Mulching makes sense simply because it solves or reduces the impact of so many problems.
Mulching is adding a layer of organic material over your soils to protect plants from the cold, reduce water loss in the summer, improve soil AND can completely stop weeds growing. Mulching makes sense.
How mulching works
Protecting from cold.
Adding a good layer of mulch acts like a duvet or the lagging around a hot water tank. Although most of the UK doesn’t experience continual frozen soil week after week as they do in parts of middle America or the centre of Europe mulching makes sense here too.
We are used to growing plants from around the world that suffer in hard winters as they are not really intended for some UK conditions. Eastern counties of the UK especially gardens at high altitude get very cold in some winters. Plants from originally from Mediterranean climates and many evergreens benefit from a 50mm (2″) layer of mulch to stop frost penetrating down to their roots. If an evergreen or Mediterranean plants roots are frozen water loss from their foliage can’t be replaced if their roots are frozen. mulching helps prevents frozen roots.
Reduce water loss in summer
A 50mm (2″) of mulch spread over your border soil when applied between autumn and late winter, when the soil is fully wet, will act as a barrier reducing the amount of soil water evaporation dramatically. This helps for established plants and particularity newly planted plants. Remember to plant in a hollow so that your extra watering soaks the roots. Read our watering tips for more information.
Mulch materials are generally organic and as they break down naturally worms work the material into the soil improving drainage but also increasing moisture retention.
Heavy clay type soils are improved with ‘bulky organic matter’ by making fine pathways between the fine sticky granules, allowing soils water to run away. In summer these same strands of organic matter hold water and stop clay soils becoming concrete like.
On very sandy soils, that drain easily, the increased organic matter holds water that plants can use in dry weather.
You can mulch with gravel over landscape fabric and it works well for keeping moisture in and reducing weeds. It doesn’t insulate nor improve your soil.
As long as your garden isn’t full of deep perennial weeds, mulching will prevent germinating weed seeds from establishing. As mulch will last for many years you are able to reduce weeding dramatically. If any seeds fall on the mulch and germinate it’s very easy to pull them out before the root into your soil.
Reduced plant infection.
Some recent trials with Box plants (Buxus) has shown that a fibre mulch prevents splash back due to bounce back fromheavy rain (or watering). Often the source of infection is spores resting in your soil. This could well work with Roses (Black Spot) and other fungal attacks.
Types of Mulch
Typical mulches are either chipped bark or wood mulch. Chipped bark is a by product of the timber industry and until recently was a waste product. Today chipped bark is a valued ‘green’ fuel. Wood mulch is also a by product of timber production but is a little like shavings from just under the bark. Wood mulch is a little cheaper but can reduce natural food from your soil.
Wood fibre. Gro-Sure Smart Ground Cover is a protective and decorative natural mulch ideal for use in, beds, borders, planters, containers and pots. Smart because it’s made with clever natural wood fibres that lock together to stay in place. It give better value as it provides 50% better coverage than bark. It is lightweight and very easy to apply.
From your compost heap
A compost heap, bin or container is an essential part of gardening and it produces FREE mulch. Well composted green waste from your garden makes a good mulch. It doesn’t last as long as bark or Smart Cover but as long as you apply it annually you will get very similar results as bagged mulch. Annual application will also allow you to empty you bin/container/heap ready for a new season of green waste.
Mulching your garden during the Autumn to late Winter season makes sense on so many levels. You garden will look better, grow better plants, and make gardening easier for you. Go spread your mulch.