How to mulch your way through gardening season
Now that the New Year is here, getting your garden ready is probably the last thing on your mind. And Batavia, like every other Midwestern town in the United States, isn’t having the best weather to start up our gardens. In fact, the ground has been so cold that digging wouldn’t be an option anyway.
Still, there is nothing wrong with planning ahead of time because, before we know it, spring will hit Batavia and its surrounding communities, and the time will be to plant. So why not be ready?
This year, we are giving our residents some insights on why mulching might be a good practice for your household.
What Is Mulch?
In short, mulch is pretty much anything that is placed on top of the soil in a garden or landscape. They are very helpful to gardeners if they want their landscapes to be low-maintenance.
There are all types of mulch available, both organic and inorganic. Some examples of good mulch are shredded bark chips, compost and manure, grass clippings, shredded leaves, straw, and even newspaper. Organic selections will decompose, which means you will have to add more mulch after time, but the benefits are amazing.
It’s up to you how dry or wet your mulch will be, but the truth is that when mulch is dry, it decomposes at a slower rate. This might be great so you don’t have to keep adding mulch but the nutrients in the mulch won’t be getting to the soil where they are needed.
If you choose a wood or bark mulch, it’s important that you water it well right after you install it. Not only will it amp up the decomposition of the mulch you laid down, it will prevent the high-temperature tolerant microorganisms found in some mulches after they are stored. They will die when they are cooled down. If left to their own devices, these microorganisms will group tougher in the mulch and create a surface over your garden that repels water.
One thing you will need is a good garden hose. If you have a garden and a few landscape bushes you plan on mulching, then a quality hose will make your job of wetting it all down all the easier. Check out these garden hose reviews by The Sleep Judge if you feel your current hose won’t be able to live up to the job.
It’s all about the base
When it comes time to lay down your mulch it is important that you remember not to overwhelm the crowns of your plants or the bases of your trees. If the mulch is placed close enough for contact with trunks or stems moisture linger and your plants and trees can develop crown rot.
It can also be a great place for rodents to hide while waiting to eat your plants. As a rule of thumb you should keep a few inches between your crowns and stems and your mulch.
While you are at it, watch how thickly you lay down your mulch as well. Mulch made from wood can decompose in high temperature storage and dry out. Again, you wouldn't want to be dealing with those microorganisms that can create a water repellent barrier.
Mulch that is too deep can prevent the water in the soil to evaporate, which can cause more problems with the roots and stems. They can also be deprived of oxygen if you put too much mulch down. Try to not go any higher than 3 inches.
Before distributing the mulch, it’s a good idea to add a nitrogen source to the soil. Those same microorganisms we keep mentioning love nitrogen and can deplete the soil if some is not added, which would be unfortunate for annuals and perennials. You can tell your plants are suffering from a nitrogen deficiency when their leaves start to turn yellow. There are several sources of nitrogen you can add like urea, blood meal, and high-nitrogen lawn fertilizer.
There are a great many benefit to adding mulch to your garden. It provides slow release nutrients while preventing vitamin deficiencies in your plants. Mulch will retain moisture for your soil, which will lessen the time you need to spend watering your garden. It will create a preventive barrier between your garden and weeds while still increasing the biological activity.
Mulching creates soil conditions that are excellent by binding soils that are more like sand and open up soils that have a clay consistency. You will save your energy and time because you won’t need to cultivate your soil and the nutrients you add to your soil won’t leach out due to the three inches of mulch you just laid down.
By adopting this practice, you will help protect your plants from frost and the surface will remain, which is great when you want to harvest the fruits and nuts that fall from the trees. Soil will drain well and the mulch will help support your garden.
The benefits of mulching are indisputable, and we think it’s something everyone that lives in Batavia, as well as residents of other communities, should take full advantage of it. Your plants will thank you for it and so will your back, when it doesn’t hurt from all the extra work mulching will save you.
Resource content provided to the City of Batavia by backyardboss.net