Mulches cover the soil, control weed growth, preserve moisture and maintain soil temperature. Any vegetable garden will benefit from the use of mulch, especially in dry winters. Organic mulches also add organic matter to the soil, thus helping in the growth of plants. According to a study, a vegetable garden that uses mulch produces 50 percent more vegetables than an unmulched vegetable patch.
The choice between wood chips vs mulch always bothers gardeners. But it really depends for which plants you use them. Wood chips are a bit difficult to work with in vegetable gardens, because when you have to dig the beds, you will have to move away the chips first. However, the chemical diversity in wood chips makes it a good choice for increasing nutrients in the soil because the wood chips contain leaves and bark of different trees. The wood chips absorb moisture better and tend to decompose very slowly which means that you would not have to worry about replacing them for a long time. Wood chips are ideal for trees and shrubs. 2 – 3″ of wood chips is adequate depth for mulching around trees.
If you use wood mulch in vegetable gardens, keep the mulch at least 1 inch away from the stems and crowns of the plants. If the mulch is too close to the stems, the plants might begin to rot. In addition to wood mulch, some gardeners use newspapers to enhance weed control. They place newspaper underneath the wood mulch, and overlap the newspaper sheets so the light cannot pass through, thus retarding the growth of weeds.
The best mulch for raised bed vegetable garden can vary depending on the vegetables you want to harvest. It is often a matter of trial and testing to see which mulch works best for your plants. Wood mulch generally reduces pH level of soil, so it is better for plants that require more acidic component like shrubs. Pine needles are also good for increasing acidity of the soil. Chopped or shredded leaves work well for raised vegetable beds too, and give plants an immediate boost of nutrients because they decompose very quickly.
When you initially start your vegetable bed garden, experiment with an inexpensive mulch to see if it works well for the vegetable growth. Then, you can purchase more expensive mulch if you see it benefiting your vegetable garden. You can also get wood mulch from local carpenter or tree surgery service for a cheaper price. If you have trees in your surrounding area, you can collect the fallen twigs and bark and turn them into wood mulch. If you purchase wood mulch, ask the vendor if it has been treated with any chemical agents. When you are using wood mulch in vegetable gardens, you want the mulch to be free from chemicals. Wood mulch is used in landscaping too, so if you plan on redesigning your vegetable garden, you can use wood mulch to make it more attractive and your plants can benefit from its rich nutrients.