The Magic of Mulch

It’s difficult to understand the importance of mulch, or even how to properly use it, when there are so many bad examples around our city. When parkway trees have mulch volcanos piled close to the trunk, or urban farms are growing vegetables in bare soil, it’s hard to know what the best practices are for this important resource.

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Although the materials are on the right track, there are problems with this style of mulching.

Although tended vegetable beds are hardly part of a natural habitat, it’s good to think about the processes that contribute to healthy, self-sustaining environments and try as best as possible to mimic them. Every autumn, deciduous trees drop leaves on the soil in the forest, creating a thick layer to help with moisture and nutrient retention; provide habitat for beneficial microbes and macrobes; insulate against fluctuating temperatures and frost heaving; and gradually decompose, adding organic matter to the soil. This is exactly what you want to try to do in your own garden.

Mulch material matters! Although colored shredded bark, recycled shredded rubber, gravel, and large pebbles are sold in the mulch section at the garden center, not all of these contribute the basic functions of mulch in the garden.

Not only does the mulch material matter, but how it is used and the size of the material affect whether the mulch will be effective. Shredded wood chips (undyed, not bark-based) are great, while sawdust is not.

 

 

Join us tomorrow (Oct. 29th, 10-11am) for Mulch Magic at Global Garden, where we will discuss and demonstrate how to use different types of mulch available in the city, as well as the pros and cons of each material.