Guide written by:
Jeremy, construction site supervisor, Cardiff
Mulch is the perfect solution for limiting weed growth and maintaining soil moisture levels. Spread around the base of plant crops or bushes, mulch comes in many different forms including organic or mineral mulch, and weed control covers. From straw to pine bark, read on for our top tips on mulching your garden!
- Organic mulches
- Mineral mulches
- Fabric weed covers
What is mulch?
Fighting weeds can be a daily battle. The main aim of mulching is to limit or even prevent the growth of weeds or, failing that, to stop them from growing back. Mulching also reduces the need for watering because it slows down soil water evaporation. And the benefits don't end there: some mulch also helps to provide nutrients to the plants as it decomposes while other types will effectively protect the roots from freezing. Whether used to cover large surfaces or just the base of a few plants, there are mulching options for every situation. But before you get too carried away remember that you will still have to hoe some weeds from time to time!
Choosing the right mulch
Whether you're looking to mulch a slope, a pathway or a few scattered plants, it's important to choose the most appropriate type of mulch. There are three main families of mulch: fabric mulch, organic mulch and mineral mulch.
This option comes in various materials and is perfect for covering a large area, especially over sloping ground.
If you have a particularly steep incline, fabric mulching can be used not only to prevent weed growth but also to limit erosion and soil shifting. There are two types of fabric mulches: organic or plastic.
Organic weed covers
Organic weed covers are made of fabrics like coconut wool or flax and are designed to disintegrate after several years of use. This leaves enough time for the new vegetation to develop and cover the fabric entirely. It's important to keep this in mind because if your plants are slow to grow, you may need to lay new fabric before the plants have managed to cover the area.
Plastic weed covers
These weed covers are made to last. They act as a barrier to hold the soil which helps to limit erosion and to stop your soil from shifting over slopes as the material is strong and can be stretched over the ground. Often green or black, plastic weed covers are, however, not very attractive to look at.
Organic mulches can be made from a wide variety of materials. The main advantage of this type of mulch is that it is entirely biodegradable and will therefore enrich your soil with important plant nutrients as it breaks down.
The flipside of organic mulch is that you must top it up regularly to ensure that it is performing its two main roles properly: limiting weed growth and optimising moisture retention in the soil. The most commonly used organic mulches are:
- pine bark - be careful as this adds acidity to the soil;
- compost - will add lots of nutrients to the soil;
- straw - inexpensive and very effective;
- grass clippings - be sure not to use fresh clippings at the risk of burning your plants;
- flax straw - lasts longer than standard straw.
Mineral mulch provides a good middle ground between the options detailed above. Like plastic weed covers, mineral mulch has an excellent lifespan and does not to be topped up regularly. It also does a fairly good job of maintaining soil moisture. One of the main advantages of mineral mulches is that they come in many colours, sizes and shapes and can therefore be ideal for adding an attractive touch to your garden. The most common mineral mulches are made of:
- Pebbles - available in a multitude of different shapes, sizes and colours; offer solid performance;
- Pozzolana - extracted from volcanic rock, this mineral is rust-coloured, rot-proof and has an excellent lifespan;
- Slate - like pozzolana, slate is very long-lasting but is blue or black in colour.
How to mulch properly
- The use of mulch does not allow for natural resowing and you may have to remove the mulch at the base of more sensitive plants after repeated heavy rain or it will start to rot.
- Be sure to store your bags of mulch in a dry shed. Close them securely and do not place them directly on the floor; elevate them on a pallet wherever possible.
- Do not hesitate to compost any organic waste. Your compost can then be mixed with soil for additional nutrients or be used as mulch.
- Chemical fertilisers can be polluting to soil and harmful to health. If you have to use fertiliser, choose a natural option.
Guide written by:
Jeremy, construction site supervisor, Cardiff, 132 guides
Electrician by trade, I first worked in industrial estates where I installed, wired and fixed a large number of electrical installations. After this, I managed a team of electricians for this type of work. 10 years or so ago, I turned to building and construction. From the modest family home, to gyms and theatres; I have been able to coordinate, audit and organise all sorts of construction sites. for 4 years now, I am restaoring and bulding an extrension to a bungalow in the heart of the welsh countyside. My experience in manual work and my knowledge means I am proud to be of service. Terraces, interior design, roofing, plumbing, electricty, anything goes! We have, my wife, daughter and I, built almost everything we have from scratch! So to answer all of your questions, and to orientate and advise you on coosing your tools? Easy!