1. Home
  2. Beginners Gardening Course - Learn to garden
  3. Module 9: Introduction to Mulching for Beginner Gardeners

Module 9: Introduction to Mulching for Beginner Gardeners

Mulching is an essential component of gardening that beginner gardeners should understand. It offers many benefits, including improving soil quality, retaining moisture, suppressing weeds, protecting plants, and providing essential nutrients. Adding mulch to your garden can create a healthy and productive environment that will thrive for years to come.

Mulching garden conifer bed with pine tree bark mulch
Mulching garden conifer bed with pine tree bark mulch

Lesson Objectives

  • To introduce the concept of mulching to beginner gardeners
  • To provide an overview of the different types of mulches, their benefits, and how to use them
  • To give tips on how to make and apply mulch in a garden setting

What is Mulch

The primary benefit of mulch is its ability to improve soil quality. Mulch can help to retain moisture in the soil, which is particularly important during hot and dry weather. Mulch also helps to regulate soil temperature, keeping the soil cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. As a result, plants are better able to grow and thrive.

In addition to improving soil quality, mulch also helps to suppress weeds. When applied correctly, mulch creates a barrier that prevents sunlight from reaching weeds, which prevents them from germinating and growing. This not only makes your garden look neater and more organised, but it also reduces the amount of time you will spend weeding your garden.

Finally, mulch can also provide essential nutrients to your plants as it breaks down over time. This can help to improve the overall health and productivity of your garden.

Mulches are sheets or loose coverings of material applied to the soil’s surface. They can be used to cover compost in containers or to cover bare soil.

Mulches can be broken down into two main categories: non-biodegradable and biodegradable. Both types conserve moisture by reducing soil surface evaporation and suppressing weeds by blocking sunlight, which is required for weed seeds to germinate and grow. 

Benefits of Mulch

Mulching has numerous advantages, depending on the kind of mulch used, including:

Mulching is a gardening technique that covers the soil with a layer of organic or inorganic material, such as leaves, straw, grass clippings, bark, or plastic. This material layer has numerous benefits for your garden and plants, making it a valuable technique for any gardener to adopt.

Conserve water

Firstly, mulching helps to conserve water in the soil by reducing evaporation, keeping the soil moist for longer periods. This can be especially beneficial in areas where water is scarce or during periods of drought, as it reduces the need for frequent watering.

Control weeds

Mulching also helps control weeds by preventing weed seeds from germinating, reducing the time and effort required to weed your garden. It can also act as a barrier to block out the light that weed seeds need to grow, further preventing their growth.

Regulate soil temperature

Another benefit of mulching is that it helps to regulate soil temperature. In the summer, mulch can keep the soil cooler by reducing heat buildup, while in winter, it can act as insulation, keeping the soil warmer and protecting the roots of plants.

Improve soil health

Mulching also helps to improve soil health by providing nutrients as the organic materials break down. As the mulch decomposes, it releases valuable nutrients into the soil, making it more fertile and improving plant growth.

Enhance appearance

Finally, mulching can enhance the overall appearance of your garden by creating a uniform, attractive layer of material that can also act as a natural barrier to erosion. In addition, mulching can help to improve soil structure, reducing soil compaction and improving drainage.

Mulching is a simple yet effective technique with numerous benefits for your garden and plants. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, incorporating mulching into your gardening routine can help to conserve water, control weeds, regulate soil temperature, improve soil health, and enhance the overall appearance of your garden.

The Different Types of Mulch

When it comes to mulching, there are two main types of materials: biodegradable and non-biodegradable. Understanding the differences between these two types of mulch can help you choose the best option for your garden.

Biodegradable mulches are made from organic materials that break down over time, such as leaves, straws, grass clippings, and wood chips. As these materials decompose, they add organic matter to the soil, improving soil health and fertility. Biodegradable mulches are usually cheaper and easier to obtain than non-biodegradable mulches.

On the other hand, non-biodegradable mulches are made from synthetic materials that do not break down over time, such as plastic or fabric. These materials are typically more expensive than biodegradable mulches, but they can last for several growing seasons, making them more cost-effective in the long run. Non-biodegradable mulches are also effective at suppressing weeds and conserving moisture in the soil, but they do not add any organic matter to the soil.

Biodegradable Mulches:

  • Garden compost
  • Wood chippings
  • Processed conifer bark
  • Leaf mould
  • Well-rotted manure
  • Straw (for strawberries)
  • Seaweed

Non-biodegradable Mulches:

  • Slate
  • Shingle
  • Pebbles
  • Gravel
  • Stone chippings
  • Sea shells
  • Tumbled glass
Various types of mulches

How to Make Mulch

Materials Needed:

  • A leaf blower or rake
  • Lawnmower
  • Barrel/ large bag with holes or tarp

Leaf mulch is probably the simplest at home because many gardens have trees and plants that make suitable mulch materials. For the garden, leaf mulch is also an excellent all-purpose mulch. You can collect fallen leaves by raking them up or by collecting the leaves that have been pruned off of plants.

Using a leaf blower or rake, make a pile of the leaves. Make a layer of the leaves that is no more than 5 centimetres thick. Using a lawnmower, shred the leaves several times until they are broken into small pieces.

After it has been shredded, the mulch can be used immediately or stored in a barrel with ventilation, a large bag with holes, or spread out on top of a tarp and protected from the elements.

When to Use Mulch

The middle of spring and autumn are the best times to apply mulches when herbaceous plants are dormant, and yearly weeds have not yet developed. They can be used on new plantings, beds with existing plants, and specimen plants. New plants that need to lay out can be mulched any time of the year when they will profit from weed concealment and moisture retention in the dirt.

How to Apply Mulch

Beds and borders may be completely mulched, ensuring that mulches are not piled up against the stems of woody plants or on low-growing plants.

Biodegradable mulches must be between 5cm and 8cm thick to be effective. Remove any weeds where you wish to lay the mulch. Once the soil is not frozen, lay mulch over moist soil. Single trees and specimen shrubs should be mulched to the radius of the canopy.

Coming Next

Further Reading

Updated on March 5, 2024

Article Attachments

Was this article helpful?

Related Articles