Since spring is just around the corner, it’s good to have a game plan for mulching. Mulch helps you maintain stable garden temperatures and moisture in the soil. It protects against weeds and rain, creates an inviting habitat for worm activity and beautifies your front lawn, backyard and garden.
Before you begin mulching, make sure the soil is thawed and slightly warm. Once the weather is on your side, start prepping the area you want to cover by removing grasses and weeds. A good weed prevention strategy is a double layer of newspapers placed directly on top of the ground, completely covering the exposed ground. Do not use pages with colored ink, which have chemicals that can harm the soil. Put grass clippings or a handful of mulch on top to weigh the pages down as you lay down the rest of the newspaper.
Speaking of grass clippings, yard waste can make excellent mulching material. Grass, leaves and composted food and garden waste can be easily recycled and disguised under a layer of store-bought mulch. When it comes to grass, timing is everything. Add clippings to the compost pile for future use immediately after cutting the lawn, or gather and spread out two-inches thick across shaded areas of the garden to avoid heating and rotting under the sun. Thicker layers can rot and become smelly and slimy. Don’t use clippings from lawns that have been treated with herbicides.
You have a little more breathing room with leaves. After collecting the leaves in the fall, use a lawnmower to chop them up. If the leaves are not cut and dampened, they can blow away over the next few months or compact together into heavy bricks. Next, create a compost pile where the leaves can sit during the winter. In the springtime, apply a three to four inch layer to your garden bed. Increase to six inches if the leaves are dry.
If you can’t get your hands on grass clippings or leaves or you prefer a more manicured look, you can always use pre-packaged bags of bark, compost or wood chips. Buying bags of mulch may also be preferable to other materials when you have a lot of ground to cover.
Wood chips and bark should go down in about two to four inch layers. One mistake many gardeners make when using these types is placing a plastic barrier in between the soil and mulch. While it is a good practice to deter weed growth as the mulch breaks down, the plastic must be removed to allow the mulch to improve soil conditions.
MVG – Growing sustainably since 1984.