If we were to give only one top tip to veg gardeners, mulching might well be it. It’s a job well worth doing in late spring (and again in Autumn). Here’s what, why and how….
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.
Adding a layer of mulch (as listed above) 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)
How to mulch
Mulching is straightforward. Just give the area a quick weed, water it and then put down a layer of mulch around the base of the plants. If using a bio-degradable mulch, you should make it about 2 to 3 inches thick.
Most vegetables will do well with a compost or manure based mulch. But we also recommend the following:
- Use a woody mulch around the base of fruit trees and shrubs.
- For heat-loving plants, like tomatoes, peppers and aubergines, try a black weed mesh which will retain warmth in the soil.
- For brassicas and root veg, go for a straw or leaf mulch.
- For pumpkins and squashes bits of carpet can work well to keep the vegetables from sitting directly on the earth.
- For strawberries, use straw.