Mulch – Get the low down
Shredded bark or wood chip mulches will last longer, but usually have to be topped up every 3 years.
What is mulch?
Spring is a perfect time of year to mulch your gardens – while perennials are still small and you can easily move around in the bed. Mulch is basically a layer of either organic or inorganic material that is laid down on top of the soil. Organic mulches will gradually break down over time, and become incorporated into the soil, helping to improve the soil structure. Shredded bark mulch is the most popular organic mulch, but you can also use wood chips, leaf mulch, composted manure or straw. Bark mulch and wood chips will take longer to break down than the other choices. Inorganic mulches have different benefits as they will not break down and include stone, black plastic sheeting or groundcover fabric. I usually restrict the uses of these inorganic mulches to pathways or vegetable gardens. In veggie gardens groundcover fabric can be lifted in the fall and the soil worked and improved. In permanent ornamental gardens, however you will not be able to improve the soil once it is down.
The benefits of mulching your gardens:
- Weed control – Both organic and inorganic mulches help suppress weeds. Seeds are blocked from the sun under a dark layer of material and most weed seeds are unable to germinate.
- Soil improvement – Organic mulches break down over time and help improve the soil structure so that roots are better able to absorb water and nutrients from the soil. Composted manure mulches will also enrich the soil with minerals and other plant nutrients.
- Water conservation – All mulches will help keep moisture in the soil by helping to prevent water evaporation.
- Soil insulation – Mulch will help keep soil temperatures even in both the hot summer and cold winter, therefore improving plant health. Black plastic sheeting or groundcover fabric can help heat up the soil early in the year so that vegetables can get off to a better start.
How to apply mulch:
Carefully spread 2-3” of mulch around your plants in late spring when plants are small enough to work around. Keep about 2” away from the base of plants to give perennials room to grow and help prevent rotting. Organic mulch such as leaf mulch, composted manure or straw can be worked into the soil and replaced each year. Shredded bark or wood chip mulches will last longer, but usually have to be topped up every 3 years.
We use shredded Cedar bark mulch on all our landscaping projects and we have it for sale at the farm both in bags and bulk. We also sell composted manure Nincompoop mulch in bags.