You can see a healthy garden as being a well-mulched garden. This practice delivers countless benefits to a vegetable garden and garden beds.
A good mulch can retain temperatures in soils, prevent heat from getting into the ground in hot weather, thus retaining moisture. Mulches are highly effective as weed control methods, and they make a garden look neat and tidy.
Things may not be as comfortable at just spreading any mulch on your garden as there are various kinds. Here, we will look at the types of mulch you can use and how they will affect your garden.
By the end, you will find the best mulch for vegetable garden, and how to use it effectively.
Pros and Cons of Mulching Gardens
Gardeners have a choice whether to mulch their gardens or not. There are ways you can look at these choices such as
Cheap vs. expensive, organic vs. inorganic, and which ones are easy to use and look good when in the garden.
When you want to know what does mulching do, you see there are pros and cons of mulching garden beds as you can see here:
- Retaining moisture
- Retaining soil heat in cold weather
- Helps prevent weeds
- Improves the appearance of gardens
- There can be an increase in insects
- Plants can suffer fungal or mold growth
- There can be an introduction of weed seeds
- It may not last long and will be an additional cost
Good garden mulch will have more benefits for gardens than it will have negative points.
Different Mulches for Gardens
Here are the varying kinds of garden mulch you have to choose from for your garden. Some are easy to find, make, or purchase, while others can take a little more effort.
1. Organic Mulches
These kinds of mulches will come from natural means such as compost, grass cuttings, pine, straw, or leaves and bark.
Here are some of the primary organic mulches you can use to mulch around your gardens and raised beds.
2. Grass Clippings
You can use grass clippings as mulch as long as you use them correctly. Use dry grass and build up the layer to a few inches. If you use a thick layer of fresh-cut grass after your lawn care, it gives off lots of heat and smells.
It doesn’t decompose the same as other organic matter. Clipping decomposes quickly and delivers a bountiful dose of nitrogen into the garden soil and the plant roots to aid growth.
Be sure not to use and cut grass that has been treated with insecticides or weed killers or fertilizers.
3. Pine Needles
The use of pine needles as a mulch needs to be done with some care. Pine will raise the acidity of the soil, as well as remaining in place on sloped gardens even after heavy rains.
These decompose slower than other mulch options and change colors as they become older.
Some gardeners sweat by using Pine bark shavings, yet this is down to choice.
4. Wood Chips and Bark
When talking about mulch, this is the most common type; and what you can get from the garden center.
You will find these in all manner of varieties and colors, yet they all deliver the same benefits when you dump them on the surface of the soil. Wood chips and bark break down while the nutrients and goodness seep into the ground.
Insects and worms add this as they burrow into the soil and make it easier for the mulch for vegetable patches to reach the root systems.
These mulches break down quickly in your vegetable gardens, so they will need to be added to throughout the growing season.
5. Leaf Mulch
For a natural mulch you can use in your vegetable garden, you can use a thick layer (up to 3 inches) of leaf mulch.
Even though they decompose fast, they offer excellent weed control. Leaves are another way to deliver natural nutrients into the soil. One thing to note is that if you use shredded leaves, these stay in place longer and decompose faster than full leaves.
6. Hay and Straw
This is one garden bed mulch that is more suited to in a garden real rather than a raised bed or for container gardening. It will take some effort because you will need to fetch the straw mulch from another place.
One of the best ways to find this is from composted manure from a local farm. This delivers lots of nutrients to any vegetable gardening DIY projects you have on the go.
These can be better when tilled into the upper surface of the soil. They will also need replenishing over time due to the speed of decomposing.
Although some of the above can be used in your compost pile, they are all capable of being used on their own. You can, though, make your organic mulch with kitchen scraps being mixed into another mulch option.
This does take time to produce, yet it makes a fantastic mulch for vegetable gardens because of the masses of nutrients it contains.
This can revive soil back to a normal level and help remove toxins that prevent your vegetable plants from growing.
8. Man-Made Mulches
Several inorganic mulches can help with your gardens, even if they don’t deliver nutrients like the natural mulches you can use.
9. Landscape Fabrics
When you use landscape fabric, you are often just seeking to stop weeds from growing. You tend to find this under another material such as gravel. It is a recommendation not to use it under any natural types of mulch.
You see newer forms of this along pathways between your raised bed plots as the pathway. It stops weeds sprouting, yet it is porous enough to let rain through.
10. Black Plastic
You will often see this being used with one of the above organics. Black plastic is a great way to stop weeds in their tracks; however, soil temperatures will rise and can be too much for your veggies.
In most cases, there is a layer of compost or another mulch on top of this to prevent plastic absorbing light and heating the soil.
This kind of plastic mulch breaks down over time and will need replacing. This can be hard if you have another mulch on top, yet the time it saves weeding may be worth the effort.
How to Mulch Your Vegetable Garden
Weeds are combated by the use of mulch in two ways. The first is to lay the mulch on already weeded soil, and secondly, to lay a thick enough layer to inhibit the appearance of new weeds. Unless the area is shaded, it can take a four to six-inch thick layer to deter new weed growth.
Because mulches retain moisture, they can slow soil warming. If you are in the spring, you need to be sure no mulch is against stems of flowers or vegetables because it can lead to rot. Give at least an inch away from your veggies to prevent this.
This is important for things like tomato plants when using straw as they can have fungal issues.
When you are doing any fall gardening, you will find this mulching is more for adding nutrients and keeping the soil warm rather than weed control.
When looking at how to use mulch in a vegetable garden, be sure not to use one who holds water.
This is also vital, depending on the time of year. Once you wet a mulch with your garden hose, it may not need watering again for several days.
Choosing the Right Mulch
For raised bed mulch or an excellent mulch for vegetable gardens, you need one which delivers nutrients and restricts weed growth.
You will need to look at these following garden mulching tips in three key areas.
Not every vegetable will like the same growing conditions. While your plastic mulches are no good for delivering nutrients, they can be a real benefit to heat-loving tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. The soil warms to the temperatures these plants love.
Cool-weather plants prefer straw or leaves which have been shredded. This drops the soil temp by up to 25 degrees fahrenheit so that these plants can grow in hotter climates.
Don’t use plastic in hot climates, and never use water retaining mulches in areas where summers are colder and wetter.
Plants can be stunted from cold and yellow from too much water. Soil cooling mulch for garden needs to be applied to warm dry soil.
The last gardening tips involve the soil you are growing in. Always consider your soil type before just throwing on your mulch. Plastic is no use on sandy soil as it can’t get water from irrigation or rain.
Wet soil can dry out through the growing season, so never use moisture-retaining mulch as this will make your plants be too wet, and thus suffer.
Once you find the best mulch, you can easily see the impact it has on your garden. From the way, it looks to the way it grows.