It’s an afterthought for some gardeners and a product many others refuse to go without, but mulch is an important garden tool that shouldn’t be overlooked. Coming in many different types and appearances, all mulch serves a few basic purposes.
* Water retention. Mulch holds water in the soil, which is vital for keeping plants well fed.
* Temperature control. Mulch can help maintain a more stable soil temperature no matter the outside weather.
* Weed control. Weeds don’t like to plant themselves in areas where lots of mulch is present.
* Appearance. A decorative mulch can make almost any garden look great.
With the benefits of mulch being so strong, it’s little wonder so many gardeners insist on using it in their designs. It protects plants and helps with soil and water conservation while also looking great. It doesn’t get better than that!
What’s more, mulch comes in many different forms. Some lend themselves to maintaining soil and water better than others, but they all serve the same basic purposes.
The types of mulch include:
* Rock. Rock and gravel mulch is great for not decomposing or blowing away, but it doesn’t improve soil quality because the rock doesn’t decompose. It’s great for those who hate replacing mulch on a fairly regular basis, but it’s difficult to make look great when weeds are present.
* Bark. Natural tree bark mulch is great for improving soil quality, but it can steal nitrogen from the soil in the process. Since it’s pretty light, it tends to require frequent replacing, too.
* Hay. This natural mulch is wonderful for the soil as it tends to decompose very quickly. It’s also a good source of nitrogen, but it can add weeds to beds rather than protect against them. When well chosen and well placed, however, it gives a really unique appearance.
* Grass. What’s left over after a fresh mowing can work well as a mulch. It can smell if it’s piled up too high as the decomposition process starts, so keep it no thicker than an inch deep.
* Leaves. Tree leaves and pine needles that fall to the ground are wonderful for use as mulch. They are a great weed barrier and are good for insulating the soil, too. The downside here is they can look very messy and tend to blow away a little too easily.
* Wood chips. This is a good choice for mulching, but it’s important to keep it away from wood structures since it tends to attract termites and carpenter ants. It does decompose very slowly, however, which also robs the soil of nitrogen in the process.
While not all mulches are ideal for every circumstance, they are important tools for gardening. Find the one that looks right and works for your plants and you’ll be happy you did.