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The Benefits Of Mulching Your Garden

The environment and climate change are on most peoples minds these days and rightly so as we seem to be hastening towards the destruction of the planet and ourselves along with it.  With changing weather patterns comes ever increasing temperatures and concerns about water.  For me, the answer has to come in a localised and environmentally friendly form.  Quick fixes should become a thing of the past and must be replaced by sustainable solutions.  I’m afraid I have become a little like a reformed smoker and am annoyingly self-righteous about all things environment (I’m very sorry).

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Liatris Spicata in the foreground with assorted Phlox.

The biggest problems that we face in The Moosbach Garden are keeping the plants from drying out and keeping on top of the weeds. We have always been reluctant to mulch the garden over fears of the soil becoming too acidic for many of the plants but then we saw a video on YouTube that got us thinking.  Last year we were watering the garden every other day for 6 hours solid and although the garden was coming along nicely we felt it could be doing so much better.

The video in question was rather long at 3 hours but it inspired us to trial the approach in The Moosbach Garden.  The video was by a man who had purchased a ranch near Boston in the USA.  The ground was mostly rock and not much was growing, so he covered the whole property in bark mulch.  He now has a ranch that produces a plethora of different produce and is growing it all together regardless of the stated soil requiremments.

Watering plants that are in soil Vs Watering plants that have a topdressing of mulch

Firstly, you need to weed the area that you are going to apply the mulch to.  Mulch will suppress newly germinated weeds but established ones with extensive root systems will need to be removed by hand. The mulch needs to be of a sufficient depth to effectively suppress the weeds by excluding light and to minimize water loss by evaporation, we apply 4-6 inches.  Applying the mulch too sparingly is a false economy as it will quickly become part of the soil and the weeds will return quickly.  We have installed a drip watering system and this slowly moistens the soil and we find that this is more effective than watering with a hose where the majority of the water runs off. You can even water at night using a timer, allowing you the time for more important things, like drinking wine.

Due to the size of the garden we have areas that have been mulched and other areas where there is just soil. We were expecting it to take some time before we started seeing results but within a week we have much healthier plants with substantial new growth in the areas that have been mulched.  This has affirmed our belief that water was the biggest issue for us here.  We have Magnolia trees that have grown up to half a meter in a month and the roses have also responded very well. We have to admit to being a little cautious when it came to the roses but there have been no detrimental effects whatsoever.  You will still get some weeds coming through but this tends to be at a mangable level.

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Loose bark mulch that we buy by the trailer load

Sourcing Bark Mulch

Depending upon the size of your garden you can either buy your Bark Mulch from your local garden centre or you can source a company that produces the Bark Mulch rather than just re-selling it.  We buy ours from a company that processes wood for heating and we find that to be much more cost effective.  Bark Mulch also comes in different grades so it is worth shopping around.  Once you start using Bark Mulch you will be surprised at how much you get through and how little comes in a bag.  Our preference would be loose.

How Often To Apply Mulch

The Bark Mulch will slowly be incorporated into the soil, thereby improving the composition of your soil.  We would recommend applying Bark Mulch once a year to your garden either in Spring or in Autumn, our preference is in Spring but either is acceptable.  Applying the Mulch in Spring really sets you up for the Summer ahead and another added bonus is that slugs and snails do not like Bark Mulch and this is so much more environmentally friendly than using chemical controls.

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Here we use Bark Mulch as the flooring material in our nursery as it reduces weeds and helps to protect young plants from snail predation.

We have our own water supply here at The Moosbach Garden but if you pay for your water and have a meter then applying a mulch and installing a drip feed water system will save you money and result in a more beautiful garden.

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Echinacea
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This Magnolia tree has been mulched and has grown 4 inches in a month

Bark Mulch is also great for newly planted areas as it reduces the risk of roots drying out and reduces competition from weeds.

Our Top Tip

If you have lots of potted plants you can top dress them with mulch and this will help retain water and reduce the risk of plants wilting in extremely hot weather.

 

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Andrew Huber

I am an English gardener who has been living in the Black Forest in Germany for 4 years. Slowly I am transforming 16 acres of mountain into a garden. Feel free to email me if you have any gardening questions and I'll see if I can help.

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