Mulching your garden is one of the best gardening practices to ensure your plants stay in top health during the year. In fact, I'm more often than not advising gardeners to mulch their gardens. I think some people see it as an 'optional' extra or something that's not really necessary but I couldn't disagree more!

How to mulch a garden

Mulching is relatively easy to do and has loads of benefits. The aim is to either cover around the base of a plant with mulch or the entire bed. I usually mulch the entire bed to get the maximum benefit. The most important thing is that you fully weed before hand or the weeds will simply carry on taking over the beds, especially by mulching and feeding them!

What is mulching?

Mulching is adding material to the top layer of soil to add a protective yet permeable layer. Usually, it is organic, ie compost or bark but can be gravel based if need be. This can either be added to the base of plants only or all over garden beds. I like to think of it as a breathable blanket that rests on the soil.

Garden Mulch

Dark brown compost mulch

The Benefits of Mulching

Mulching has a number of benefits.

Water retention: Mulching retains water which is especially important given the effects of climate change. It means that in hot weather you will need to water less and plants shouldn’t be as susceptible to wilting. It helps prevent evaporation of water from the soils surface.

Nutrient release: Organic mulch such as compost or green matter helps slowly release nutrients into the soil over a long period of time. It can help reduce or even negate the need for applying additional fertilisers. This can save money and time as one application of mulch in Autumn and Spring can save spot fertilising throughout the season.

Improving soil structure: Organic mulches, in particular, improve the crumb structure of the soil. Earthworms and microorganisms break down the organic matter such as compost and pull it down into the soil. This activity helps aerate and break up the soil. This can reduce the amount of digging required and can help reduce the release of C02 into the environment. This is a great garden hack to help improve the structure and texture of your soil without ever having to lift a spade!

Weed reduction: Mulching also helps reduce weeds especially with gravel based mulches. I’m keen to stress that when mulching you should always start off with a weed free bed. Weeds germination requires fine tilth for the seeds to take which is why freshly prepared ground always ends up with hundreds of opportunistic weeds! Adding mulch removes this environment and makes it harder for weeds to establish. If weeds do occur they are far easier to spot, especially with black compost, as they stick out like a sore thumb and can be removed quickly!

Types of Mulch

Compost: This is probably the best form of mulch as it contains a high level of nutrients

Gravel: This is particularly useful for alpine plants and pond plants as it helps reduce soil disturbance and assists with drainage. It contains no organic or nutrient value so won’t feed your plants.

Chipped bark: This is great for a decorative look and water retention. However, it can start to rob nitrogen from the ground, a core major nutrient, as the wood breaks down it uses nitrogen to do so. Care needs to be taken to balance the feed of the ground to compensate for this.

Mulching compost

Mulching may take some time dependant on the size of beds. If you’re short on time try mulching just around individual plants instead. 

Mulching around plants

Carefully spread your mulch around the plants to about 1-3cm deep. Take care not to mulch too deeply as this can cause stems of plants to rot and become damaged. So if in doubt less is more in this case. You can always re-mulch later in the season. That’s it, its super easy and also makes your garden look neat and smart. You can mulch at any time, as lost as there are no frosts. Ideally Spring and Autumn are the best times to mulch.

Happy mulching!

 

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