I am a dedicated advocate for all things to do with mulch. It takes no time at all to apply and by spending a couple of dollars, I am able to maintain the integrity and health of the most valuable veggie garden asset – the soil. When it comes to jobs to be done, mulching has to be one of the high priority tasks that occurs in my veggie patch.
The benefits of mulch are many, and here are just six of the reasons why I use it:
1. Mulch stabilises the temperature of the soil
By placing a layer of mulch on your garden bed you are actually putting down a layer of insulation. It stops the soil in your garden bed heating up quickly as the searing summer sun hits it, or from cooling down fast when the sun goes down. The temperature is more constant and you reduce the stress on your crops.
2. Mulch helps to reduce water usage
A good layer of mulch will shade the soil and reduce evaporation of water from the veggie garden beds. Because of the reduction in evaporation, water is more readily available for the plants and as a bonus, less water needs to be added. Combine mulch with a good water timer and the risk of over watering also diminishes.
3. Mulch provides weed control
I place 3-4 cm of sugar cane mulch to cover the soil on each garden bed. This thickness suppresses any weed seedlings from germinating and those few that do manage to get through are easily pulled up. A tip for the inexperienced, and I have learnt this by making this mistake a couple of times, make sure that the mulch you use is seed free before you buy it. Nothing worse than spending all of that effort to spread mulch only to introduce a whole new set of weed seeds to your garden.
4. Mulch feeds the soil
As the mulch decomposes, all of the nutrients stored in the mulch are released slowly to your veggies. Just below the surface in the cooler soil, there will be an army of worms that will consume all of the mulch you put onto your garden beds. Over time they will turn it all into worm castings.
5. Mulch provides a habitat
A good layer of mulch helps provide a place for a vibrant ecosystem of good and bad critters and microorganisms helping you develop a healthy garden. I often find frogs hiding among the mulch ready to pounce on any unsuspecting little critter, and whenever I lift up the mulch, there are plenty of worms on the surface of the soil working away among the decomposing mulch. All providing me with a much valued service.
6. Mulch reduces soil erosion
Mulch stops the force of the rain from hitting the soil directly, reducing soil compaction, erosion and splash-back onto the underside of the veggie leaves. Ever picked nice looking spinach or lettuce leaves only to find them covered underneath with gritty sand? I have, and it’s rather annoying. When the rain hits hard onto the soil it bounces back up and takes with it tiny soil grains that can stick to the underside of the leaves. The force of the rain can also wash away the valuable soil from the surface and erode all of your hard work.
The mulch of choice in my veggie patch is Organic Sugar Cane Mulch. I find it’s easy to get hold of, cheap enough and really easy to apply. It decomposes readily and I apply it twice a year in the veggie patch. Simply spread 3-4 cm deep onto moist soil and hose it down so that it is compacted a bit so it doesn’t blow away. I then make holes into the mulch to plant the veggies in. If I want to sow a row of seeds, I expose a strip of soil to sow them in leaving plenty of mulch between the rows. You can use other types of mulch like pea straw, hay, lawn clippings or leaves. However for a backyard veggie grower, I find sugar cane mulch the easiest to use, clean and readily available.
So, do yourself a favour this Spring, put down mulch and watch your veggie patch thrive.