Mulch comes in many forms. Any organic material can be used - compost, straw, leaves, chopped up weeds, prunings, cardboard, paper, old carpet and clothes, wood shavings, kitchen scraps. Mulch has and array of benefits, but it needs to be several inches or many centimeters thick to do its job properly.
Mulch is a dynamic thing, acting like a compost blanket to improve the soil and retain moisture. Most natural environments have a protective layer of mulch which protects and enlivens the soil. Gardeners should aim to duplicate this natural process and achieve multitude of benefits. This specially applies for organic gardening where mulch is a key element of weed control.
1. Organic Weed Control - Mulch, which is itself free of weeds, keeps weeds at bay by smothering any seeds that germinate. However, you need to be careful that straw and recycled garden trimmings does not contain weed seeds. Bulk mulch bought from nurseries and garbage tips can contain noxious weeds. The mulch needs to be very thick otherwise the weed seedlings will not be smothered as they germinate. The mulch should also be turned over or raked through regularly to disrupt seed growth. While the mulch layer may have to be thin to start with around seedlings, it should be topped up as the plants grow. Rake or use a fork to break the seedlings off before adding more mulch.
2. Soil Health and Fertility - Mulch develops and maintains soil health and fertility. Many argue that mulch is the essential covering that is vital for soils with worms and insects working the organic matter in mulch into compost and new soil.
Micro organisms in the mulch layer on the soil surface generate nutrients that boost the fertility of the soil. Organic matter in the mulch holds water and the moisture sustain the life in the soil so the organic matter can be processed.
Many gardeners put vegetable scraps and kitchen waste directly into trenches in the garden beds, so that the composting process occurs within the garden itself.
3. Prevents Soil Compaction -Mulch helps prevent compaction in the soil and maximizes water penetration.
4. Mulch Keep Soil Moist and Retains Moisture - Mulch keeps water in the soil and also means that the water you add gets into the soil rather than running off. The soil is less compact and water in the mulch drips into the soil after you have stopped spraying. Also, watering the mulch transfers organic matter and nutrients from the mulch into the soil. Ultimately this means you use less water as less of it is lost through evaporation and runoff. You will need to water less frequently.
5. Mulch keeps Soil Temperature Lower During the Day and Warmer at Night - A moderate layer of mulch keeps the roots of you plants at a more even temperature and lowers the soil temperature on hot summer days. Keeping the soil and roots at a more even temperature helps to keep you plants healthy and makes them more resilient to disease and insect attack.
6. Mulch Helps Control Garden Pests - A thick layer of mulch keeps you plants healthier making them more resilient to disease and insect attack. The mulch layer also provides home to natural predators that help to keep pests under control naturally.
7. Mulch Improves the Look of Your Garden and Keeps the Garden Tidy and Attractive - A healthy layer of mulch is much more attractive than bare soil or weeds. The mulch later shifts the visual appearance to the plants rather than the soil.
8. Mulch Softens the Soil and Makes the Soil more Friable and Easier to Manage - Bare ground can be very hard to dig and break up. Cover it with a thick layer of mulch and after a week or so you will find that the soil is much easier to dig and maintain.
9. Mulch is a Great Way to Re-cycle Clippings, Prunings, Leaves and Kitchen Scraps - Disposing of garden and kitchen scraps is expensive and you may have to pay cartage and tip fees. Using this organic material as mulch means that you can save these expenses. Mulch also acts a medium in which fertiliser such as organic manure can be added to the soil reducing the risk that fresh manure will burn the plants.
10. A Good Layer of Mulch Makes Pruning and Trimming much Easier -Although it may not suit everyone, you can drop your trimmings and prunings directly onto the mulch surrounding the plant. Simply cut the trimmings into small pieces as you go. This save time and the effort to collect the trimmings and to dispose of them.