As it gets warmer and the days get longer we can see how many other plants want to share some of our garden space. Indeed, all it takes is a little light, a little water, and weeds seem to come out of nowhere. Some of these plants are real bad boys and others are just a little pesky. Luckily, we have a whole arsenal of ways to combat them: From changing up watering schedules, to weeding more frequently and proper mulching; I could go on for pages about weed control, but today we are going to look at mulch.
Mulch is the top layer of material applied in garden beds and it can help us out a great deal. Traditional choices for mulch include various types of compost and wood chip based products. More exotic things like lava rock and coconut fibers are also available but best suited to certain specialty applications.
Mulching with compost
Mulching with compost will control weeds, and benefit plants as well. Your veggie and perennial garden will benefit most from the quick release of nutrients available for the growing season. Fine screened compost is a look many people like for beds, just be aware that it won’t stay on hillsides forever. As a general rule of thumb, the bigger the aggregate the longer the material will stick around.
Mulching with wood chips
Wood chips are a different story. The old science said that wood breaking down robs nitrogen from the soil, but we now know it works a little differently than that. Mycelium (think mushroom roots) break down wood fibers and feed woody plants slowly all while discouraging weeds and helping the soil to retain moisture. In other words, mulch with wood chips and your garden will love you.
Now...what about bark?
Be careful to take note of the difference between bark and wood chips. Working with bark leads to splinters and, although it discourages weeds and helps retain water, it’s not as good for the soil. My favorite combination is mulching with a mixed species chip. Cedar chips are great for play areas and natural looking walkways, but they don’t break down all that fast; which is what feeds the plants.
The other great benefit to mulching is it will help hold moisture deep in the soil where the established plant’s roots are. In an ideal scenario the top layers of mulch will dry out from time to time and keep new weeds from getting the moisture they need to survive.
Also, remember, unless you are carefully lasagna gardening (yes!...that's really a thing), always weed before you mulch and avoid weed cloth. The number of times I have seen old weeds with extremely established root systems coming up to say hello is hard to count.
If all the demands of garden maintenance are too much this time of year, give us at call at Environmental Construction Inc. We would be happy to add you to our regular garden-maintenance schedule.