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The Benefits of Mulching, the Process and How it Helps Your Trees and Plants

What is Mulching?

Mulching is generally used to save water, suppress weeds and improve the soil around plants and trees, but it also gives your garden a neat, tidy appearance and can reduce the amount of time spent on watering and weeding. Mulches help soil retain moisture in summer, rain to penetrate the soil in winter, prevent weeds from growing and protect the roots of plants in winter.

What is Mulch Made From?

This depends on what type of mulch you are using,  bio degradable or non-bio degradable.

Non-biodegradable

These come in the form of chipping, carpets, slate, shingles etc, or basically anything that can be used on the surface that stops light and surprises weeds. They don’t help the soil become more fertile but they do conserve moisture and can be decorative.

Biodegradable Mulch

These break down slowly releasing nutrients into the soil to help improve its structure. Layers will need replacing when the material has fully rotted down. The best materials are garden compost, wood chippings, processed conifer bark, leaf mould, well rotted manure, straw (for strawberries), spent hops (poisonous if eaten by dogs) and seaweed.

Biodegradable mulch is obviously much preferred by gardeners and arborists plus its inherently eco friendly. If you stick to using wood clippings, compost, conifer bark or manure (or a mixture) then you mulch is easy to make and use. If you have recently had a tree removed with stump grinding then the chippings from this are ideal.

How to Apply Mulch

Apply at least a 5 cm (2 inch) layer over the entire bed (for plants and shrubs) or the radius of the canopy for trees. Do this over moist soil after weeding when the soil is not frozen. Some plants can be over mulched so check and don’t apply up stems or trunks.

When to Apply Mulch

Generally muting is best done in mid to late spring when there’s less weeds and in autumn as plants die back. New plants can be mulched at any time of the year to help them establish themselves.

Benefits of Mulching

Things to Look Out For​

Whilst mulching is easy to do and pretty easy to make, there are some things to watch out for. Some plants don’t like the extra water and there are some mulch recipes that need to be used with caution (hops are poisonous to dogs for example).

The main thing is to stick to the above guidelines and not to apply up stems or trunks. You can still apply fertiliser over the top as rain will carry this down into the soil. If you see a white fungi forming it is nothing to worry about, this is a saprophytic fungi that grows in enriched soil and is harmless. If the above seems like too much work or worry then contact your local arborist for mulching services.