If you want a vibrant garden full of healthy plants and flowers, add mulching to your spring to-do list. Mulching is a pretty simple technique: You cover the soil in your garden with a protective layer called mulch, often made from organic garden leftovers like grass clippings, wood chips, or shredded leaves or inorganic materials like rubber or stones. Here's how it works to help your garden thrive.
It does amazing things for garden soil.
Mulch's modest name doesn't do justice to this superstar garden essential. One of its most important jobs is preventing soil erosion, especially on steep slopes. Additionally, if you want to prevent weeds from taking over your garden, add a thick layer of mulch, which will block the sun and prevent weeds from growing.
It's vital to soil during a drought.
"Mulch will help regulate soil moisture during excessive heat by limiting evaporation," says Kurt Morrell, the A.P. Farm Associate Vice President for Landscape Operations at The New York Botanical Garden. "It will also keep soil temperature cooler and assist the plant to better utilize the moisture in the soil."
It's an earthworm magnet.
Organic mulches feed the soil and provide ideal living conditions for earthworms and other organisms that are necessary for healthy soil. That means your plants will have everything they need to thrive.
Mulch comes in two varieties: organic and inorganic. Look around your yard for organic mulches such as grass clippings, straw, and pine needles—they're free and make excellent mulch! You may have some inorganic mulches in your backyard, too, such as stones and rocks that work as well.
The upkeep is minimal.
Initially, you'll want to lay down two to three inches of mulch but, says Morrell, avoid covering the root flare of trees and shrubs—that's where the woody roots meet the soil surface—or the crowns of perennials. Reapply mulch to the area when the layer that's there is down to less than two inches. And avoid over-mulching, which could prevent enough oxygen from getting to the plants, causing them to die.