Mulching the Garden


Benefits of Mulching:

1) prevents evaporation; holds moisture

2) reduces weeding; makes weeding easier

3) reduces fungal diseases; prevents splashing of spores onto bottom leaves

4) feeds the soil; as mulch decomposes, worms take nutrients into the soil

5) supports worms and beneficial bacteria, fungi including mycorrhizae

6) keeps dirt off strawberries etc and reduces food decay

7) insulates the soil from both cold and heat: good for roots & microorganisms

9) reduces soil compaction; improves water and fertilizer penetration into soil

10) reduces wind and water erosion

11) reduces/prevents some insect problems (like potato bug)

12) adds a unifying appearance and a finished look

13) increases productivity of crops and health of perennials and shrubs

Some disadvantages of Mulching:

1) supports slugs

2) can keep soil too cool in early and late season

3) can keep soil too wet in a wet season/climate

4) deep (4″+) can reduce air to soil

5) compost and peat moss can be hydrophobic, preventing water penetration

6) leaves that are not shredded can act like shingles reducing water penetration

7) combustible-fire danger if dry

Materials used for Mulch:

leaves, bark, woodchips, coffee grounds, compost, grass clippings (dry), hay, straw, pine needles, gravel, sqeegee, paper, weeds without seeds, coffee hulls, rocks, old boards, any organic matter without seeds, sawdust-composted, low plants like groundcovers, cover crops

Some considerations:

  • cedar and redwood repel microorganisms so are not good for feeding the soil
  • green grass clippings and other green material can heat up and burn seedlings
  • coffee grounds and pine needles are acidic
  • cottonwood and aspen leaves are alkaline
  • wood chips used for mulch on a veggie garden have to be raked off, not dug in at the end of the season, because they will take nitrogen from the soil
  • fabric weed barriers are a mulch, but prevent worms from aerating soil and         taking nutrients into soil, and pores will plug up preventing air & water
  • cover crops can add nutrients and feed symbiotic fungi in winter