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Your handy guide to Mulch in Middlesex County



Matawan World Of Gardening Of Middlesex County Helps Its Customers Learn The In's And Out's Of Mulch


If all you've heard about mulch is bad puns like "mulch ado about nothing," you've been missing out on one of the most important parts of gardening. People who know how to use mulch effectively spend less money watering and have more productive and attractive vegetable and ornamental gardens with healthier soil.

Regardless of which mulch you use, adding it to your garden provides several important benefits.

1. It keeps moisture in the soil. Here's how Pennisi said that works. "When rain comes in and it percolates through the soil profile, some of the moisture stays in the top layer of soil where most of the plant roots are. In the summer, because of the temperature difference between the cooler soil and the warmer air, some of that moisture is going to evaporate. Therefore, the plant's roots are not going to have access to all the water from the rain. If you have mulch over those roots near the top of the soil, the mulch will slow down the evaporation and make more of the water available to the plants for a longer period of time. In winter, mulch also helps hold warmth in the soil, insulating roots from freezing temperatures.

2. It keeps weeds from growing. "Wind disburses weed seeds, and if those seeds find bare ground where they have access to soil, water and sunlight they are going to germinate,” Pennisi said. "Once they start growing they will compete with desirable plants for resources such as nutrients, water and sunlight — whether those plants are in ornamental beds or vegetable gardens. Mulch will prevent about 80 percent of available weed seeds from germinating if you have an adequate layer of mulch on top of the soil."

What’s an adequate layer? About 3 to 5 inches deep, with the mulch kept at the 3-inch minimum year-round, especially in the hot and humid South and Southeast, Pennisi said. Organic mulch can decompose very quickly, she added, so be aware you may have to constantly reapply it during the growing season. If you can only apply mulch once a year, spring is the best time because that’s when many weed seeds first germinate. That's not to diminish the importance of maintaining a 3-inch minimum layer of mulch in fall and winter. That will help reduce soil temperature loss and keep roots warm, thus helping to avoid root damage.

3. It leads to healthier soils. Especially organic mulches. By helping to retain moisture, preventing weeds from robbing the soil of nutrients, and adding nutrients to the soil through decomposition, mulches help micro-organisms thrive and encourage the presence of beneficial earthworms.

An added benefit is aesthetic rather than functional. Mulch gives the landscape a finished look. And who doesn't want a good-looking — not to mention, healthy — garden that is the envy of the neighborhood?

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