Mulching garden beds can improve the life and quality of your plants. Mulch benefits the health of the soil, and improves the appearance of your garden landscape. Mulch makes it easy to maintain garden beds because it controls the growth of weed, reduce water evaporation and prevents soil erosion. If you mulch garden beds, you will have to water your plants less often. Mulch also insulates plants from harsh weather conditions so they can grow better in dry season.
There are different kinds of mulch which suit different types of plants. Some mulch types change the pH level of the soil. So you should know what pH value is more suitable for your plants, and then decide on the kind of mulch that you will use. Then you plan how to install mulch in your garden beds. First, you need to prepared the edge of the bed. There are two ways of doing this. The first is to form the edge by hand. Use a spade to flatten the bottom of the bed and cut a vertical edge removing extra soil. This process is a bit time consuming. The other method is to rent a bed edger and use the machine to form edges around the garden bed.
The best time to apply mulch is in fall or spring. Young plants benefits from much added in winter because the mulch insulates them from the cold weather by retaining the heat in the soil. New mulch can be used to top up soil around the root zones but only when needed. Over mulching can cause plants to rot by attracting pathogens and insects. As mulch degrades, it can be ploughed into the soil to increase the nutrient component. Depending on the kind of mulch you use, you will have to replace it after a year or so. Wood mulch lasts longer than straw mulch because it degrades slowly. For young plants, it is better to use mulch that decomposes faster releasing more nutrients into the soil.
Mulch around trees and shrubs should be about 2”-3” high. This ensures that soil remains compacts and plant roots do not get suffocated. The same height is sufficient for perennial plants. If you are using mulch in vegetable beds, avoid piling it too close to the stems or crowns as it can cause decay in the plants. Some people use pine bank to control weed development in their yards and gardens. If pine bark is used over several years, it can change the pH of the soil. It can also use up nitrogen which can retard the growth of young plants. One of the biggest pine bark mulch problems is that during heavy rain, the large pine bark chunks can become unstable causing soil erosion. Another pine bark mulch problem is that it could lead to pine wilt disease. Pine wilt is fatal for plants and is caused by a nematode which travels in tress through pine sawyer beetle. This disease only affects non-native pine trees like mugo and scotch pine. To avoid pine bark mulch problems, alternate it with hardwood mulch in your garden beds every two years.