The wonderful world of mulch
Mulch in all of its glory is decomposing organic matter that creates a protective layer on the soil that our plants grow in. The idea is to recreate a natural system where the soil is rarely exposed to the elements. There are two types of gardeners those who care for plants and those who care for the soil (and in turn the plants that grow in it).
Soil is the foundation of the lungs of the earth- plants, these green factories provide us with food, shelter and a gas called oxygen that allows us to live on this planet. Without soil and the fungi that bind it, our land would erode and become barren so protecting it even on the home scale is more important than we could ever believe. So to mulch your soil is an investment in the land that will remain fruitful as long as you take care of it.
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Mulch comes in many shapes and forms, we see it all around us in the autumn and winter months as the leaves create a carpet on the woodland floor that mysteriously disappears with the aid of worms and fungi.
By covering your precious soil you offer protection against wind and rain erosion which in turn depletes the fertility of your land.
What do I need to make mulch?
The first step is to collect the materials you want to use as a mulch, they are all free and in plentiful supply in the countryside
- Leaves- collect leaves from local woodlands and parks, try to avoid collecting near heavy traffic due to heavy metal accumulation in urban tree leaves.
- Grass cuttings- collect from your garden or a friend.
- Seaweed- collect from the beach and thoroughly wash the salt of before using, then compost this over winter.
- Compost- make your own its incredibly simple but takes at least 6 months.
- Manure- be sure to compost the manure before using.
How to add mulch to your plants
The first step before adding your mulch is to heavily water the soil
- Before you plant up your beds add the mulch of your choice making sure you cover all of the space. You can do this when you have planted up but it takes more time as you have to look for every plant and work around them.
- It is important to make a thick layer of mulch using leaves and grass cuttings as a few weeks of rain will reduce its size.
- Lightly pack the mulch covering all areas and then make planting holes. Plant up as usual creating a small gap for the young plants to receive light, make sure the soil around the base of their stem is covered.
- Mulch can harbour insects so keep an eye out and replenish the mulch every other month.
- The many benefits will reveal themselves as you find you do not have to water your plants as regular, even on the hottest sunny day you can pull back the mulch and your soil will be of the perfect consistency meaning you do not even need a hand tool to dig planting holes.
Why is mulching important?
The mulch will now protect the young plants and more importantly the soil. In nature, it does it by itself when plants die at the end of the season and rot down. When you add mulch to the top layer it slowly (or quickly) decomposes and this creates nutrients for the surrounding plants and soil. In the summer mulches soak up water so the plants can access it when they are thirsty.
This means less watering and better root growth. Garden Mulching is especially important in the summer when the soil dries out and loses water and the winter when it gets cold, wet and frozen.