Soil mulching

Mulching in horticulture is the protection of plants from adverse environmental factors: preventing the growth of weeds, keeping the soil moist, protecting it from erosion by rain, and the formation of a surface crust. In nature, mulch is simply fallen leaves and plant debris. In the garden, mulch can also include compost, wood shavings, rotted manure, cardboard, etc. Mulching is a great help for every gardener to avoid this extra effort.

Mulching Features

The main task is to cover the soil with a layer of mulching material. Any material should be dense enough to inhibit the growth of weeds, but light and permeable to allow water and air to enter the soil.

The benefits of mulching:

  • protects the soil from drying out and reduces the need for watering;
  • prevents the growth of most weeds between plantings;
  • soil fertilizer;
  • soil protection from water and wind erosion;
  • waste biomaterial is used (hay, wood chips from tree pruning);
  • creates an ideal microclimate for the life of plant roots;
  • when the mulch decomposes, humus is formed, which naturally fertilizes the soil;
  • creates aesthetic flower beds.

Unprotected soil dries quickly in the sun, heavy rains form a crust that prevents oxygen from entering the soil. It must be loosened, aerated and watered frequently. In summer, mulching prevents the loss of moisture from the soil, water remains available for the plant, thereby increasing the efficiency of its development.

The underground part (roots) of the plant is protected from low temperatures in the autumn-winter period. This dramatically reduces the risk of plant death during extreme cold or frost.

Reducing the growth of weeds. Weeds cannot breathe properly and catch light. This interferes with their survival and leads to death, which saves time and energy for the gardener.

Mulching also reduces nutrient leaching by keeping them closer to the roots. This favorably affects the early ripening period, the quantity and quality of the crop.

The soil will be protected from erosion and compaction caused by rain and irrigation. Ultimately, the overall soil structure improves, making it easier to prepare land for subsequent crops.

A bed with plantings of strawberries

Note! Mulching strawberries protects the crop in direct contact with the ground. Thanks to the layer of mulch, it is not at risk.

What materials to choose for mulching?

Each mulching material has its own advantages and disadvantages, and must be appropriate for the soil and vegetation. From several types of materials you can choose which has its own advantages.

Choosing the best mulch for your garden depends on many factors, including personal preference and budget. In the garden, both organic and inorganic mulch can be used effectively. Organic mulching material is natural products often from your own garden. Their advantage is that when they decompose, they release useful substances into the soil, which have a beneficial effect on the soil, increasing its fertility. The disadvantage is that it needs to be replenished periodically.

To increase soil fertility, choose organic mulch:

  • compost;
  • straw;
  • dry leaves;
  • cut grass;
  • chopped tree bark;
  • pine needles.

Compost is readily available and breaks down quickly, improving the soil. The downside is that it needs to be replenished frequently and can contain weed seeds.

Bark for flower beds
The most famous mulching agent is the bark. This material can be used under a hedge, on decorative beds, on paths. This material is easy to work with and decomposes slowly over 2-3 years.
In flowerbeds where there are large gaps between plants, the bark acidifies the soil, benefiting, for example, rhododendrons and azaleas. Wood chips and bark are not suitable for vegetable beds and lime-loving plants.
The leaves are suitable for beds of perennials or under small fruit bushes. They are readily available and their decomposition creates quality compost.
 Leaf mulch

The disadvantage is that the leaves, when wet, reduce the oxygen and moisture content of the soil. Before mulching, they can be well mixed with compost,

Additional Information! The leaves of some trees (walnut, chestnut) are not suitable as mulching material. Walnut leaves decompose less well and contain substances that prevent the growth of other plants. Mulch them right under the nut.

Straw mulching is an inexpensive and useful cover, but it degrades quickly and can provide a haven for rodents. Hay may contain perennial weed seeds and is easily blown away by the wind, so lawn hay is preferred over grassland hay.
You can use finely chopped grass from a mower. Suitable for fruit trees and bushes. In addition to being a mulch, it also serves as food for organisms in the soil and a source of nitrogen for plants.
Grass mulching

]Cut grass should first be dried or applied in a thin layer so that they do not rot. Also, you can not use grass trimmings treated with chemicals in the garden.
Pine needles stay in place better than most mulches. It decomposes slowly, and is not so acidic as to change the pH of the soil.

