If you’re growing your vegetable plants in the ground or in raised beds, then mulching is an excellent way to reduce the amount of watering you need to do. This becomes a real benefit during hot summer spells like the one we are having at the moment, and we tend to find that with the mulch, we can get away with watering just a couple of times a week, rather than daily or every-other-day as we would expect to without the mulch.
What is a mulch?
A mulch is basically a layer of “stuff” that is placed over the top of soil. This “stuff” could be one of many things – biodegradable mulches include wood chips, leaf mould, garden compost, seaweed, newspapers, cardboard, manure and straw (amongst many others) and non-degradable mulches include plastic coverings, old bits of carpet and gravel/stone.
Our preferred mulch would always be a good quality compost, either homemade, or an organic compost bought from the garden centre. Well-rotted manure is also a good option, although we prefer to apply this in late winter, ahead of planting up. For mid-season mulching, organic compost is an excellent choice.
What are the benefits of a mulch?
Adding a layer of mulch has many benefits, but the key reasons to mulch are:
- It helps to keep moisture in the soil so that plants don’t dry out
- It suppresses weeds
- It keeps the soil temperature more consistent, protecting roots from extremes
- It builds up the soil’s nutrients (bio-degradable mulches only)
Is it too late to mulch in mid/late summer?
No, you can still mulch now (although it can be heavy work, so be sure to do it when the temperature is cooler in the early morning!) Just give the area a quick weed, water well and then apply the mulch around the base of the plants. If using compost, which would be our recommendation for mulching in mid-summer, try to make it about 2 to 3 inches thick if you can, although any amount will help.
What about raised beds on top of stone/concrete?
You can still mulch these, but since the roots cannot get through to the soil below, these raised beds and planters will still need more frequent watering. However, the mulch will reduce the amount needed.