Mulching the garden is the final project to be completed after the planting is done. Placing a three to four inch deep layer of organic material on the ground surrounding your plants provides numerous benefits.
Weeds are drastically reduced after mulching since sunlight is virtually shut out. Weeds that do appear are easily plucked out. If the area you wish to mulch has roots or seeds that could sprout through more vigorously, simply put a section of newspaper over the area and wet it before the mulch is applied.
Watering a mulched garden bed can be done less frequently because while the mulch allows rainwater, irrigation and dew into the soil, evaporation is slowed considerably. Growing plants generally need about an inch of water per week. The ideal way to acquire this amount of water is in one application, as this gives the water a chance to penetrate the soil to a depth that encourages deeper root growth. Use a rain gauge under your sprinkler to see how long it takes to make an inch. Mulch also prevents excessive splashing when it rains heavily. You can see if the garden needs watering by simply moving a bit of the mulch aside and checking the soil.
A well mulched bed discourages insects and other pests, especially slugs. While the soil itself remains moist longer, the surface becomes dry and rough. With this improved barrier between moist roots and dry leaf and flower surfaces, the plants are healthier and resist pest attack.
These conditions also keep fungus, bacteria and viral diseases at bay. Nutrients added to the soil by the organic material in mulch is helpful here. A strong, well nourished plant in a dry, well drained soil surface with moisture retained beneath cuts back on excess damp.
Many materials can be used as a mulch. Last falls leaves can be chopped up and used alone or with dried grass clippings, provided no insecticides or herbicides have been used on your trees or lawn. Composted wood chips from downed tree limbs make a good mulch. Hardwood mulch, a byproduct of the lumber industry, can be purchased from your local garden center.
To reduce problems and labor while you save time, water and money, mulch, mulch and more mulch!