It is a good practice to spread mulch on top of your soil around your plantings every spring and fall. Mulch your garden when you want to suppress weed growth, retain moisture in your soil, keep your soil cool, plus make your garden even more attractive.
This ground covering comes in many varieties. Shredded or chipped bark is the most common of the organic mulches. It also is the most dense, woody, and dry meaning it will take longer for the nutrients to break down and enter into your soil. Others include: compost, composted manure, straw, grass clippings, newspaper, and shredded leaves. Of these mulches, find out where it originated because you do not want mulch containing a lot of weed seeds to germinate in your soil. Organic mulch increases your soil’s fertility giving your plants a good foundation to grow. It has to be replaced because it naturally decomposes; but as it does this, your soil becomes even more rich in the process.
Because the woody bark mulches do not mix well into soil, avoid using them in places where you expect to be digging up the soil to put in new plantings. Use bark mulches around trees, shrubs or the plantings around your house foundation.
Side dress your plants with compost and composted manure during the growing season and you will see how fast it makes your plants grow. These mulches boost the nutrients in the soil, but make sure they are weed free.
The best use for straw mulch is your vegetable garden. It keeps the paths between the rows of crop weed free and less muddy. Because straw mulch decomposes very slowly, it will last for the whole growing season and is easy to take up when the garden is ready to be put to bed.
Grass clippings are the most green mulch with a high water content. They decompose rather rapidly and have an odor so use this mulch in a remote area of your yard. Because of the high water content, they can be slimy and slippery. Use grass clippings to cover open, unplanted areas or bare spots on your lawn. If pesticides are used on your lawn then do not use this mulch where you want to plant flower beds, and of course, not near your vegetable garden. You can also mix in grass clippings (untreated only) to your compost bin.
Newspaper as mulch can be laid down in layers as a weed barrier over the ground before another mulch such as bark mulch or gravel is spread over it to make a path in your garden. Shredded newspaper has been used for years to keep plant roots moist while shipping.
Shredded leaves are nature’s mulch and are free. Earthworms love the fallen and shredded leaves. Spread this mulch over your vegetable garden after harvest in the fall to begin decomposing over the winter. The leaves that are not shredded retain the most moisture and in the spring you can break them up easily and work them into the soil.