What is a mulch?
A mulch is a layer of material applied to the surface of soil. (Wikipedia)
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It is used to retain moisture in the soil, suppress weeds, keep the soil cool, and make the garden bed look more attractive. Organic mulches also help improve the soil’s fertility, as they decompose – (The pruce).
There are organic and inorganic mulches. Your choice of a much will depend on a number of factors. Terrain, purpose, availability of materials among others.
1. Composted animal manure (Organic)
A compost of nutrient rich animal manure is the best as mulch for vegetables. However, make sure it is well decomposed before you apply it to your garden. Fresh manure will burn your plant. Also, avoid dog, cat and pig manures because they can habour disease-causing organisms.
2. Grass Clippings or Shredded Leaves (Organic)
You can make your own organic mulch from grass clippings and shredded leaves. You can use them to mulch garden beds and around trees and shrubs. Do not apply in thick layers and also do not use clippings from lawn that have been treated with herbicides and insecticides.
3. Cocoa Chips (Organic)
Cocoa chips have rich colour and pleasant scent. They are easy to handle and very appropriate for all planting areas. Cocoa chips decompose quickly. Cocoa mulch, as chocolate and its byproducts can be fatal to animals if consumed. Take caution and do not apply where there are pets or wildlife.
4. Wood Chips or Bark (Organic)
Both hard wood and soft wood chips or wood barks can be used as mulch materials. Use such mulch types around trees and shrubs. These are best used for walkways because it leaches large amounts of nitrogen from the soil as it decomposes.
5. Straw (Organic)
Straw from most grasses are ideal for use as mulches. You must acquire your straw at the stage when the grass has not developed seeds or you may also introduce the challenge of weeds. Hay contains seeds and must be avoided.
6. Newspaper or Cardboard (Organic)
Among the mulch types, you can also use shredded black and white newspaper or natural cardboard that is not dyed to effectively suppress weeds. First, apply two or three layers of newspaper at a time and cover with a heavier organic material such as leaves or grass clipping to hold the newspapers in place. Do not mix coloured newspaper or coated card board. They do not decompose readily and may expose your garden to toxic dyes.
7. Rock or Crusher Dust (Inorganic)
These materials and similar ones are best suited as mulch for walkways and paths. They will not breakdown or decompose. They are also cost effective. However, do not use around plants. They do not retain water effectively. They also get heated easily and can burn the plant’s roots.
8. Landscape Plastic or Fabric (Inorganic)
The plastic polyethylene is ideal as a weed killer in the short term. This is so because it is impermeable i.e. water and other nutrients cannot pass through. Install an irrigation system under the plants or you may have to water your plants manually. The plastic is replaced at the end of each growing season.
The landscape fabric is more expensive but very effective in suppressing weeds. This material allows air and water to pass through. Use landscape fabric with a layer of organic mulch e.g. wood chips, on top.
9. Rubber (Inorganic)
Rubber mulch is made from recycled, pulverized tires.It is durable and inexpensive. This is good for high traffic areas like playgrounds. It does not decompose and toxins in the rubber can leach into the soil.
Importance of Mulch
- Mulch helps to balance soil temperatures.
- It retains water helping to keep the roots moist.
- Mulch suppresses weeds growth to prevent root competition.
- Mulch prevents soil compaction as it decomposes and adds to the soil.
- It also reduces water runoff and erosion of the soil by wind or water.
- When soil temperatures are balanced, activities of soil organisms are enhanced and soil is improved.
- Some mulch esp. organic decays to release soil nutrients into the soil.
- Mulching helps to make good use of materials that may be “waste”.
A quick glance through the benefits of mulch to the environment, soil and plants. There are many benefits not covered. We ask that you share them and we shall update post accordingly.
Recommended materials and rates for mulching
We recommend that as much as practicable use organic materials as mulch over inorganic materials. Compost remains the best mulch materials of the mulch types, with all its added advantages.
We advice that you apply mulch at a depth of 2 to 4 inches. Heaping mulch at the base of plants can lead to insects and rodents infestation. It can also because a build up of excess moisture in the root zone and cause root rot.
We would like to hear your experience with mulch on the comments and the mulch types you use.
Mulch – wikipedia.org
The Importance of Mulching – arborday.org
What is Mulch? – thespruce.com