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. There are different types of mulch and you can even learn how to make mulch from everyday household items.
How to Make Mulch
Mulching can be done around your vegetables, flowers, trees, and shrubbery and has many benefits.
Mulch Keeps Moisture In
During the summer months, good mulching will keep water in, providing a consistent temperature for roots deep down in the soil bed. 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 the warmth and lots of moisture so laying a thick covering of straw will ensure tomatoes have plenty of moisture and consistent temperature to keep their roots warm during cold fronts.
Mulch Keeps Weeds Out
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 those seeds will sprout.
Mulch Serves as a Protective Barrier
During the fall and winter months, mulch serves as a protective barrier from environmental conditions. During wintertime 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. A good mulch will keep heat in and prevent snow and ice from penetrating the roots, protecting the plant from dying.
When choosing mulch for this purpose it is important to consider how cold your area gets and what your plant’s 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 also a good idea for plants that are not cold weather varieties. 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 spread additional layers if you are expecting a heavy freeze or snow.
Mulch is a Time Saver
Mulching is a great time saver for the home gardener. By applying mulch to your vegetable beds and flower beds you will spend less time watering, weeding and have fewer pest problems.
How to Make Mulch
There are two types of mulches; organic and inorganic. Organic will decompose, enriching the soil. Inorganic won’t decompose but is sometimes better for beds, depending on the circumstances. Both types can be made easily from household items.
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 also use grass clippings, burlap bags, straw, hay, nut casings, wood chips, and crushed shell mulches.
The type of mulch you will want to make is going to depend on what you want your garden to look like. If you want a clean, well put together a garden that neighbors will stop by and gawk at then you probably wouldn’t want to go with recycled materials. If you are wanting to garden for food and don’t care how the garden looks then recycled materials are much cheaper and better for the environment.
Ready to learn more about gardening? Check out our Gardening 101 page!
Do you use mulch in your garden?
Thanks to Emily, a Little House Living reader, for this post on how to make mulch!
This post on How to Make Mulch was originally posted on Little House Living in September 2013. It has been updated as of August 2019.