We’ve talked a lot lately about which flowers to plant and why this season, but there is something we haven’t covered yet: mulching.
March is one of the best months for mulching because perennials and bulbs haven’t yet bloomed, which makes it the easiest time to mulch as well.
While synthetic/inorganic mulching practices and bagged mulches are useful options, organic alternatives have risen to the top of the popularity ladder over the past few years. A few examples of organic mulch, for clients who want to keep things as eco-friendly as possible, are bark, compost and composted manure, grass clippings, newspaper, shredded leaves and straw.
Not only are these options environmentally friendly, but they are also very easy to find and require very little expense. While organic mulch will need to be replaced more often because of its decomposition, it does benefit the soil’s fertility and also helps find a use for everyday materials that might otherwise have been thrown away.
Bark mulches are more beneficial around shrubs, trees and in garden beds where not a lot of digging takes place. Since bark is more cumbersome to move once put down, it’s best to make sure it’s not lining a walkway or in an area where you may want to add more plants in the future. This type of mulch also typically lasts longer than the finer materials.
Compost and composted manure can improve soil structure, aid the necessary microbial activity in the soil and also releases its nutrients slowly throughout the growing season. Typical compost piles consist of anything from kitchen scraps like eggshells and coffee grounds, cardboard, leaves, grass trimmings and manure.
Grass clippings come in handy for areas where weed suppression is the main goal and can decompose rapidly. They also become matted once they do decompose, which can keep water from passing through. Shredded leaves come in handy for mulching because they not only attract earthworms to the soil, they are also free and easy to find.
While they might not be as pleasing to the eye in more formal gardens, for a more woodland look they are the ideal choice. If left unshredded, they do have a tendency to mat up and repel water, but this can be remedied by raking and fluffing the leaves.
Straw is also popular for vegetable gardens and helps keep mud from forming. Because of its slow decomposition rate, straw can last throughout the growing season, and it’s easy to rake up when it’s time to plant something new.
Lastly, newspaper has become a more common and popular mulching method lately. Newspaper also has great moisture retention, controls the temperature of the soil and suppresses weeds. Once you’ve put down your newspaper layers, it’s important to wet them down to keep them in place before adding another layer of organize mulch atop the papers.