Use Mulch to Reduce Weeds, Save Water and Feed Your Plants

Reader Contribution by Benedict Vanheems

Organic mulches have a number of advantages:

• Because mulches prevent light from reaching the top layer of soil, they suppress weeds.
• Mulches protect soil from the severe weather, such as the compacting effects of heavy rain.
• Mulches help to prevent evaporation, so soil remains moist for longer.
• Organic mulches help to improve the soil as they rot down.
• Mulches provide a great habitat for beneficial garden predators, such as spiders and ground beetles.

Use trimmings from the garden as mulch. Thin layers of grass clippings can be used on your vegetable beds. Shredded woody prunings or shredded bark can be spread around fruit trees and bushes, or used as pathways between beds. Straw or hay can be laid thickly around fruits, such as strawberries and zucchinis, to keep them off the soil and prevent rotting.

Remove any perennial weeds before mulching. If the weather is dry, water the soil first or wait until it has rained before mulching.

Most mulches should be applied at least 1-2 inches thick, but hay and straw can be laid much thicker. Grass clippings, on the other hand, should be added thinly at regular intervals to prevent it turning into a wet and smelly mat.
Bare soil can be mulched using layers of thick brown cardboard to suppress weeds. Overlap the sheets by at least a foot, and weigh it down using bricks or stones. Paper mulches suppress weeds and help to retain moisture. To plant through it, just cut a cross shape in the paper, dig a hole and plant.

Learn more about mulching in this video.

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