Understanding the Benefits of Garden Mulch

A great option for improving the quality of the plant life and lawn is to include high-quality mulch. Mulch is actually a protective layer of organic or inorganic materials placed around your plants provide essential nutrients, stop or slow down the weed growth, reduce soil erosion, and retain the soil moisture.  There are actually more to discover when using mulch for your garden at home.



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Using mulch is a good gardening habit but not mandatory; the benefits, however, make it worth the effort. A really good job of mulching your garden usually offers these benefits:

  • Inhibits weed germination and growth. (Weeds are not only unsightly, but they also steal resources from desirable garden┬áplants!)
  • Holds in soil moisture, protecting your plants from drying out quickly
  • Moderates soil-temperature fluctuations (This benefit is especially valuable during that turbulent-weather period in spring when you don’t want your plants to be stressed.)
  • In cold-winter areas, protects plant roots from winter cold and helps prevent frost-heaving, in which plants are literally pushed out of the ground by the natural expansion and contraction of the soil as it cools off and heats up
  • In hot-summer areas, helps keep plant roots cooler
  • Depending on what you use, adds a bit of welcome nutrition to your garden as it breaks down

The “right” or “best” mulch to use depends on your climate, the part of the country you’re in, and the part of the yard you’re using it in. Some mulches are free, while you can purchase others locally. Experiment to find out what you and your plants prefer.

Table 1 provides the basic information you need to know about some of the more popular options.

Table 1: Comparing Mulching Options

Type of Mulch Advantages Concerns
Grass clippings Is cheap, readily available, and easy to apply Decays quickly, so you must replenish often. If you use weed killers on your lawn or nitrogen-heavy fertilizer, it may adversely affect other parts of the garden; can turn slimy if you apply more than an inch or so at a time; if the grass goes to seed before you cut it, the grass seeds can germinate in your garden beds (yikes!)
Wood or bark chips Looks neat and attractive; stays where you put it; is slow to decay Pine bark mulch is fairly acidic, which you may or may not want for your garden; if you apply too deeply (over 3″) or apply a deep layer up against tree and shrub trunks, you may create a hiding spot for a bark-damaging rodent, especially during winter
Decaying leaves Smothers weeds very well; helps hold in soil moisture Is not especially attractive; if it contains seeds, they can germinate and become a weed problem; if the leaves are soft, like maple leaves, the mulch can mat; if it’s acidic (oak especially), it can lower your garden soil’s pH



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