Mulching For Beauty & Conservation

Mulching For Beauty & Conservation

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Garden beds all across the country are coming alive as the spring season advances. But that also means that weeds are sprouting alongside of flowers and watering will soon be necessary to keep gardens in shape.

The Advantages of Mulching

mulchOne way that homeowners are tackling their gardens is by mulching. Mulch does several things: keeps weeds at bay, helps to retain and distribute water evenly and beautifies the garden.

Before you run out and purchase mulch, do you have something in your yard that will serve the purpose? Some gardeners prefer to go as natural (and inexpensive) as possible when mulching, using grass clippings to protect beds. Where I live, pine trees are prevalent and pine straw makes a wonderful and attractive mulch. Best of all, it is free.

Natural or Man Made Mulch

When choosing a mulch, do you want to go with something that is natural and will break down over time or will you use something man made that will endure for many years to come?  With the latter category rocks, rubber and plastic are common choices, mulch that will last for many years.

Steps To Successful Mulching

When preparing a garden to be mulched, I like to take the following steps:

Remove debris — Pull up weeds, remove rocks and give your garden a good picking over. Of course, you don’t want to remove plants and flowers that are part of your garden, but prepping the soil to receive the mulch will mean you’ll have less to deal with later. This is a good time to get rid of old mulch too.

Paper or plastic — I’m not one to lay down a layer of newspaper or plastic on my beds as I find that this method tends to retain more water than what I want. Not everyone is in agreement with me on this point, so all I can say is consider what you’re putting down and whether it’ll break up over time and whether that will leave you having to pull it all out at the end of the growing season.

Buy your mulch — This time of year home garden centers (nursery) are selling mulch by the bag and at some of the best prices. If  you need a lot of mulch, consider ordering it by the cubic foot. You’ll want to have enough mulch to provide two to four inches of cover, so multiply your garden’s width and length by the depth of the mulch to know how much mulch to order. Also check with your community’s recycling center which will often grind up leaves and other garden refuse and turn that into mulch. Free too!

Spread the mulch — Use a rake to spread the mulch, creating an even layer throughout the garden. I like to leave less mulch around existing plants in order to give them some room to breath. In addition, if you still have some bulbs to plant, leave areas of your garden unmulched until you are done with that.

Finally, when using natural mulch you’ll want to make sure that it is free of seeds and diseased dead plants, both of which can harm your garden. You can make your own screen to remove debris while keeping your eye out for tiny seeds which can slip through.

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About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Matt's Musings", his personal blog. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and blogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".