Mulch provides a nice look and
added benefits to your plants.
- Cover garden beds with a layer of mulch to keep weeds down and reduce the need for water. Annual weed seeds are less likely to sprout when the soil is covered with enough mulch to keep the soil surface in the dark.
- When it comes to water, even a thin layer of mulch -- nature's moisturizer -- will reduce evaporation from the soil surface. Thicker mulches can reduce water use by as much as 50 percent.
Mulches vary in their appearance, makeup, and texture, which will influence how you use them. Here are some examples:
Varying appearances: For a soothing, natural-looking garden, use dark-colored organic mulches made of bark or compost. For a brilliant-looking garden, consider a mulch of bright gravel. In utilitarian gardens like a vegetable garden, plastic or straw makes excellent mulch.
Soil improvement: This calls for the use of organic mulches that break down to add organic matter to the soil.
Texture: For maximum effectiveness with only a thin mulch layer, look for fine-textured mulches such as twice-shredded bark, compost, or cocoa hulls. For an airy mulch, try thicker layers of coarse-textured mulches such as straw or bark chunks.
Mulch new plants with straw or chopped leaves after planting in the fall to prevent root damage during winter. A little mulch used immediately after planting can help to keep the soil moist and encourage continued root growth.But the main reason to mulch lies ahead, in winter. Alternately freezing and thawing, expanding and contracting soil can break new roots or even push new plantings out of the ground, a process called soil heaving. By mulching generously with an airy material like straw when the soil first freezes, you can help keep the soil frozen until winter ends, at which point the mulch can be removed.
Check out the next section for other garden care tips, including how to stake floppy plants and when to give up on a plant that's not thriving in your garden.
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