The Beginner's Guide to Mulch
Mulch is the ultimate low-maintenance winter blanket for your garden. Our beginner’s guide is here to answer those initial burning questions, so you can master mulching in no time.
What is mulch?
Mulch is a protective insulation for your garden or lawn, to help enrich soil and plant life. It is often made from organic matter, however, there is a wide range of mulch types (which we will cover below).
Why Should I Mulch?
Mulching is one of the best things you can do for your garden. Some of its benefits include:
- Retaining moisture and an even soil temperature
- Significant weed prevention
- Limiting soil erosion
- Increases your soil’s nutrient intake
- Decreases chemical use
- Improving your garden’s overall health and appearance
Which Mulch should I choose?
Organic Mulch is the most popular type of mulch. It is biodegradable and improves the soil quality as it directs nutrients to the roots. Some examples of organic mulch include:
There are a couple things to consider when choosing an organic mulch. The first is what type of garden you’re applying the mulch to:
Veggie garden: If you’re planting or re-planting a veggie garden, dig organic compost into your garden mix. This replenishes the nutrients that were taken out of the previous crop and reduces the need for fertilisers. When it comes to the mulch, pea straw is the best option when growing veggies. Not only does pea straw keep the weeds out, but it is also easy to reapply after each harvest and is high in nitrogen – something your crops will thank you for!
Flower garden: If you’re wanting to protect your flowers, it’s best to use an organic compost before planting or re-planting. Top this with a leaf or bark mulch to keep the weeds under control.
Don’t forget to also consider your soil conditions before choosing a mulch. Vegetable plants struggle with wet and heavy soil, so it’s best to avoid thick, moisture-retentive mulch. On the other hand, dry and sandy soil requires mulch that will encourage moisture to seep through.
When should I apply mulch?
Early summer or late spring are often suggested as the best times to lay mulch. However, if your priority is to prevent weeds, it's better to apply the mulch sooner rather than wait for the ideal seasonal time.
How much mulch?
The recommended amount of mulch is 2–4 inches in depth. If you’re mulching in summer or spring, it’s better to use a thinner layer of around 2 inches. In winter, increase the thickness to 4 inches for a warmer garden blanket. Keep in mind that too much mulch will suffocate your plants.
How do I apply Mulch?
- Prep the Soil – wet the soil before laying mulch. Get rid of any weeds. Don’t pull, you want to make sure you’re getting the roots and not just the top. You can also simply spray the weeds before adding any mulch
- Trim the Edges – This is especially helpful if you’re mulching area is smaller, like around shrubs or flower gardens. Using a shovel or manual edger, carefully create an edge for the mulching area. For trees, it’s a good idea to use stones to line the edge. This not only creates a neater finish, but also helps to stabilize the mulch.
- Fertilize – If using an organic mulch, add nitrogen-rich fertilizer before mulching. Organic mulch can deprive the soil of its nitrogen as it decomposes
- Start Small – It’s important to shovel a small amount at a time. Dumping all the mulch into the area at once only makes the process more tedious and increases the chance of suffocation.
- Spread it out – Once you have a few small piles, use your hands or a rake to spread a layer of around 2-4 inches in thickness. Keep a gap between the stems or trunks and the mulch to give your plants some room to breathe.