There are two main times in the year when mulching the garden, orchard and flowerbeds is essential. Place mulch around outdoor plants in late autumn to provide a barrier of protection from frigid temperatures and mulch again in early summer to help plants retain needed moisture and to reduce the growth of weeds. In summer, mulch also helps keep fruit and vegetables off the ground and out of standing water, avoiding unnecessary rot.
- Pine straw is the ideal mulch for all acid-loving vegetables, fruit, and flowers. Add thick layer to protect and enrich the soil and roots of your plants. Place pine straw around tomato plants, blueberries, strawberries, roses, holly, camellias, gardenias, azaleas, and rhododendrons.
- Mulch between rows and pathways in the garden to reduce weeds. After the growing season, organic mulch can be turned into the soil to enrich the soil.
- Organic mulch can be freely obtained by putting to use shredded newspaper, grass clippings, bales of straw, pine needles, wood shavings or chips, shredded leaves and old sawdust. Local sawmills can furnish sawdust, tree bark and wood chips at little or no cost when you bring your own truck or trailer to haul it away.
- Mulching no-no! Do not use cocoa mulch if dogs have access to the outdoor area you’re preparing to add mulch. It is made from cacao bean shells. The hulls contain theobromine and caffeine, which are toxic to dogs, if ingested.
- Water the soil around your plants well just before mulching.
- Keep the mulch from touching the stems and trunks of plants, shrubs and trees.
- For best results, mulch 2” inches deep.
- The best time to mulch is right after a rain or just after watering.
- When using newspaper as mulch do not use pages with color ink. Newspaper breaks down quickly. Weigh shredded newspaper down with bark or wood chips.
- For inexpensive, highly beneficial organic mulch sure to enrich the soil use these three layers. First add a layer of shredded newspaper. Second, add a layer of decomposed manure and top with a third layer of straw, shavings or chips.
Deborah Tukua is the editor of Journey to Natural Living and the author of the healthy fresh from the blender recipe book, Naturally Sweet Blender Treats. She is a freelance writer for the Farmers' Almanac and Chiropractic Economics magazine and author of the book, Marketing Strategies for Chiropractic Success. Check out Lowell and Deborah's super sturdy and handsome DIY Gardening Potting Bench Plans.