The Magic of Mulch

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.

Why mulch?

Adding a layer of mulch (as listed above) has many benefits, but the key reasons to mulch are:

  1. It helps to keep moisture in the soil so that plants don’t dry out
  2. It suppresses weeds
  3. It keeps the soil temperature more consistent, protecting roots from extremes
  4. 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:

  1. Use a woody mulch around the base of fruit trees and shrubs.
  2. For heat-loving plants, like tomatoes, peppers and aubergines, try a black weed mesh which will retain warmth in the soil.
  3. For brassicas and root veg, go for a straw or leaf mulch.
  4. For pumpkins and squashes bits of carpet can work well to keep the vegetables from sitting directly on the earth.
  5. For strawberries, use straw.