The term mulch means different things to different people. To some, it’s simply shredded leaves that you put around your plants to stop weeds from growing and keep the soil cool and moist. To others, mulch is something that’s essential to the overall health of their plants and their landscape in general. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best uses of gardening mulch, and what types of mulch are best for your garden as well as how to use them effectively.
Wood Chips, Bark, or Sawdust
Wood-based mulches are typically made from untreated tree or shrub trimmings that have been chipped into bits (typically about 3/8 to 1 inch in diameter). The resulting mulch is usually a good carbon source for soil microbes and fungi. Wood chips, bark, and sawdust can be bulky; they also may attract pests such as termites. Use them sparingly unless you’re making your own at home. In the garden, wood chips are best used as a weed barrier under plants. Apply them thickly around trees and shrubs to discourage weeds and save on watering costs. They’re also ideal for use on top of garden beds between rows of vegetables or flowers, because they’ll smother weeds while helping the soil retain moisture during dry spells.
A well-kept lawn can produce a lot of grass clippings each year. If you’re not using your clippings to compost, then you can use them as mulch around your garden to inhibit weed growth and retain moisture. Keep in mind that fresh grass clippings are nitrogen-rich and decompose quickly; they are best used as mulch in vegetable gardens. Grass clippings also shouldn’t be placed near any plant that you want to last longer than two or three years.
Plastic and Plastic Sheeting
Many gardeners use plastic or plastic sheeting to create a cold frame effect, which can speed up spring planting by a few weeks. Simply attach sheets of sturdy plastic or heavy-duty clear plastic wrap to a simple hoop structure (like two-by-fours) to create a mini greenhouse that retains warmth and protects young plants from frostbite.