By now, you’ve probably heard that mulch is an essential component of a successful farm or garden. Garden mulch is a layer of organic material that is spread on the ground to protect or improve soil. Mulch materials can range from “brown” mulch (carbon)— shredded leaves, newspaper, straw, or wood chips—to “green” mulch (nitrogen)—grass clippings, cut weeds or herbs or manure. It can also contain compost soil and living mulches. While it’s common practice to put mulch down in the garden at the end of the growing season, mulches also help in the spring garden and throughout the growing season.
Here’s what you need to know in order to integrate mulching into your gardening schedule.
Mulching is a simple act that can cause big benefits to your growing season. As you’re waiting for your spring seeds to germinate so you can transplant them into the garden, refresh the beds with a layer of mulch to create a welcoming habitat for your new crops.
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Mulch Insulates and Protects: It insulates soil to protect soil organisms and plant roots from extreme weather, as well as insulate them from sudden fluctuations, such as freezing temperatures, drying sun or compaction from heavy rains.
Mulch Improves Diversity and Soil Health: It protects soil organisms, like worms, insects, and soil microbes, which will help protect against pests. These soil critters work double-duty: As the soil organisms break down the mulch, it will enrich the soil. Mulch also helps to prevent soil erosion, allowing you to keep more of your healthy soil right where you want it: in your garden.
Mulch Regulates Moisture: Because mulch will reduce evaporation, it helps maintain even moisture level, protecting soil organisms and plant roots from shock and cutting down on the need to water.
Mulch Reduces Weeds: This works in two ways: first, reducing the amount of sunlight weed seeds are exposed to so fewer germinate, and second, by preventing weed seeds from settling on soil and germinating. Researchers at Michigan State University discovered that the brown leaf mulch’s suppression of weeds increased when paired with a green mulch source, such as grass clippings.