Spring Gardening Tips: How to use mulch

Mulch is any type of material that is spread or laid placed over the surface of soil as a covering. It’s inexpensive, easy to apply and very effective. Mulch benefits your garden in several ways:

Absorbs water and prevents erosion

Because the mulch is a covering over the soil, it protects the soil from the elements such as sun, wind and excess rain-water. Any water that soaks into the mulch is gradually released into the soil so when you mulch, you also won’t need to water as often!

Reduces weeds

A thick layer of mulch can help keep the weeds in check because it deprives weeds and their seeds of light. Organic mulches such as compost and newspaper have the added benefit of providing organic matter for soil organisms to feed on instead of the soil itself.

Improves soil quality

Mulch provides a buffer against seasonal temperature changes so the soil stays cooler in summer and warmer in winter, enabling plants to keep growing longer. By using organic mulch, you can also help to improve the quality and fertility of the soil. Organic mulch attracts earthworms and other soil organisms. They aerate the soil by breaking and loosening it, allowing air to mix in and their droppings provide readily available nutrients for plants.

How to use mulch

Apply a 5-7cm layer of mulch around plants at planting, and then repeat this in autumn or spring. Make sure that your soil is wet before you apply the mulch and that you leave a few centimetres clear around the trunks to prevent collar rot.

These days organic mulches (matter that was once alive or part of a living thing) are recommended and examples include compost, bark, newspaper and manure. It is best to stockpile organic matter for a few months before using as fresh organic mulch can take nitrogen from the soil.

When using newspaper, it is recommended that you soak it in water and lay the wet paper around the plant and cover it up with a layer of soil.

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