One of the most important and often overlooked aspects of gardening is mulch. Mulch is not only decorative (although it can be), it helps the soil retain moisture and controls weeds—two benefits that can make your plants healthy and happy.
You should use mulch in both vegetable and flower gardens. Even use it around landscaping plants. There are dozens of types of mulch, and some are better for different applications. Organic mulches can and maintain moisture while releasing nutrients into the soil as it decomposes. Inorganic mulches are great at controlling weeds and can also attract heat in cooler climates. Here are a few examples of each:
- Chopped or shredded leaves
- Grass clippings
- Wood chips
- Salt hay
- Rotted hay
- Clear, black or colored plastic chips
- Polyester garden fabrics
- Gravel or stone
- Carpet scraps
When using mulches, be sure to give some space between the plant stem and the mulch. This is especially important with organic mulches, which can cause stem rot or irritation if constantly brushing against the plant. Stay away from plastic mulches in hot climates because they can attract too much heat to the soil. Also consider your soil type before applying mulch. Heavy, clay soils and sandy soils both drain better without the moisture retention of mulch.