What is mulch? Mulch is a material that is spread around a plant or over the soil surface as a protective layer. If we think of soil as a ‘cake,’ the mulch is simply the ‘icing’ or ‘topping’ that provides a huge range of benefits for you and your garden. Mulch comes from a wide variety of organic or inorganic materials and ranges in cost from free to expensive.
Why do you need it anyway? These are some of the reasons to use the ‘marvellous miracle of mulch’ in your garden:
1. Adds organic matter to your soil, which helps make your garden healthier and more resistant to pest and disease (+ saves money on pest control).
2. Provides valuable slow-release nutrients and prevents vitamin loss in plants (saves money on fertilisers).
3. Helps retain moisture in the soil for longer as it prevents evaporation by shielding the soil from the sun and reduces water run-off during rain or watering. This reduces the amount of water needed (saves money).
4. Shades delicate seedlings from too much sun (a mini umbrella).
5. Reduces time spent watering (saves time and money).
6. Is a great insulator by regulating soil temperature – keeps roots consistently cool in summer and warm in winter (reduces plant stress).
7. Provides a natural barrier to stop weeds from growing and competing with plants for nutrients by blocking the sunlight. You’ll find it easier to remove the few weeds that do grow (saves you time).
8. Increases biological activity in your soil by providing beneficial micro-organisms and earthworms with food.
9. Improves soil conditions – helps to bind sandy soils and open up clay soils.
10. Saves time and energy cultivating the soil.
11. Stops nutrients from leaching out of the soil.
12. Protects plants from frost damage by acting as a protective ‘blanket.’
13. Provides a clean surface for produce like fruit and nuts to fall, ready for harvesting.
14. Improves soil drainage and structure as it decomposes.
15. Provides support around plants especially young seedlings.
16. Recycles waste materials.
17. Protects plants from mud-splash during watering or rain.
18. Prevents erosion and soil compaction particularly from foot traffic on pathways and play areas.
19. Improves the visual appearance of your garden.
20. Can provide a home for plant-friendly insects.
So regardless of where you live and whether your plants are in pots or beds, mulch is a key ingredient for a successful organic garden. I’d love to hear: Do YOU use mulch?
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