Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:58 pm
Organic mulch materials here, mineral there. Mulch in the spring or summer, but the main thing at some point!
With all these myths and discussion around the topic of mulching you wonder what are the pros and cons of mulching the garden and what is the point of mulching the garden?
This article clarifies and describes the effect of mulch in the garden and the pros and cons
Mulching the garden has a whole host of advantages that clearly outweigh the disadvantages. The biggest benefits that mulch brings is increased soil nutrients, balanced soil temperature and moisture, fewer weeds, protection from siltation, and an overall higher yield. Disadvantages of mulching include the potential cost, the risk of attracting slugs and voles, or the extra work.
Why you should mulch your garden
Mulching the garden means covering open areas or those between or under plants with mulch material. Mulch material comes in organic and mineral forms with different effects on the soil.
Organic mulch material consists mainly of carbon compounds that break down over time. Mineral mulches, on the other hand, consist of crystalline compounds that do not degrade.
However, when people normally talk about mulching, 90% of all gardeners usually mean mulching with organic materials, i.e. bark mulch, compost, straw or lawn clippings.
So if you mulch your garden with organic materials, they will break down more or less quickly (depending on the material) and decompose into humus.
Small creatures (such as worms or woodlice) and microorganisms (such as bacteria or fungi) that live in the soil decompose the mulch, or the carbon compounds from which the mulch materials are made, with the help of oxygen and nitrogen.
What remains from this decomposition process is humus, which is rich in phosphorus and potassium and absolutely necessary for healthy plant growth.
Mulching with organic materials therefore has the overall effect of eventually enriching the soil, or the beds on which the mulch is spread, with nutrients.
Mulching the garden can therefore almost be equated with fertilizing, albeit in lower concentrations and for a longer period of time.
So overall, it’s safe to say that if you mulch your garden properly, it can have almost nothing but positive effects on your beds, plants and ultimately yield.
Garden mulching: pros and cons
As with most things in life, however, there are two sides to the coin when it comes to mulching, meaning both pros and cons.
Below, I’ve summarized all the pros and cons surrounding mulching so you can weigh which side is more serious for you.
In my opinion, the advantages of mulching clearly outweigh the disadvantages and most of the disadvantages can be avoided with conscious and careful mulching.
Thus, I would recommend everyone to mulch the garden properly according to need and sense, so that water is saved, plant growth and yield is promoted and weeds are reduced.
Advantages of mulching your garden
The mulch layer protects the soil and thus the root system from various weather conditions (sun, rain, hail, frost, etc.)
Mulch retains moisture better in the soil, protecting it from drying out and possible dry cracks (which is especially relevant in very clay or loamy soils)
As a result, proper mulching can save water in the long run because the soil is better moisture regulated by the mulch
A layer of mulch ensures a balanced soil temperature or increases it, as the mulch layer retains heat better
Mulch prevents siltation and erosion, especially in clay or loamy soils, as rainfall is first intercepted by the mulch and then percolates into the soil more evenly and in somewhat smaller amounts
Organic mulch provides light, even fertilization of the soil as the material slowly decomposes into humus over time, releasing nutrients into the soil
Better nutrient supply generally results in better yields of fruits and vegetables, or more abundant blooms, for example, of flowers
The loose mulch material and the improved soil structure increase the number of microorganisms or microbes, such as earthworms, beetles or microbes, in the soil, which ensure a balanced ecosystem.
In addition, the mulch material can protect against weed growth, which cannot germinate and grow well through the mulch layer
Plants are more durable overall due to mulching (which can save money in the long run) as they are protected from frost, cold or other extreme weather conditions
Mineral, as well as organic mulches, can make your life easier and save you work. This is because depending on the mulch material that is applied, the maintenance of the beds is also reduced. Especially mineral mulch materials are very durable and easy to maintain.
Mulch can also contribute to a uniform, well-kept appearance. After all, if the entire garden is mulched with the same material, it will look nice and uniform
If you use mulch materials from your own garden, you increase its sustainability and ensure that there is a closed, natural cycle in which all materials are recycled.
Disadvantages of mulching in the garden
The purchase of (mainly mineral) mulching materials usually costs money (whereas low-cost or even free materials such as turf, straw or compost can also be used)
Incorrect mulching (especially layers that are too thick) can result in nutrient deficiencies for plants. This is because the creatures that decompose the mulch also need nitrogen for food. However, you can counteract this nitrogen deficiency by spreading about 50-80 grams of horn shavings per square meter on the beds before mulching.
Depending on the material, the mulch may attract slugs or voles. Therefore, you should not apply it too thickly
Even though mulch can save labor in the long run (e.g., by reducing weeds), it must be applied first. Thus, mulching initially makes more work and depending on how often you mulch, it can be sometimes more, sometimes less
After the garden or beds have been mulched, they can be difficult to work on afterwards. Thus, you should do all the major work before mulching, because otherwise the mulch layer will always be in your way
Also, wet mulch can mold. This can be partially avoided by not applying the material so thickly and by regularly loosening and aerating it.