If you want to have less weeds, less maintenance, fewer headaches and more vegetables from your garden – then mulch in the garden is the answer!

mulch
Mulching can give newly planted veggies big protection!

The list of benefits for utilizing mulch in the garden is long and powerful. It is a soil insulator, a moisture retainer and a weed suppressor.  And when the right mulch is chosen – it has the added benefit of building incredible nutrients into your soil, leaving you with a more productive and healthy garden year after year.

Mulch is fantastic in helping to regulate soil temperature.  It can keep the hot summer sun from heating the soil too much during the day time, and insulates the soil from losing it’s heat on overly cool nights.  That constant temperature is a major key in healthy and strong plant growth.

The best part – mulch doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, nearly all of the garden mulches listed below can be found quite inexpensively, and in most cased for free!

The real secret to a weed free, low maintenance garden really comes down to choosing the right kind of mulch for specific areas of the garden.

Compost

gardening tips
Compost is the best mulch to use in the garden, period! (Photo : Shutterstock / Elena Elisseeva)

The absolute Champion of all mulches! We use it around every single plant – creating a 1″ to 2″ mulch about 8″ in diameter around the base of each plant.  It not only keeps out weeds and insulates plants from temperature swings – it also leaches in impressive amounts of nutrients to the soil every time you water or it rains.  See : How To Make Great Compost – Fast!

Shredded Leaves

Leaves are one of the most abundant,inexpensive and naturally found mulches you can use effectively in your garden. 

Whole leaves make a great weed blocker for your walking rows, matting together to suppress weeds in the soil from germinating, and keeping in blowing and drifting weed seeds from finding their way to open soil. Shredded leaves are great to use around plants and in growing rows to keep weeds out, insulate plants, and build nutrients into your soil. 

Why shred? Whole leaves take a long time to break down and can matte together to keep out water, air and nutrients when used as a mulch in growing rows or around plants. And don’t worry about purchasing an expensive shredder – an old push mower or riding mower can easily do the trick of shredding them up. See : 4 Great Ways To Use Leaves In The Landscape  

Keep in mind that some leaves are better than others for use in the garden. Maple, Birch, Ash, Beech and fruit tree leaves are excellent choices. Oak leaves and pine needles on the other hand should be avoided around plants.  The leaves of Oaks as well as pine needles are on the acidic side, and can knock your soil’s PH out of balance,

Wood Chips / Bark

A few years back, we switched to using natural bark and wood chips as a mulch in the walking rows of our garden – and have never looked back! It can inexpensively sourced, sometimes even for free from local tree trimmers and landscapers. It breaks down slowly and keeps weeds completely out of the walking rows of the garden. Making it unnecessary to maintain any of the walking row areas of your garden – cutting your chores in half!

Straw

Straw is an excellent mulch to use nearly everywhere in the garden. In the growing rows, near plants, or even in the walking rows. The only drawback is that it can be pricey – especially depending where you live. There was a time a few years back when we utilized it more often in our own garden, but we have scaled back now that we can use our own compost and leaves.   

What not to use…

When it comes to the garden, there are some choices for mulch that you want to avoid.

Commercial Bagged and Bulk Mulch – Although commercial mulches can be great in flower and landscape beds – they are not the best choice for gardens. Most commercially available hardwood mulches are treated with artificial colorants, dyes, fungicides and more. When it comes to putting them near consumable veggie plants in the garden – it’s a big no-no.  

Hay –  Hay is not the same as straw – and can create a lot of weed problems in your garden. Whereas straw is created from the leftover stubble of a crop in the field, hay is the entire growth, seed heads and all. Using hay in the garden is like planting thousands of weed seeds!

So get out there and mulch in that garden this year – and enjoy a better crop with less maintenance!

Happy Gardening!  Jim and Mary



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