Have you ever admired those weed-free, perfectly manicured gardens that look as though they are covered in a layer of woodchips? Here’s a little gardening secret—that layer that adds a professional-looking, finishing touch to flowerbeds is called mulch. And as much as it enhances the beauty of a garden, mulch improves the health of the soil and lightens your gardening chores, too. Here are some of the benefits and a DIY guide to creating your own fabulous mulch.
Improve the soil
Organic mulches gradually break down and become part of the soil structure, improving its tilth (the condition of cultivated soil), so that roots are better able to absorb nutrients and moisture from the ground. And, depending on the type of mulch you use, it also enriches the soil with minerals and other essential plant food elements.
During the summer, mulch acts as a barrier against the drying effects of the sun and wind, preventing evaporation and keeping moisture in the soil. This cuts down on the need for supplemental irrigation, which helps conserve precious water resources.
Keep it cool
On hot days, soil temperatures can rise high enough to cause many garden plants to wilt. Although most recover during the cool of the evening, these widely fluctuating temperatures can adversely affect plant health. Mulch acts as an insulator, moderating soil temperatures and reducing plant stress.
Away with weeds
Both organic and inorganic mulches help suppress weeds. Blocked from the sun under a layer of newspapers, shredded leaves or plastic, most weed seeds are unable to germinate. And, mulch prevents weed seeds blown in from the neighbouring area from reaching the soil below, so they fail to take hold.
Organic mulches are those that break down over time and become incorporated into the soil. A wide range of materials is available, and mulches vary from region to region, depending on local availability. Popular choices include bark chips, crushed shells, composted manure, gravel and straw.