Mulch acts as a protective barrier for your soil. It can be made from various materials which covers the soil when laid across its surface. There are mainly two categories of mulches: organic and inorganic or synthetic mulches – each holding its own advantages. Organic mulches decompose rather quickly and therefore require a lot of maintenance and replacement. That being said, organic mulches enhance soil fertility as they decompose, keeps soil from warming up too hastily and prevents it from getting too cold. Synthetic an inorganic mulches, on the other hand, may not have the ability to fertilize soil, but they are excellent at holding soil moisture, warming the soil, blocking out weeds and not decomposing. They are therefore perfect for something more permanent.
Depending on the purpose and plant, there are numerous types of mulches under each of these two categories that has the potential to benefit its user.
Bark mulches are long-lasting, thicker types of mulches which come in a variety of shredded, chipped, chunks, or nuggets, but are most commonly made from pine, cypress, or hardwood. These mulches are most effective when used around trees, shrubs, in garden beds or other places where a lot of digging won’t be done, such as driveways, walkways and foundation plantings.
Compost mulch consists of well-rotted organic matter that can be used as a soil coating or simply alongside plants during the growing season. Compost as a mulch has numerous benefits such as enriching soil, enhancing soil’s drainage and structure and providing plants with essential nutrients that ensures their healthy and strong growth.
Hay and straw
Hay and straw mulches are commonly used for vegetable gardens. They act a protective layer between soil-borne diseases and lower plant leaves, thereby preventing plants from getting sick. An added benefit to using straw, is that is decomposes at a snail’s pace, thereby causing it to last all throughout the growing season.
Grass clippings consist of a mixed bag of mulch. As it works much like most other green plant debris, it has high water content, causing it to decompose quickly. In its decomposition process, the water can cause the mulch to get slimy, and odorous, and should therefore be used carefully. Grass clippings should preferably be used in remote garden areas where weeds are needed to be suppressed. Clippings that are not bagged can also be used to kill herbicides and pesticides on a lawn.
Mulch that nature seems to love is shredded leaves. This form of mulch, however informal, can be used anywhere. It is free to obtain and lures earthworms to the soil. Shredded leaves can be spread out into a layer during the spring, or over a vegetable garden in autumn and then it will start its decomposition process throughout winter.
As a lot of newspapers have already switched to using organic dyes, newspaper mulch is becoming increasingly popular. This form of mulch can also be used in a variety of forms, such as, in layered sheets bringing about its supreme moisture retention capabilities or when used during windy days, they can be moisture to keep them settled down. They are similar to other forms of organic mulches in that they suppress weeds and control soil temperatures. They are also beneficial for asphyxiating existing grass in order to get a new garden bed to grow.
Well-rotted or composted manure is excellent for soil enrichment whilst keeping the weeds out, the moisture in and the soil temperatures constant. It is easily available in garden stores, looks good and has a much better smell than the real thing. It is however vital to ensure that fresh manure droppings are not taken from dogs or cats.
Pine needles are not only pleasing to the eye, they are impervious to compaction, easily manageable, and able to decompose slowly, thereby lasting two to four seasons. They are also capable of acidifying soil around acid-loving plants and provide newly set or delicate plants with dynamite protection.
Sawdust is an advocated mulch for plants such as blueberries, rhododendrons, and other acid-loving greens. Fresh sawdust has the potential of being very acidic and therefore it is recommended to pile the sawdust up in one place where it will remain undisturbed for a year. Once it rains and natural decomposition takes it course, most of the acid will be sucked out and the sawdust can be used as a mulch for future years.
Bark & Wood Chips
Bark and wood chips are derived from many sources such as, different hardwood and softwood species, which are superb mulches for sheltering your soil. These mulches hold the benefits of breaking down slowly, and the larger barks enable water to run off, thereby adding moisture to the soil.
2.Synthetic and Inorganic Mulches
Plastic and Landscape Fabric
These mulches can be used around shrubs, trees and other foundation plantings. They don’t require a lot of maintenance as they don’t have to be fertilized or be worked through in the beds often. As plastic heats up during the summer, it is can suffocate weeds, but it also runs the risk of killing vital sources in the soil. One must therefore provide sufficient moisture. In the case of fabric mulches, it is also important to use a thin layer of appropriate fabric, and to ensure that water can pass through the fabric by cutting holes in it.
Gravel and Stone
Plants that require minimal additional heat like Mediterranean herb gardens, should be mulched with gravel and stone as it lasts long, stores heat during the day and then releases it during the night. It is also advantageous to use gravel and stone as a mulch as they shield against weed seeds and diseases, it is heavy and can therefore not blow away too easily.
Aside from rubber toxicity, rubber is a great form of mulch as it is available in different colours that can give a garden an exciting look. It is soft and rubbery and therefore good for a playground. It commonly created from recycled tyres and ground and has the capability to productively and potently squash weeds and reserve moisture in the soil.