Updated: Nov 3, 2019
Mulching in your garden, lawn, or in clay pots is one of the easiest ways to care for your soil so your plants can thrive. In nature, nobody rakes away dead plants or leaves. This way, nature creates her own mulch which breaks down to provide nutrients in the soil, protect it from the erosion from the elements (like wind, rain, and heat), and helps lock-in moisture so you won't need to water your garden as often.
Mulch also provides an ecosystem for mushrooms, worms, and beneficial insects. And mulching will prevent weeds and invasive plants from taking root in your garden – so mulching is not only one of the best steps towards sustainable gardening, it will also save you time and energy in the long run.
First Steps to Mulching
Instead of throwing out the leaves and trimmings in the fall, collect them at the bases of the trees and plants in your garden and put them directly into your indoor and outdoor flower pots. Tree prunings will need to be cut into 5-10cm pieces. You can also dry the grass your cut from your own lawn and use it for mulching. That way you have zero waste in your garden.
Different mulch types will be better for your garden depending on the plants you grow. Many recommend organic straw or rice husks wood chips. Research how different kinds of mulching and layering will affect your soil and your plants. You may use organic mulch, non-organic mulch (like cardboard that doesn't have any glue or print on them), green manure, live mulch, and other types of mulch.
Grow your own Mulch
Some grow plants that can be mulched in the future. Nitrogen-fixing trees and shrubs like Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbelata) and Empress Tree (Paulownia tomentosa) make foliage and trimmings that fix nitrogen back into the soil. Aquatic plants make excellent mulch because they grow quickly and retain moisture. Live mulch like White Clover (Trifolium repens) can be grown as edible ground cover.
Timing is Everything
Start mulching in autumn to mimic nature's way as closely as possible. Make your mulch less thick, or remove it completely in spring to help warm the soil and allow new plants to start sprouting. Do not til the mulch into the soil otherwise it might rob the plants of the nitrogen and nutrients. Also do not compact the mulch to give it space to breathe.
Ensure that your mulch is sourced from places that don't spray chemicals or pesticides to prevent your garden from being poisoned. After that, observe the changes over the seasons, learning from nature to adjust your gardening techniques with mulch and find a harmonious balance that will keep your garden beautiful, pest-free, and thriving.
Written by Jan
About the Author
Jan is a travelling yoga teacher and writer who advocates spiritual growth while leading a conscious, earth-centered lifestyle, as close to nature as possible. She currently lives on an island in the Philippines surrounded by tropical jungles and white sand beaches. She and her partner conduct sound meditations and journeys while advocating sustainable and organic gardening practices.