What is mulching?
The process of covering the open surface of the ground by a layer of some external material is called mulching & the material used for covering is called as ‘Mulch.’ Mulching is usually practiced when cultivating commercially important crops, fruit trees, vegetables, flowers, nursery saplings, etc. It is beneficial in yard gardening, containers & raised beds of home gardens.
Where can you mulch?
You can mulch practically anywhere in your garden. From orchards, hedges to potted plants apply this technique wherever you wish.
When should you mulch?
Mulching can be done throughout the year. But keep in mind that during Spring you lighten the mulch layer, during summers you spread mulch on the moist soil and during winter cover the soil with mulch after making loosening it.
Materials used for preparing Mulch:
1. Plastic mulch:
A thin layer of polyethene is used to cover up the soil. Plastic mulch is widely used by commercial farmers in greenhouse floriculture, vegetables and for fruit crops like strawberry & watermelon.
2. Organic mulch:
Any decomposable organic material that can be used to cover the soil is organic mulch. Organic mulching has an added advantage of increasing humus content of soil & improving overall soil quality. Examples of organic mulch: Dry leaves, grass, paddy straw, sugarcane molasses, green manures, gunny bags, coconut leaves, peanut shells, etc.
3. Mineral / Ornamental mulch:
Mineral mulch is non-biodegradable and hence has a great lifespan. Use crushed stones, clay pellets, slate, shredded wood, colorful pebbles, gravel, sand, peat moss, etc. All this material appears as a decorative ground cover and keeps the soil warm.
Benefits of Mulching:
- Mulching helps to retain soil moisture, so less amount of water is required during irrigation. Mulch directly conserves water.
- It traps surface water of the soil that would otherwise get evaporated quickly.
- Mulching helps to regulate soil temperature, which is beneficial for proper root growth.
- Mulching also protects soil from erosion, heavy winds, intense sunlight & overall weathering.
- It is well known that overall yield is sometimes doubled when mulching is done on vegetable, flower or fruiting crops.
- Mulching arrests the growth of harmful weeds by not allowing their seeds to germinate. Therefore the biggest problem of weeds is resolved.
- Due to the absence of weeds, main crops are less likely to get infected by pests & diseases.
- If mulch is organic, such as decaying leaves, bark, or compost; it adds to the overall humus content of soil & enriches the soil with the steady supply of nutrients.
- Due to mulching, soil micro-flora is activated & beneficial micro-organisms start growing in the soil.
- In landscape gardening, the overall visual appeal of that area is improved due to ornamental mulching.
Practice mulching in your garden & improve the quality & health of your soil.