What is Mulching and How to Mulch: Enhance Your Garden

Mulch has been derived from the Greek word molsch, meaning soft or tender to decay. This term is used for the addition of leaves and straws for covering the ground. Mulching is the easiest way to ensure success in gardening. Mulch is an irreplaceable hero, either when one is involved in planting gardens at a larger scale or is planting with containers and pots. Lets look in detail, what is mulching and how to mulch.


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Soil Mulching: An Efficient Way for Improving Soil Structure, Plant Growth, and Yield Quality 

The most important function of using mulch is to retain moisture in the planting media. The yield and quality of crops are much dependent on the presence and availability of moisture in the soil. Especially in the arid and semiarid regions where the land is dry, and rainfall is less, there is much need to retain and maintain the moisture contents in soil.

By covering the upper layer of soil with a thin layer of mulching material, the level of evaporations from the soil surface can be significantly reduced. After mulching, 80% of moisture contents in the soil are retained. By protecting the top layer of land from the intense heat of the sun, the water losses are significantly reduced, and a better environment is offered for plant growth. 

The quality and quantity of food production can be significantly improved by the management of soil and the environment with the help of mulching materials. Mulching actively helps in controlling water and wind erosion. In modern agriculture, mulching is a critical practice. With the help of mulching paper, the need for the application of herbicides, pesticides, maintenance of land temperature, and weed control are reduced. 

The coatings of mulching can also be used for decorating the garden. For this purpose, wooden chips, stone chips, and barks can be used. By using this material, earlier existing structures can be improved and developed into a masterpiece. Different kinds of flowering beds and bare soil can also be decorated by using mulches. 

Mulching Types and How to Mulch

Different kinds of mulch are being used as an integral part of agricultural management practice for improving plant growth and yield. In this article, few organic and inorganic mulches will be discussed. In addition we will go through the benefits of mulching.

Organic Mulches 

Some commonly used mulches are wood chips, newspapers, leaves, grass clippings, and pine straw. Pine straws are well-known materials for making good quality mulch. Still, these straws should be placed near the acid-loving vegetation. Pine straws are free and are an abundant resource in various parts of the word, and collecting them is very convenient. Above all different acid-loving vegetables and fruits are benefited from the mulch of pine straws such as garlic, blueberries, tomatoes, strawberries, and potatoes.

What is Mulching and How to Mulch
Coconuts used as Organic Mulch

Grass Clippings 

Grass clippings also make excellent mulch, and one of the best parts is that it is accessible and free. Furthermore, there is redistribution of lawn matter to the garden, so it offers multiple benefits such as nutrient supply and moisture retention. Nitrogen and other nutrients are added to the soil due to the decomposition of grass clippings. This increases their bioavailability to plants.

Additionally, it also improves the growth and activities of plant growth-promoting bacteria in the soil. The grass clippings should not be contaminated with pesticides and fertilizers. Avoid collecting grass clippings from weedy areas.

Plant Leaves 

Many gardeners are using plant leaves as favorite mulching material. Generally, no or very fewer drawbacks are associated with leaf mulching as they can also be spread on the soil for protection in winter conditions. Maple and oak leaves are comparatively more popular as mulching material.

The leaves can be turned into the shredded mulch by running a mower on these leaves, which significantly helps to release the moisture contents. Newspapers can also be used as mulching material in the garden, but the paper should be non-magazine type and non-colored. This source is readily available and is relatively inexpensive. The use of newspapers is the most efficient and easiest way to reduce the growth of weeds and to keep the soil moist.

Wooden Chips 

The utilization of wood chips sawdust and shredded wood is an important source of mulching material for gardening purposes. Here it is an important thing to note that the wood should not be lodged with any synthetic chemicals. The fresh wooden chips should be placed around both sides of the garden fence. Wood is dense, yet an excellent source for conserving the moisture in soil along with reducing the growth of weeds in the gardens. 

Wooden Chips Mulch

Compost Manure and Organic Waste 

Compost and manure are also excellent mulches, but they should be free from smell and diseases. If one has chicken farms or horses, then it is beneficial to get a few bags of manure from them. The compost should be highly sterilized to prevent the germination of any seeds. The compost can be applied as dressing or as covering for feeding and insulation.

