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Mulch and Mulching

Mulching is the application of organic matter on any exposed soil between plants, shrubs and trees and should be carried out while the soil is warm and moist.

Benefits of Mulching

  • To retaining moisture – a good layer of garden compost or well-rotted mature will keep the soil below cool and moist and therefore help retain moisture. Never mulch on top of dry soil as it may stop rainwater soaking in
  • To suppress weeds – a layer of mulch on top of the soil will exclude any light from weed seeds helping to stop them germinating. However, you must ensure that the ground is weed free before you mulch as it does not actually stop the weeds from growing
  • To improve the soil – the mulch will eventually be dragged down into the soil by worms thereby adding goodness to the lower levels of the soil. This is sometimes known as the “no dig” technique for soil improvement.

Types of Mulch

  • Fresh manure releases ammonia which can scorch or kill plants, therefore, should be kept for six months before being used so that it rots down sufficiently. Don’t keep it too long though as you will find all the nutrients will have been washed out by the rain
  • Leaf Mould is just well rotted leaves; click here to find out how to make your own leaf mould
  • Mushroom Compost tends to be alkaline due to the chalk used in the casing material but if you live in a mushroom growing area it can be a good source of organic matter. Especially good for acid soils
  • Chipped Bark is good for mulching but composted bark is excellent for soil improvement
  • Garden Compost is rich in nutrients and is one of the best soil improvers there is; click to find out how to make your own compost
  • Peat used to be the main soil improver for gardeners but in recent years more and more people are realising the damage peat-extraction is making to wetland areas so it is best avoided