Mulching is probably one of the best gardening and farming practices humans learned from centuries of interacting with nature. Mulching is most beneficial when growing trees as they improve soil conditions and aeration. Layering mulch beneath and over a vegetable bed can also enhance growth and yields. Any amateur gardener can achieve this by following proper mulching techniques.
Benefits of Mulching
Applying mulch around the general area of a tree can significantly reduce water loss from the soil as well as minimize weed competition and improve the roots’ integration to the soil. As the mulch decomposes and integrates into the soil, it will feed organic matter and beneficial organisms that will protect the tree from pests and diseases. Every arborist or gardener knows the benefits of mulch in boosting soil structure. In fact, they tend to focus more on making mulch and improving the soil, before anything else.
Choosing the Proper Mulch
Organic mulches include decomposing leaves, wood chips, pine needles, cocoa hulls, hardwood and softwood bark, compost mixes and other products derived from plants. They naturally decompose in the landscape, which then improves soil quality and fertility.
When choosing the proper mulch type, consider the material you can easily get in your area. Some mulch types decompose faster so they must be replenished more often. Do not crowd the root crown with mulch as it will suffocate the tree. A good old rake or pitchfork will break up any matted layers and make sure your mulch is not piled deeply. Make sure that you apply thoroughly composted mulch.
Most arborists and landscape architects suggest mulching wider instead of deeper. Deep mulching, and using the wrong material, can cause significant harm to trees and other landscape plants. Experiment by mixing a couple or more mulch materials together and see what works best for your landscape and available plants. There are plenty of materials out there that are available in your local. If you haven’t explored all the organic options, do not resort to inorganic mulch types such as geotextile fabrics, pulverized rubber or lava rock. All they do is conserve moisture; they don’t improve soil quality and structure.
Mulch works as a natural insulation for the soil that protects roots from weather extremes, encourages beneficial organisms to thrive in the soil, and improve soil drainage and fertility. Mix it up with a good homemade compost to control weed germination and inhibit certain plant diseases.