Find yourself wondering, What is Mulch? What does it do? Don’t worry! We’ll answer all of these and share the Best Types of Mulch for you!
If you have always wondered about what exactly mulch is, you’ve come to the right place! We’ll give you a detailed insight into the best Types of Mulch and their uses in the garden!
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What is Mulch?
Mulch is a layer of organic or inorganic matter that you can apply at the plant’s base (on the soil). It’s also in mulching meaning in Malayalam (malch cheyyath) – it means covering the soil with mulch.
Now why do we do that? It’s a protective covering that protects the roots of the plant from 3 things – extreme cold, heat, and sudden temperature fluctuations.
Mulching also prevents water loss from the soil, reduces the growth of weeds, and creates a healthy layer for beneficial soil organisms to thrive. Now that you understand mulch, here are its different types and what they’re good for.
Types of Mulch
Broadly speaking, it can be organic or inorganic. Organic one is made up of decomposable organic materials and adds beneficial nutrients to the soil upon decomposing. It not only upgrades the soil’s productivity but also enhances water retentiveness. It is eco-friendly, too!
1. Grass Clippings
Grass clippings keep the roots moist and cool for an extended duration. They decompose at a fast rate and are best for garden beds.
The sheets of old newspapers keep the roots and soil moist and cool for a prolonged period. You can use them with compost or vermiculture. Together, they will increase water retentiveness and suppress weeds effectively.
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3. Shredded Leaves
Shredded leaves are one of the best organic alternatives for plants. They also attract beneficial earthworms to the soil.
4. Garden Compost
Organic compost is great for soil productivity, adds nutrients, suppresses weeds, and retains water. You can include shredded leaves, branches, hay, kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, and manure.
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5. Hay and Straw
Straw and hay keep the weeds, pests, and other soil-borne diseases at bay while decomposing slowly in the soil. Also, they work as a host for beneficial and garden-friendly insects.
Other organic options are shredded or chipped bark, well-rotted horse manure, and pine needles.
Inorganic Mulch Types
The other type is inorganic mulch. This one does not decompose or break down. It includes layers of gravel or rocks, plastic sheeting, and landscape fabric, to name a few.
It is frequently used for strawberries, watermelon, cucumber, tomatoes, and sweet corn. Plastic is an economical option for large-scale production. However, it prevents rainwater and air from penetrating into the soil.
2. Rock or Gravel
Rocks and gravels suppress weeds while holding the growing medium in place. They are good for drought-resistant plants as they absorb heat, which can take up the moisture from the plant’s roots.
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Mulch can also be made with recycled tire crumbs or shredded rubber mats. They can suppress weeds and retain good moisture but may be flammable.
Right Time to Apply Mulch India
Mid to late spring is the ideal time for using mulch in the garden. As a rule of thumb, you can mulch your plants during March and early April when the plants are undergoing the growth phase. If you want to know the specific time, follow this:
- North India: mid-March to early April is perfect for applying it if you live in the Northern states when the soil thaws and plant growth picks up after the cold winter months.
- Central India: Temperatures rise earlier in the central states, so you should mulch in late February or early March, especially for heat-sensitive plants.
- South India: With warmer temperatures year-round, you should mulch your plants in two phases: February-March for summer crops and August-September for monsoon ones.
- Eastern India: Similar to North India, aim for mid-March to early April after the winter chill subsides to give your plants a good layer.
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Mulch Tips You Should Know
- Make sure you take out the weeds that are already growing before it to your garden.
- You should research what kind would suit your specific plant before adding it.
- Keep it away from the stems of the plant and from tree trunks – mulch can cause moisture buildup and rot here.
- A 2-3 inch layer is best for most plants. A bit thicker only when it’s a water-loving plant.