Saturday, June 19, 2010

Mulch Madness

Most gardeners become “mad about mulch” because it saves many hours of back-bending labor.

Mulch has so many benefits:

  • · Mulch reduces weeds by making it hard for weeds to sprout and emerge
  • · It retains moisture in the soil and helps water slowly and steadily get to the roots
  • · Mulch prevents soil from splashing on plants. This helps reduce the spread of soil-born diseases and keeps your vegetables cleaner
  • · Mulch helps prevent soil erosion (we’ve seen this in Kansas City gardens recently with heavy rains)
  • · Mulch can lower soil temperature by as much as 20-25 degrees which helps cool season plants keep producing.

We spread 2-3 inches of straw as mulch throughout the Harvesters Demonstration Garden this month. You can also use shredded leaves or newspaper as mulch in vegetable gardens. Grass clippings work well as long as you avoid grass full of seed heads or clippings treated this season with a herbicide. (Don’t spread grass clippings more than 2 inches thick as they are likely to stink! They're also unpleasant if you don't spread them within about a day after cutting the lawn.)

In the container gardens at the Harvesters Demonstration Garden, we use wood chips as mulch because wood chips stay in place better than straw. Avoid using wood chips in areas which you’ll till next season since they don’t decompose quickly.

Apply mulch after the soil warms up and plants are 4 inches or taller. Late May or June are great times to put down mulch in our climate so you minimize weeding and watering.