This carpet consists of leaves, bark, twigs, bugs, and other organic matter comprising what can be called nature’s own mulch.
What occurs naturally in wooded areas needs to be replicated in the areas around our home. And this is the time of year to begin our own task of mulching.
Besides the aesthetic impact of mulching its many other benefits include:
- Adding nutrients back into the soil
- Encouraging bacterial action in the soil
- Controlling the soil’s moisture level
- Maintaining an even soil temperature
- Reducing soil erosion
- Suppressing weeds
- Distributing incoming water and thus decreasing the chance that soil becomes compacted
Though mulching is a simple task, it does require a bit of forethought before you buy your bags. Where you are mulching and what you are mulching will dictate both how much mulch to buy, and the type of mulch you buy.
Usually you will want to apply mulch 3-4 inches deep except in very wet areas, where you should use a thinner application. Too much mulch in a wet area could create a decaying condition that will exacerbate the root rot of your precious plants. In areas where water drains vigorously, consider using decorative stones or pebbles.
This brings us to the importance of choosing the correct mulch for your home.
If you are mulching with raw sawdust, straw, or woodchips, you will need to supplement the soil with fertilizer as those materials will steal food from the soil. In addition, when mulching with materials such as manure, which haven’t completely aged, be sure to keep the material about a half an inch or so from the stem of your tree or plant. These mulches are still completing their break-down process and could burn (kill) your plant.
Finally, if you have an organic vegetable garden be sure your mulch isn’t made from recycled wood products such as pallets. Many of those items have been treated with chemicals, which are unfriendly to the organic gardener. The same concept applies to colored mulches, which are not suitable for organic gardeners.