Garden Mulching Advantages and Disadvantages

garden mulching

Advantages of Garden Mulching

In addition to moisture conservation, the addition of a good garden mulch to the soil surface has many useful functions in the garden, around both crop plants and ornamentals.

  • Weed seedlings are suffocated and shaded from light, so they mostly die soon after germinating. Continual use of sheet material, such as polythene, prevents weed seeds from getting into the soil in the first place Annual weeds in particular are suppressed by garden mulches.
  • Surface capping of the soil is prevented and good soil structure is maintained.
  • Excessive fluctuations in surface soil temperature — which can scorch delicate young roots — are reduced. Garden mulches also reduce the risk of the soil freezing in winter.
  • The decorative value of the ground around ornamental plants is increased by the use of some garden mulches — such as wood bark chip-pings and gravel — especially where new beds or borders have a lot of space between young developing plants.
  • Worms are attracted by the extra protection offered by surface mulches and these creatures in turn help to improve the aeration of the soil.
  • Lawn mowings (provided they have not been treated with weedkiller) can be used as a moisture and nitrogen-retaining mulch around peas and bean beds.
  • Alkaline mulching materials, such as spent mushroom compost, composted seaweed or limestone chippings, help to prevent acid soils from becoming even more acid — they are unlikely to make an acid soil alkaline.
  • Organic garden mulches such as well-rotted manure or garden compost add plant nutrients to the soil and increase its fertility.
  • Sheet materials such as polythene, and straw, can also be used as garden mulches to keep strawberries and other low-growing soft fruit crops clean —rain often splashes soil and other debris on to the fruits.
  • With the improved soil conditions, vegetable crops often produce a higher yield, and ornamental plants grow faster with better foliage and flowers.

Disadvantages of Garden Mulching

As with all good things, garden mulching has its disadvantages in certain situations, though many of these can be overcome.

  • The roots of perennial weeds left in the soil before the mulch is applied can grow into new plants. These are then difficult to eradicate by hand-weeding or hoeing without disturbing the garden mulch.
  • Some garden mulching materials, such as wood bark chippings, can deplete the soil of nitrogen.
  • It may be more difficult to apply fertilizers — especially granular forms — once the mulch is in place.
  • Polythene sheeting and other water-tight materials prevent rain-water from reaching the plant roots under the garden mulch. Absorbent organic materials soak up light showers of water, keeping plant roots dry.
  • All garden mulches can harbour pests, especially slugs, snails and wire-worms. If moist organic mulches smother the bases of plant stems they can cause rotting.

29. October 2010 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Garden Management, Manures and Fertilisers | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Garden Mulching Advantages and Disadvantages


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