To Mulch or Not to Mulch?
Why use mulch in your garden? Because spreading a 2-inch-deep layer in your garden blankets the ground, shielding the soil from the sun. This conserves water, prevents moisture loss from evaporation and reduces weeds. Organic types can be any organic material which will contribute organic mater to your soil as it breaks down:
- wood chips
- grass clippings
- hay or straw ( make sure no seeds are present)
- cocoa bean hulls
- pine needles ( adds acidity to soil)
- old newspaper
- sawdust or wood shavings
Non-organic mulches also show proof of higher plant yield though they contribute nothing to soil quality. Plastic sheeting is an example of non-organic mulch.
Why use mulch in your garden?
- Weed control
- Moisture conservation
- Disease control
- Cleaner vegetables
- Erosion prevention
- Soil organic matter increase- with organic mulches
- Earlier harvest -with plastic mulch
All mulches help reduce weed growth. But different types may work differently with various plants. Therefore you may find that newspaper and straw works well with asparagus while plastic cover works well with sweet potatoes. One of the main disadvantages with organic mulch, because it keeps the soil cooler, is that it may delay the maturity of a warm season crop. Sweet potatoes like warmth, so plastic is a better choice. Blueberries like acidic soil, so for them, pine needles are an ideal selection.
- Possible delay maturity -with organic mulches which keep soil cool
- Rainfall absorption
- Need for extra nitrogen -with high carbon mulches such as straw or wood chips if plants look deficient, add nitrogen.
- Environmental concern -when using plastic it requires yearly disposal