Compost and mulch in the garden
One of the best things you can do for your garden is to mulch. Mulch can come in the form of shredded bark, compost, gravel or any other top dressing. If your soil is low on organic material, choose an organic mulch that will breakdown and improve the quality of your soil. If you are growing plants that need fast drainage like cacti, succulents or desert plants use gravel or stones and twigs that will not stay moist.
The mulch you select should look good with the design of your garden and enhance the growth needs of the kind of plants you are growing.
All mulch will help keep soil at a more even temperature. This will help protect roots from frosty spells or heat waves. Mulching will also help keep soil evenly moist and slow down evaporation in dry air. It is also a good way to keep your garden looking attractive and make clean-up easier.
The most sustainable way to mulch is to create your own compost by recycling garden refuse in a compost heap or pile. You will get fresh mulch that is free of pollutants and you won’t have to pay extra to buy it.
You can mulch with compost at any time of the year. If your compost has become an even brown color with no stickiness or smell, you can hand pick or screen out any larger pieces of material and spread it in flowerbeds and vegetable gardens. Just make sure the mulch stays a couple of inches away from stems and trunks. (That goes for all mulches, not just compost!) Ideally coverage should extend to the outer tips of the plants’ branches above. You can also mulch whole flower or vegetable beds. Organic mulches eventually break down and are incorporated into the soil by worms and insects adding helpful organic matters. You can buy other organic, protective mulches in the form of bark, straw, compost, coconut hulls, and more. Sawdust and shavings from woodworking are better composted first as they will rob your soil of precious nitrogen as they break down.
Whether you mulch with organic matter or inorganic matter, like crushed brick or decorative stone, make sure the material is small enough to allow the soil to ‘breathe’, in other words, don’t ‘cement’ over plant roots. If the mulch isn’t sufficiently porous, it will barricade essential air and water from the root area. Apart from that, it’s hard to go wrong by mulching and there is a wonderful choice of materials to add color and design to your garden — not to mention the bonus mulch offers of no splashing mud in the wet or gummy footprints following your feet into the house!
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