Nature despises bare soil in your garden and it will work to cover it with something if you don’t (usually weeds you don’t want there). Mulch it a great option to cover that bare soil and has many benefits, but what kind of mulch should you use.
The Benefits Of Using Mulch In A Vegetable Garden
Helps Suppress Weeds
One of the biggest benefits of using mulch around your plants in the garden is for weed suppression. I remember the days of pulling up weeds for hours and feeling like I could never stay ahead of it. With mulching you can mostly get rid of that back-breaking task. Weeds that you cover will usually wither away after a few days under mulch because they cannot receive enough sunlight to grow strong roots.
Helps Retain Soil Moisture
Another benefit of using mulch is increasing water retention in the soil around your plants which keeps them healthy during dry periods. Mulch helps prevent evaporation so if it rains less than usual, there’s a better chance that more moisture from deep down in the ground reaches your plants’ root systems.
Feeds The Soil
Also mulched soil will become a more nutrient rich soil as the mulch breaks down and feeds the soil food web. This along with the moisture retention will create a healthy living soil good for growing just about anything. So mulch is a great option and there are several types to choose from.
Best Mulch Options For Your Vegetable Garden
This mulch is one of the most common types used in vegetable gardens, especially in permaculture circles. Wood chips are a great mulching material because they do not break down as quickly and saving on the maintenance of continually adding more mulch to the garden.
Ground bark mulches have many benefits such as being easy to spread, less expensive than wood mulches, looks good when applied evenly across the garden bed and reduces weed growth too. The downside would be that ground bark will take about six months before decomposing completely but there’s no need to reapply new mulch during this time period since only part of it breaks down each month while the rest remains on top providing weed suppression.
Pine Needles And Pine Bark
Pine mulches are great for vegetable gardens because pine needles will suppress weed growth and add a nice look to the garden. If you don’t like that natural wood mulch color, then there’s also wood chips or ground bark mulched made from pine too. Pine mulches may even deter deer so it’s an all-around good mulching option especially if you live in areas with these animals around your home.
A common myth with using pine needles as mulch is that it will make the soil acidic but according to an article from the University of New Hampshire, pine needles will mostly become neutral as they break down causing no significant change in soil pH.
Cocoa Bean Hulls
This is another mulch type suitable for vegetable beds and other types of plants since cocoa bean hulls do not contain any chemicals often found in some mulches such as pesticides or herbicides which can sometimes harm certain plant varieties when used excessively . Cocoa bean hulls break down quickly and provide mulch almost immediately which is a huge plus if you’re trying to keep plants from growing roots through your mulch bed.
Cocoa bean mulches are sometimes mixed with wood mulches for added aesthetics but cocoa hulls will break down very quickly so adding it as the main mulching material may not be recommended since they decompose too fast, just like pine bark mulch or pine needles that can also work well in vegetable beds.
This type of mulch comes from coffee beans after brewing them into delicious cups of Joe. Coffee grounds do wonders to soil health because they contain nitrogen and other nutrients beneficial to any plant growth . The downside would be its appearance: coffee ground mulches tend to look soggy and are not very attractive. However, you can easily counteract that by mixing coffee mulch with another type of mulcher such as wood chips or pine needles to reduce the sogginess factor.
This mulch type is easy to apply since it doesn’t take too much effort and time. Use a mulching spreader or just simply hold a handful of mulched straw over the garden bed and scatter evenly so there are no thick piles of mulch anywhere around your plants .
Straw can be purchased from local farms at reasonable prices but keep in mind that this mulching material decomposes quickly, which means you will have to reapply fresh mulches regularly if using solely as the main source instead of mixing with another type such as wood chips for example.
Hay mulches are great for flower beds but can also be used in vegetable gardens. Hay mulching is preferred by many gardeners because it adds a nice look to any plant bed especially when spread evenly across the surface. However, like straw, hay mulches decompose very quickly which means that you will have to regularly replace them every season if using mainly as your mulching material instead of mixing with another type such as wood chips or cocoa bean hulls.
Many gardeners avoid using hay because of the belief that it contains seed heads that can sprout in your garden when used in this way. While hay does contain some seeds it is uncommon that the conditions met by spreading it around the garden are suitable for the seeds to start growing. It just isn’t normally as big of a problem as most would think.
Shredded Leaves And Lawn Clippings
This mulch is readily available and free in most cases, providing excellent weed suppression when applied uniformly on top of the soil . The downside would be its appearance: leaves tend to turn brown after being exposed under sun so they may not look too attractive compared to other types of mulch.
This mulching material provides weed suppression and is easy to apply. This works great in combination with other mulch materials. This is commonly referred to as sheet mulching or lasagna gardening and can be a great method for all the benefits listed above.
Check out this article on where to get mulch – How To Get Free Mulch For The Permaculture Garden
Potential Problems With Some Mulch Types
Some mulches such as cocoa bean hulls and coffee grounds which contain high amounts of nitrogen can cause certain types of plant to grow too fast and excessively which you don’t want since this will affect their overall health negatively especially if they are perennial varieties with larger root systems.
Herbicides and pesticides can be present in many mulches that were sprayed at some point. Make sure you know where your mulch comes from and if it was ever sprayed as this can be detrimental to your garden. Many people spray there lawns so if you are collecting grass clipping from friends be sure to ask if they spray.
Mulches can be a great way to enhance the look of your landscape and help with soil improvement. Just make sure that you know which type works best for certain plant varieties so as not to cause any harm or detriment in their growth. That said, mulching is definitely one gardening practice worth trying out!