Why Mulch Plants?
A mulch is a substance (e.g. bark or black plastic)
which is applied to the surface of soil. The reduce the loss of water
considerably and several mulches will also improve the soil.
There are two groups of mulch, organic and inorganic.
Inorganic mulch simply helps to retain moisture in the soil and reduces
weeds. Organic mulches do the same but also improve the texture and
add nutrients to the soil.
The most common form of organic mulch is bark. It is undeniably
expensive but it is long-lasting and attractive. In common with other
organic mulches, it retains moisture by preventing evaporation from the
surface. It prevents weeds by excluding light from the soil surface and
providing a hostile environment when seeds land on the surface.
Bark encourages bacteria and wildlife on the soil
surface which in turn provide nutrients and improve the texture of the
Other similar forms of organic mulch include woodchip,
cocoa shells and manure. Woodchip is long-lasting but will rob the soil
of nitrogen until it becomes well-rotted. Manure is unattractive and
smelly so is not often used nowadays.
To apply organic mulches simply spread them over the soil to a
depth of about 5cm (2in). Make sure the mulch is not touching the
stems of any plants or trees.
Click the picture on the left to
enlarge it. This is a new apple tree being planted in an area
covered by bark.
A cheap organic alternative is newspaper. Simply place
newspaper, four sheets thick, over the area to be mulched and cover
lightly with soil. The soil will anchor the newspaper down and make it
look more attractive. The newspaper will take a couple of years to rot
down and during that time will reduce the loss of water from the soils
surface. Planting can be achieved by simply cutting a hole in the
newspaper. This is a good way to smother weeds and reduce the amount of
weeds which grow later.
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