Now that you know the types of mulches you can use, let us move on to the basics of when, where and how to mulch. It is considered very important in the early stages of plant growth because it preserves moisture and the plant is able to grow its roots into the soil. Weeds can take up nutrients and mulch can stop these nutrients from being consumed by weed and therefore nourish the plants.
Where to Use Mulch?
Mulch should be used to cover the bed of shrubs, trees and herb perennials. You can even use mulch on driveways, trails and lawns. Wherever you have delicate young plants, use mulch to prevent frost injury.
When to Mulch?
Mulching should be done immediately after you have planted the plants. In some crops, you might need to wait until they have grown a couple of feet. With established plants, the prime time to apply mulch is spring time as this is the time the growth really kicks in and the mulch starts doing its magic.
How often to Mulch?
This depends on the type of mulch you are using as some decompose faster than others. Organic mulch like leaves and grass decompose quickly and need to be resupplied often. Inorganic mulches do not decompose and therefore once put into the ground will rarely be need update.
How to apply?
First off, you need to weed the entire area you want to mulch. Then apply a layer of mulch keeping a distance of 2-3 inches from the stem of the plants. Also keep the mulch away from any wall if you have in the garden as it can have a corrosive effect. Termites from the walls can travel to your garden through mulch so it is better to avoid walls. You would want a circle of 3-4 feet in diameter especially if you have young plants. For trees, as they grow increase the mulching diameter because the roots underneath are spreading too.
How deep the layer needs to be?
Although the depth depends on the material of the mulch, generally it is recommended not to cross 2 inches. Finely shredded materials like leaves or wood chips can suffocate the soil and prevent water from reaching it if the layer is too deep. Coarse mulches like pine bark nuggets can have a depth of up to 4 inches as they easily allow air and water flow.
Once you know which material you are using and the area, you can calculate the exact amount you need for your mulching session. In most cases you will find ample material from within your garden and if you do not, you can always find them with a fellow gardener or a park in your area. Inorganic mulch like plastic or landscape cloth can be purchased too. You can also combine inorganic and organic mulch, but make sure you do not suffocate the roots of your plants by having too much mulch.