Organic or inorganic mulch moderates garden soil temperature, helps soil retain moisture, prevents growth of weeds, and minimizes weather damage to garden plants and flowers. Mulch also enhances the visual appearance of a garden. It is inexpensive and simple to mulch the garden but the process requires an understanding the type of mulch to use, how much to apply, and when to do it.
You will need:
Step 1: Determine the right type of mulch. Organic versions are typically better than inorganic types when mulching flowerbeds. Organic mulches are made from wood, beans, shredded newspaper, or plant material. As they decompose, they provide soil with enrichment. They also create a living environment for helpful microorganisms and earthworms. Organic mulch that is shredded multiple times is finer than single-shredded mulch and is usually easier to spread. Some mulches are aged, speeding their decomposition to provide soil with additional nourishment.
Inorganic mulches are made from material like shredded rubber. These have a longer lifespan because they do not decompose. In addition, they do not attract garden-destroying pests such as rabbits. Organic mulch can retain too much moisture in a wet climate, attracting slugs and snails and rotting plant stems. Therefore, inorganic mulch may be the best choice for gardens in moist climates and those that have rodent issues.
Step 2: Understand how much mulch to apply. The optimal thickness of a layer of mulch is 2 to 4 inches. A layer thinner than this may not sufficiently protect soil from weeds and weather damage. A thicker layer could retain excessive moisture. If the soil naturally retains water, less mulch will be needed. As mulch decomposes, it usually settles and then compacts so applying an extra inch is recommended. Add a new layer of organic mulch every one to two years, digging the existing layer into the soil to complete decomposing or simply spreading the new mulch on top of it.
Step 3: Apply mulch during late spring before temperatures rise substantially. First, remove roots and weeds from the flowerbeds so the weeds will not sprout through the mulch. When mulching, leave a few inches bare around bushes, flowers, and plants. If weeds are a problem, lay down cardboard or a layer of 5 to 7 sheets of newspaper on the flowerbed. The ink in newspaper is soy-based so it will not add toxic chemicals to the soil. As the cardboard or newspaper decomposes, it supplies the soil with organic matter. In a garden featuring permanent growth like shrubs and trees, landscape fabric can be used instead. Only inorganic mulch should be used with landscape fabric because organic mulch decomposes over the material and could lead to weed growth on top of the fabric.
Step 4: You can purchase mulch from a home improvement store or nursery. Store versions are inexpensive and are of a high quality. Some gardeners prepare to use a chipper or garden shredder to repurpose yard debris into homemade mulch.