It will soon be mulching time again. Fall is an ideal time to mulch as the soil is still moist and warm. Waiting until winter starts is not recommended because by then the soil will be too cold and the mulch couldn’t do much to protect the roots of plants over the winter.
Mulching is very beneficial in organic gardening, it:
- helps keep soil warm during the winter
- helps retain moisture during the summer
- kills weeds
- encourages microbial activity in the soil
- improves soil structure
- deters some soil pests
- protects the roots of plants from extreme temperatures
Applying mulch is very easy since you are simply covering the soil around your plants. Just take note of these mulching guidelines:
- organic mulches must be between 2-3 inches thick
- when applying mulches, the soil should be moist and weeds pulled out to the roots
- do not mulch if the soil is frozen
- if you are making new beds, you can plant through sheets of mulch for better growth
- make sure the mulches is not in direct contact with the stems of plants, shrubs or trees because the mulch will soften that part making the plant more vulnerable to diseases
Mulching Materials For Vegetable Gardens
There are materials that are ideal for vegetable, herb and annual gardens as mulch like grass clippings, straw, pine needles and leaves.
Grass decomposes quickly especially when warm but do not apply too thickly because the material will tend to mat down when too thick (i.e. more than 3 inches) and will become a waterproof sheet. It is best to let the grass dry up a bit before laying it down over the soil.
Like grass, straw also breaks down pretty fast and is a good source of nutrients for the soil. It does not mat like grass though so you can lay it down thicker than the recommended 2-3 inches. Just take note though, straw is not a very good mulch when there’s too much rain because when wet, straw becomes a favorite shelter for slugs.
This material decomposes slowly and lets water seep through easily. Contrary to common beliefs, pine needles when applied as mulch at 2-3 inches thick do not alter the pH level of your soil.
Dried, shredded leaves are perfect for controlling weeds. Spread the leaves over the soil and around plants at 2 inches thick and just add more when needed. Earthworms turn leaves into soil fertilizer.