Mulch can also be made at home by using the trimmings of extra landscape. Leftover, grass clippings, straws, and leaves that are found in the garden or yard can be efficiently utilized at mulching material. 

Non-Organic Mulches 

Synthetic and non-organic mulches are well known to suppress growing weeds and holding soil moisture. These mulches do not decompose like that of organic mulches. As these mulches are not made up of living things, they do not serve as a source of food for fungus and pests. 

Black Plastic Mulch 

The sheet made up of black plastic is used in the vegetation where there is no need for fertilization and soil digging. Plastic does not allow any penetration of light, air, and moisture, so it is a complete barrier for the growth of weeds. Moreover, it is recommended to make some holes in the sheet for the insertion of plants. Especially in the summer season, the number of small holes should be more to ensure enough seepage of moisture. 

Black Plastic Mulch

Landscaping Fabric, Gravel, Sand and Stone

Landscape fabric functions as the best alternative to the black plastic mulching sheet. This fabric is porous and allows the passing of rain and air through it. However, disguising the fabric with gravel or stone is a better idea. Gravel, sand, and chipped stones are best suited for the areas where good drainage is required around plants. But the removal of this material from the garden is difficult. 

Soil Mulching in Winter 

Winter mulching is done to protect the upper soil surface from freezing and drying. In the winter conditions, coarse materials are used for mulching. In winter, the mulch layer should be 6-8 cm thick. After harvesting of crops, there is the removal of perennial weeds from the garden, followed by loosening of the soil. After that, there is an application of compost to the soil and is covered by the layer of mulch. Other than the protection of soil, winter mulch also helps to protect organs and roots of the perennial plantation. Perennial onion and bulbous requires mandatory mulching. 

Soil Mulching in Summer 

Summer mulching helps to improve the structure of the soil as they serve as a natural source of fertilizers and preservation of moisture. The mowed black film, weeds, and grasses are well adapted to these requirements. Summer mulches should not be used in the winter conditions as all the mulching materials have different characteristics. 

Source: Fix.com Blog

Benefits Of Adding Mulch to your Garden Soil

The effects of various kinds of mulching materials on crop yield and quality are apparent. Depending on the nature of mulching material and crop types, the results can be either be very positive. Beneficial aspects of mulching on crop growth, development, yield, and quality have been reported by various scientific studies. Mulching strongly helps to regulate the soil temperature by controlling the loss of moisture in the soil. Application of mulches also reduces the runoff, thereby controlling erosion, enhancing the penetration and retention of rainwater. Generally, organic mulches are much better than synthetic mulches. 

Addition of Nutrients 

The decomposition of organic mulches adds essential nutrients to the growing medium. Organic mulches serve as a natural source of fertilizers and enrich the soil with nutrients after decomposition. 

Pests and Weed Control 

Mulching has a significant role in pest and weed control. Mulch covers the upper layer of soil and inhibits the penetration of sunlight, air, and water, so the germination of weeds is reduced. Mulching also helps in the eradication of pests. The addition of pest repellent substances and oils in the mulch dramatically helps to reduce the population of pests. 

Improvement in Soil Quality 

Mulching practices significantly improves soil quality by prevention compaction and reducing crust formation. By the addition of organic mulches, soil structure is much enhanced, and as a result, good crop growth and better yield are obtained. The decays of inorganic mulches bind the looser particles of soil and cause the opening of tightened soil aggregates and particles. Mulching also controls the leaching of essential minerals.

Increased Biological Activity 

Mulching offers favorable environmental conditions for soil organisms. These organisms are crucial for improving drainage and soil structure. 

Plant Protection and Support 

The applied mulch offers excellent support to the younger seedlings and weaker stems. It also provides excellent protection against mud splashing and surface runoff. 

Enhancement of Natural Appearance 

The natural appearance of the garden is greatly enhanced when mulching is done correctly. In conclusion you can quickly improve your garden in terms of beauty and health with proper mulching. Check out my others posts for interesting articles like this one.

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