Even if you don’t think you have time to mulch your garden, you should.
Below are the top 8 reasons I mulch like it’s going out of style.
But first, check out this video that sums everything up nicely, and I promise, it’s not about cars — it’s about mulch (I’m not responsible for the clickbait title though, it’s actually my cousin Tony’s fault).
If you’re trying to grow more tropical plants in an area that’s not so tropical, you definitely need to mulch. The deeper and fresher the mulched area, the more heat will be given off (up to about 65 degrees Celsius).
That’s because the plant matter is being metabolized by micro-organisms and one of the byproducts of this chemical reaction is heat!
Now, don’t go too crazy though. If you mulch too high up some trees trunks it can kill them by suffocating their roots which require access to oxygen.
Depending on the type of mulch you add, it can also change the chemical composition of the soil, so make sure you aren’t adding a tree that has toxic bark or high levels of acidity in it. It should go without saying, but adding the mulch with chemicals and dyes added to prevent insects is also a terrible idea, especially if you plan to eat from the plants near that mulch.
Who even knows what’s in that stuff?
The wrong kind of mulch can be bad for your plants, but in most cases adding mulch will replenish the soil with nutrients. The dying material will also attract fungi to the area which will break down the materials further into more bioavailable compounds, and having fungi around your plants is also usually a good thing (unless it’s a rare invasive type and causes an infection).
The reason most fungi are good (aside from helping digest plant matter so the trees can absorb it) is that in times of drought they will trade stored water in their subterranean networks with the plants for sugars, which can keep plants alive until the rain comes back.
#6: Root protection
Adding mulch to your plants can help protect their roots from the harsh rays of the sun as well add an insulating layer that prevents evaporation of water before the roots have a chance to absorb it.
This is especially important if you live in hot, dry areas, or your trees' roots are exposed. Or in areas that are extremely wet or prone to heavy downpours, mulch can also protect the soil around your plants from being compressed or eroded.
If you elevate an area a little with some mulch before you plant a tree, the increased surface area the hill creates and the spongy layer of woody material will allow for better, more even drainage.
Need I say more?
#3: Weed-free zone
Why spend so much time weeding when you can smother weeds with mulch?
Any weeds that come up after this will be easy to see and eliminate, and the mulch will usually keep weeds from germinating for at least 6 months after application or longer, depending on how thick you layer it.
#2: Planting area
Now that you have a weed-free zone under your tree or bushes, why not plant some other things in that area that can outcompete the pesky weeds before they have a chance to return? If you’re clever, you can find plants that help each other survive and increase the success of the plant you mulched around.
This is called companion gardening, and if you’re interested there’s a great little book called “carrots love tomatoes” that explains the concept quite nicely.
Strangely enough, I found out that avocado trees and okra like each other a lot. My okra and avocado trees planted in the same area both grew much faster than the ones planted separately. I also found out that squash likes to be planted under saplings. Just a bit of shade can go a long way for a lot of plants. ⛅️
#1: You can get it for free!
You heard correctly, but please don’t tell too many people, because then all of us permaculture gardeners are going to have a waiting list of neighbors all vying for that amazing mulch.
That’s right, you can get all the mulch you want. Once a year I get mulch that would cost me $363 + $40 delivery fee if I ordered it from a nursery company (about 13 cubic yards going at $27.99 each) Not to mention, having mulch delivered saves a lot of plasic bags that would otherwise end up in landfills or the stomachs of whales.
But how can you get it for free?
It’s as simple as calling your local tree companies or utility companies that have to trim or remove trees as part of road and power line maintenance. Your call might even save that perfectly useful mulch from ending up in a landfill, where the tree company would have to pay a disposal fee. A win-win for everybody, including your plants!
What are your favorite tips for mulching? Share them in the comments below!
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