As an urban farmer you should know everything there is to know about farming and mulching is an important part of it. Mulch is a material that is used to provide protection and maintain the health of the surface of your garden. The materials are all natural that are cycled back into the soil and help keep your plants healthy and blossoming.
Types of Mulches
Generally, many materials are classified into organic or inorganic mulches. Organic as the name suggests are natural and decompose over time whereas inorganic materials do not decompose or carry pests.
The organic trash in your garden serves as mulch and may carry lots of nutrients. Some organic mulches are:
Grass clippings can be left in the garden to decompose and add nutrients to the soil. They decompose pretty fast and they provide weed control too if they are not full of seeds.
Straw is a good alternative to hay which has a lot of weed seeds. It decomposes quickly and is ideal for vegetable gardens that have young plants. It will help improve the soil and provide necessary warmth.
Leaves can be recycled back into the soil as a 2 inch layer is good for weed control. You can use a shredder or lawn mower to shred leaves. If you have a crop that requires acidic soil then oak leaves can help increase the pH of soil.
Pine Needles also do the same job as some leaves i.e. increasing pH and making soil acidic and improving the surface. Water can easily go through pine needles as they are small and narrow.
Small wood chips can be used to mulch the soil and provide protection. Usually a 2 inch layer is enough for good weed control. Wood chips take up nitrogen from the soil and therefore the soil needs nitrogen fertilizer. The risk with these chips is that they invite termites.
You can also use inorganic mulch materials like:
Gravel and Stones
This kind of mulch is good for foundation plants. The rocks are not good for an acidic crop as they are alkaline. They absorb a lot of heat and thus are good for warming up the surface for plants that flourish in heat.
There are two kinds of plastic films: black and clear. The former prevents weed growth while the latter does not as it lets sunlight travel through. Plastic does not decompose and can prevent water so buy one with holes or make holes yourself.
Unlike plastic, landscape cloth lets light and air to move through the soil. They are good for controlling weed but not as effective as black plastic as some grass might penetrate through. Usually organic mulch is added on top of this cloth.
There are other mulching materials too but these are the most commonly used. You can find most of them in your own garden so mulching is not a costly thing.