EnviroCitizen.org has found that mulch is a very important component to any thriving garden. Especially if you’re growing an organic garden, mulch is a great way to enhance your garden without using chemicals. Mulch is basically a natural covering placed around the bottoms of plants. It prevents the growth of weeds, reduces erosion and water loss and helps to regulate the soil temperature. Once decomposed, mulch also improves the soil quality.
You can buy commercially made mulch at any gardening store. Buying mulch is beneficial if you’re short on time, but be careful because EnviroCitizen.org has found that not all mulches are created equal! One of the most popular mulches on the market is shredded cypress. Shredded cyprus is cheap to consumers, but has a lot of environmental costs. It takes millions of acres of cyprus trees to create this mulch and the trees come from freshwater wetlands, where they act as an important component of the ecosystem. Cyprus trees grow slowly, so are unsustainable as mulch. In your garden, they will decay within a year or two and can encourage fungal growth.
Other commercial mulches like eucalyptus mulch are much better for the environment. Eucalyptus grows much quicker than cyprus and its scent helps to deter pests. Another commercial mulch, made from cocoa hulls (the shells of the cocoa plant, which are a by-product of commercial cocoa grinding), contains a good amount of nitrogen and is low in acidity. Snails and slugs don’t like cocoa (if you’ve got a dog this isn’t a good option as it could make your dog sick if ingested).
Other commercial mulches can be local, too. Straw, peanut shells, cornhusks, sawdust and manure all work well as mulch. There is another option that is affordable and eco-friendly—making your own mulch. By making your own mulch, you can tailor the mulch to suit your garden. Some plants need more nitrogen than others and some plants benefit more if planted in constantly moist soil. There are many biodegradable, household things you can use to make homemade mulch, such as newspaper. Newspaper effectively blocks weeds, especially when you spread it a few inches thick throughout your garden. Autumn leaves also work as excellent mulch, especially considering that it’s an entirely free source of mulch and you’ve got to manage the leaves anyway. Just shred the leaves with a mower along with any twigs in your yard and you’ll find yourself with excellent, organic, free mulch.
When you’re making mulch, be careful not to overdo it. You don’t want to completely suffocate root systems by adding too much mulch. If your mulch smells rotten, it’s time to remove it and replace it. Healthy mulch, in its decomposing phase, has a pleasant, organic-smelling aroma. Mulching is best done just before the autumn freeze begins. After the winter season, your new plants will enjoy warmer soils and a rich set of nutrients to get started. If you garden every year, you can also choose to till your garden after the growing season ends, which will further enrich the soil. This is a particularly good choice if you live in an urban setting, where soil quality is often poor. EnviroCitizen.org knows that with a little time and effort your garden will pay off in a big way and your plants (and the earth) will thank you for it!