I think I bang on about mulching every single year, but with good reason… it is SO great! Seriously, it is a game changer. For those new to gardening and potentially new to the term “mulching”, it is quite straightforward. It basically means just covering the bare soil with a layer of compost, or something similar – it could be straw, or wood chip, or leaf mould. I use compost, or sometimes I buy in Strulch which is a branded straw mulch that I really like using.
So, in essence, you plant your seedlings, and then you add a mulch. Or, if you’re using compost, you mulch and plant straight into the mulch. But why? Well, here are my top reasons:
- It suppresses weeds – this is my number one reason for mulching. It saves me so much time and energy not having to weed so often. It frees up more time to do important things like planting new plants, pinching out tomato side shoots and swinging in my hammock with a book.
- It helps to keep the soil temperature more even – the bare soil is not exposed to harsh summer sunshine, and that protects it. It also stops it from getting too hot, which is kinder to the veg plant roots. It also helps to retain warmth when the weather cools in autumn, so that the roots don’t get too chilly.
- It helps regulate moisture levels – the mulch helps to prevent the soil below from drying out, giving plants better access to water during the summer. I find I need to water far less frequently when I’ve mulched generously.
- It helps to replenish nutrients – I really notice how much healthier my plants look in beds that I have mulched with compost… they thrive on all the extra nutrients that are drawn down into the soil. I did a test one year in my strawberry patch because I ran out of compost and could only mulch half of it. The strawberries that were mulched? So much better!
I mulch in a ‘no-dig’ kind of way – so in the first year, I covered beds with cardboard, then added a good 15cm layer of compost (quite an investment if you can’t get hold of free compost/well-rotted manure, but a great option if you can!) After that, I simply top up the beds with perhaps 5cm of compost each spring and/or autumn, depending on how much compost I have to hand and how weed-ridden the beds are.
I think even if you’re not doing no-dig gardening, mulching is a great idea. You could dig over your soil at the start of spring as normal, make sure all the weeds are pulled up, and then add the mulch. I really think you’d notice the difference.