How to Make Mulch
Mulching is an important step in vegetable gardening. Without mulch weeds can take over pretty quickly and many vegetable and fruit plants can’t regulate moisture properly without some type of padding to help keep moisture in during the hotter weeks of summer. There are different types of mulch and you can even learn how to make mulch from everyday household items.
During the cold months good mulch will also keep heat in and prevent snow and ice from penetrating roots. During the summer months a good mulching will keep water in, providing a consistent temperature for roots deep down in the soil bed. There are two types of mulches; organic and inorganic. Organic mulch will decompose, enriching the soil. Inorganic won’t decompose but is sometimes better for beds depending on the circumstances.
Over the years I have used a lot of things to create mulch, including newspaper I had gathered from our Sunday coupon inserts and shredded paper from my shredded bills. You can make mulch with grass clippings, burlap bags, straw, hay, nut casings, wood chips and crushed shell mulches. The type of mulch is going to depend on what you want your garden to look like. If you want a clean well put together garden that neighbors will stop by and gawk at then you probably wouldn’t want to go with recycled materials like newspaper or shredding but if you are wanting to garden for food and don’t care how the garden looks then recycled mulch is much cheaper and better for the environment. By applying mulch to your vegetable beds and flower beds you will spend less time watering, weeding and less pest problems.
Serves as a Protective Barrier
During the fall and winter months mulch serves as a protective barrier from environmental conditions. During winter time temperatures can quickly plummet into below freezing and plants are extremely vulnerable to freezing conditions. When it snows or rains heavily and it is within freezing conditions the roots of plants are in danger of freezing; mulch protects the plant from dying. When choosing mulch for this purpose it is important to consider how cold your area gets and what your plants needs are. Burlap bags layered over the beds with a second layer of thick straw will keep the ground from freezing. Choosing mulch, like wood chips and bark mulch that supply warmth is a good idea for plants that are not cold weather verities. The most important thing is that you have a layer of protection between the ground surrounding a plant and the cold conditions. Apply mulch before the first frost and add additional mulch if you are expecting a heavy freeze or snow.
Keeps Moisture In and Keeping Weeds Out
Tomatoes, peppers, squash and a lot of other vegetables love moisture and organic material added to the soil. The richer the soil is the better the plant will thrive and the bigger peppers and tomatoes will get. Tomatoes love warmth and lots of moisture so laying a thick covering of straw will ensure tomatoes have plenty of moisture and a consistent temperature to keep their roots warm during cold fronts. Spreading mulch is probably the best time saving technique for keeping away weeds. Weeds prevent plants from getting all the nutrients from the soil so you should always weed around vegetable beds before planting. Mulch blocks the light, preventing new weeds from growing. You do need to clear weeds from the ground before spreading mulch and should not use grass clipping from spring as the clipping will likely contain seeds and the seeds will spout. Mulching is a great time saver for the home gardener. You can use mulch not just for vegetable gardening but for all gardening needs including around trees and shrubbery.
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Thanks to Emily, a Little House Living reader, for this post on how to make mulch!