Different mulching materials have different advantages. Our Head Gardener explains the differences and why it is so important to mulch your garden.
Using your own garden compost
This costs nothing; it’s a great way to recycle so it’s good for the environment as a whole. The compost heap is a flourishing and dynamic eco-system in itself which benefits and helps to attract all kinds of wild life, from insects to frogs, birds and hedgehogs, and it’s rich in nutrients to help feed your plants.
The potential down side is that if your heap hasn’t reached optimum composting temperatures not all weed seeds will have been destroyed, so it’s not going to help keep the weeds down! We supplement the use of our own garden compost with bought in mushroom compost.
It improves the soil texture and structure; this is about getting a good balance between soil particles and air spaces in the soil. Soil structure is vital to plant health and growth, when the soil is wet its structure is easily damaged; it becomes compressed and packed down, this squeezes out the spaces between the soil particles, which effectively cuts off the water and air supply, delicate new roots find compressed soils difficult to penetrate as do worms and all the other beneficial soil insects – no wonder the plants suffer and die!
It improves water and nutrient retention; composts are basically organic matter which acts at a molecular level to ‘lock on’ to nutrients and water ‘storing’ them which then makes them available for plants to use.
- It encourages soil life; composts are full of micro-organisms, both bacteria and fungi, which are beneficial to plants. They work by changing the chemical state of the nutrients so plants can use them, and they also help to keep plants disease free. Composts also provide food for larger organisms like earth worms and earth worms are essential for the creation and maintenance of good soil structure.
Spread your mulch in Autumn to a good 10cm depth; the layer of mulch will help to protect your soil structure during the winter. Take care of your soil and soil life and it will provide healthy, productive plants, plus there’s no need to dig your compost in – just let the worms do the work for you. Look after them and they will look after you!