Mulch in a Nutshell: What You Need to Know About It

Mulch in a Nutshell: What You Need to Know About It

They say mulch is a gardener’s best friend. It supports healthy plant growth, prevents weed growth, helps retain moisture in the soil, and can even improve the overall appearance of your garden. But you may be wondering what exactly mulch is and how it can benefit your garden. 

Here, you’ll learn how to mulch, when to mulch, and the different types of mulch available for your garden.

a shovel and a mound of mulch

What is Mulch?

Mulch is a layer of material, typically organic, that is spread over the soil in your garden beds. It can be made from materials such as wood chips, bark, leaves, straw, grass clippings, and even newspaper.

When Do I Need to Mulch?

In general, you can mulch at any time during the growing season. However, it makes the most sense to mulch in the spring before new growth starts, or in the fall to protect your plants during the winter.

This is especially important in climates with extreme temperature fluctuations or periods of drought. Mulch acts as a protective barrier for the soil, helping to maintain moisture and preventing the ground from becoming too dry or compacted. 

If you’re planning to mulch in winter, timing is crucial. Mulching newly planted plants after the ground freezes in early winter can be beneficial. But make sure to remove it gradually when temperatures start to get warm.

Types of Mulch

different types of materials turning into mulch

There are two types of mulch: organic and inorganic. Some may be made for aesthetic purposes, while others are specifically designed to provide nutrients to the soil.

Organic Mulches

The organic types focus on adding nutrition to the soil and suppressing weeds, although they cannot block out all weed growth completely.

Organic mulches include:

  • Pine needles – to suppress weeds and lock moisture in the soil
  • Newspaper – layers of these have great moisture retention abilities
  • Shredded leaves – can be used anywhere and is a free form of mulch
  • Bark, shredded, or chipped – best used for trees and shrubs, where you won’t need to dig a lot


Inorganic Mulches

These don’t add nutrients to the soil but are good at locking in moisture and suppressing weeds. Inorganic mulches include:

  • Plastic and landscape fabric – ideal for around-foundation plants and other shrubs and trees. However, when it heats up in summer, it can kill all the good things in the soil
  • Gravel and stone – these work well with plants that like warmth and in areas that need good drainage. Give it a lot of thought, though, before putting stone as it can be hard to remove


Choosing the Best Mulch

In picking the mulch you’re going to use, it is important that you know your plants and understand their needs.

So, aside from personal preferences, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of each mulch type.

Organic mulches are:Inorganic mulches are:
  • Universally for landscape use
  • Able to gradually decompose and
    add nutrients to the soil
  • Capable of holding soil moisture
  • Typically used for aesthetics
  • Good for permanent plants
  • Good at preventing weed growth


How Much Mulch Do I Need?

When it comes to mulch, more is not always better. You should only apply a layer that is 2-4 inches deep. This is enough to retain moisture and keep the roots of your plants cool.

Applying more than 4 inches of mulch can actually suffocate your plants by depriving them of oxygen. It can also lead to the formation of mold which can be harmful to both your plants and soil.

Consider these factors when you are ready to mulch:

  • The size of your garden – take note of your garden’s width and length, and its square footage
  • The type of mulch you are using
  • The shape of your garden – rectangular gardens might have a different computation from a round garden


garden path with flowers

For a more accurate amount of mulch, you can use an online mulch calculator. This can also help you determine how many mulch bags you’ll need.

The Takeaway

Mulch can bring many benefits to your garden, from moisture retention to weed control. But it’s important that you choose the right type for your plants and apply it correctly. Remember: mulch in moderation for the best results! 

Have questions about mulching? Kel Lake Garden Centre can further guide you. You can ask us more about the calculation of mulch and other questions you still might have. Don’t hesitate to shoot us a message and we’ll get back to your queries shortly.

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