Note! It is necessary to prefer mulching material that does not carry increased risks. Sawdust and shavings should not be from chemically treated wood. Do not use leaves if they are infected with pests or fungal diseases.

Sawdust is a well-known mulch, but it absorbs nitrogen from the soil as it decomposes. As a result, plants may grow worse. They can be mixed with grass or compost to eliminate nitrogen deficiency.
The bark is used exclusively in the ornamental garden, especially under acid-loving perennials, it is not suitable for the garden.
Inorganic mulching materials
They have the advantage of not degrading or decomposing very little.
Inorganic mulch:

  • cardboard;
  • plastic films of various types;
  • nonwoven material;
  • gravel, sheben;
  • agrofibre.

Material that is suitable against weed growth – non-woven fabrics, cardboard. Cardboard is a cheap and versatile material. Select without color printing (colors may contain heavy metals). Before use, remove all staples, tapes and stickers.
Mulching with cardboard is easy. The place to be covered must first be watered, as cardboard boxes do not pass moisture well. You can put straw or hay on cardboard boxes. after about two weeks,
The black plastic film helps warm the soil in spring, reduces water loss, and is convenient. It is impenetrable, so it is more difficult to water there.
The soil under the plastic becomes hot in summer unless shaded by leaves or covered with another mulch.
Transparent film perfectly warms the soil in spring, but does not cope with weeds.
[ Inorganic mulching materials

Crushed stone, gravel, brick chips create a permanent mulch around bushes and trees. However, this mulch is expensive, difficult to move, and can end up on the lawn. Weed seeds can penetrate rocks.
Agrofibre suppresses weeds by allowing air and water to pass through, retaining moisture in the soil.

How to mulch correctly?

The mulch stays on the soil all year round, replenishing as needed. In the spring, from March to May, until the first heat begins, it is removed for a while so that the soil warms up sufficiently. After winter, it will remain very cold and slow down the growth of plants. Then cover the area again.
Fresh and damp material should only be covered with a thin layer. A thick layer may begin to rot. Dry material can be laid in thicker layers, but not too high to unnecessarily attract voles or other pests.

Note! Too much mulch will weigh down the soil.

It should also be taken into account that finely cut material will decompose faster than larger pieces.
When mulching, two main procedures need to be distinguished – surface and local mulching. Surface mulching helps get rid of weeds almost effortlessly, decomposes under the mulch, and further enriches the soil with nutrients.
Free space in flower beds with perennials can be planted with ground cover plants growing in the form of pillows.
 Cover plants for the garden

Mulching in autumn

I usually do not use mulch in the fall, except for unplanted beds, to prevent erosion. Spread a thick layer of compost or well-rotted organic matter on bare soil, you can also use crushed leaves. In the fall, mulch keeps the soil moist, which can lead to root rot and plant death.

Mulching in winter protects plant roots from the cold. Mulching roses is important so that the frozen ground is completely covered, the plant remains dormant until spring.

] Preparing roses for winter

Apply a layer of 20 to 30 cm. Straw, pine needles or crushed leaves are good winter mulch.

Mulching in spring

Remove the winter mulch in the spring, when the danger of hard frost is gone, so that the ground can warm up.

Lawn mulching improves the texture and composition of the soil, thereby reducing disease, resulting in a greener, healthier lawn. It is always best to remove grass clippings from the lawn at the beginning and end of the growing season when decomposition is slow.

Mulching of trees is carried out up to 1 m from the tree. It is not necessary to dig under a tree and get rid of grass or weeds. You can fertilize the area with compost or mature manure, lay out non-woven fabric or cardboard on the area, place stones or other non-degradable mulching material around the trunk to prevent weeds from growing.

Weed protection

As a weed control, you can plant aromatic herbs such as lavender, wormwood, mint, capuchin, calendula.

Permanent flower beds, where plantings consist of perennials and woody plants, are mulched with bark.

When sowing seeds, a thin layer of sawdust can be used as mulch to protect the soil. Seedlings, unlike weeds, are able to break through a layer of mulch and grow further. Many vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, cauliflower grow best when mulched to provide moisture even during very dry periods.