Why Mulching? Five Major Benefits of Mulch in the Garden

 

Mulch is any material that covers and protects the soil.  In nature, leaves, dead branches, rocks, and even low green plants plants can form layers of mulch.  When we bring mulch into our gardens, we are replicating the processes of nature in order to give our plants a good foundation for growth and health, and to increase the beauty of the garden beds.  In a variable, often harsh climate like we have here in Central Texas, mulch is an extremely important strategy for making your gardens more resilient and healthy.
The benefits of mulching are numerous:
  1. As a natural ground cover, mulching helps stop the proliferation of weeds, meaning less back breaking work for you.
  2. Mulching adds a protective layer to your soil, and encourages improved soil health and fertility by shielding soil from the sun.  Most of the little critters doing all the good work in your soil, from bacteria and fungi to earthworms and beneficial protozoa and nematodes, are adversely affected or killed by too much solar radiation.  This means less of the good helpers in your soil, which are a direct benefit to your garden’s health.  A decline in soil fertility can actually set up the conditions for weeds to flourish, since they are more adapted to poor soils and grow very quickly.
  3. Mulch helps to maintain stable surface and soil temperatures for your plants during very hot and cold periods.  This helps your plants to be less stressed during our hot, long summers, and  helps prevent them dying during one of our winter cold snaps.
  4. A layer of mulch greatly improves water retention in your garden, preventing water from running off or evaporating from your soil, and saving you money on irrigation.  It also helps to slow soil erosion during large rain events.
  5. In cases of plant-based materials, mulch slowly breaks down into nutrients and humus that are available for later plant use.  This is what already occurs in natural ecosystems, and is vital to long-term soil health.
We recommend starting newly installed gardens with a layer of mulch around 3”-4” thick, and adding a fresh layer every couple of years or so as it breaks down or thins out.  Mulching is best done during the winter months after all the perennials have been cut back, when the garden beds are most easily accessed.  We source our mulch from local companies that repurpose tree and plant trimmings from around Austin, closing the waste loop and helping to support locally-owned businesses.
If you’re in need of mulching services this year to get your gardens ready for spring, give us a call!