“Mulch” is one of those words smart people use to describe the simple act of gardening. Okay, not really. But now that I have your attention, let’s make sure we all understand the basic definition of the word before moving forward.
Purpose of Mulch- It helps keep roots and soil cool, insuring that young plants and flowers have a better chance of surviving harsh summer temperatures. In addition, mulch helps retain moisture and, according to an article on about.com, “suppress weeds, both by denying the sunlight that triggers germination of seeds, and by acting as a physical barrier between seeds and soil.” In other words, mulch cuts down on the amount of watering needed.
What Mulch Does– Now that we know why we should use mulch, what does it actually do for plants? First off, “It acts as a barrier, keeping sunlight and some air away from the soil surface,” according to an article on Better Homes and Gardens.com. It also increases earthworm activity, meaning the soil aerates even more than it would without mulch. More holes equals healthier plants.
How to Mulch a Flower Garden– Keep in mind, mulch can be applied whenever the soil is bare, so it’s up to you when you choose to put it down. As about.com mentions in their article, springtime mulching cuts down on weed growth activity. As mentioned above, summer time is when the cooler temperatures aid plants in their continued thriving.
One to four inches is the recommended amount of mulch. As far as materials go, tree trimming remnants are great but even, “Newspaper and cardboard also make a fine mulch base, which you can cover with prettier materials,” says about.com. Other materials include sawdust, wood chips, hay and fresh leaves.
The important thing is to apply the correct amount. Better Homes and Gardens suggest placing newspaper down first as a “decomposable barrier to keep weeds at bay.” It’s also important to water the soil if it’s dry before starting as this makes it easier to pull weeds. Some lightweight gardeners (present company included) use mulch to conceal the fact that they are actually putting potted plants in the ground.
Most importantly, one must decide which mulch is most beneficial based on soil type and plant or flower being planted. For a list of the best mulches, click here.
Also, for a comprehensive look at exactly how to mulch a flower garden in a short amount of time, this video is extremely helpful! You’ll have to watch it more than once, though.