Have you read our article “Magic Mulching“? There you will find all the info about what mulching actually is and why this technique is so ingenious. In this article, we take a closer look at all the pros and cons of mulching.
Many good reasons for the protective layer
We have already revealed the most significant advantage of a mulch layer: it protects. And from just about everything from which the soil and plants so want to be protected.
- protection from drying out: if the soil is covered, less water evaporates over its surface during the day due to sunlight. Moisture stays in the soil longer because of the mulch layer, so plants can water themselves longer and you need to water less often. This saves resources and time. Potted plants in particular benefit here, because they have less soil available to retain water.
- warmth donor: In cool nights, the heat of the day can be kept longer in the soil by the layer, it acts like an insulation. Even in summer, it can get quite cool at night, which is especially hard on young plants. The warming effect can even prolong the growth and harvesting phase, as the plants do not get too cold until later in the fall. In winter, the layer protects against frost damage to the roots, especially for shallow-rooted plants such as fruit bushes or young fruit trees.
- rain and wind protection: heavy rain or even water coming out of the garden hose with a lot of pressure can sometimes cause damage. Often plants are contaminated by soil that is spread on the leaves by the splashing water. Fine roots can be damaged if the planting medium is washed away and the roots are exposed. Unmulched surfaces also harden quickly when they become dry, especially clayey soil. If it then rains a lot, the hard soil cannot absorb the water and it runs off the surface instead of percolating. A layer of mulch prevents all these problems.
- weed deterrent: the growth of most of the so-called weeds is suppressed by a mulch layer, because they do not have enough light to grow. The maintenance of a bed is therefore sometimes drastically reduced if no more hoeing and significantly less weeding is required.
- protection against diseases: A suitable layer of mulch protects fruit close to the ground from moisture and thus from mold and fungal attack. For example, strawberries like to lie on a dry layer of straw, but pumpkins also like a protective base.
- soil improvement: actually, mulching can also be described as mini-composting, which takes place on the surface or in the top layer of soil. There, the mulch layer is decomposed by microorganisms. In addition, earthworms ensure that the material gets deeper into the soil. The soil is thus loosened and fertilized, and new, fertile soil is created.
A few disadvantages – and helpful tips
Mulching can also have a few disadvantages, but they are totally manageable. The advantage of having to hoe fewer weeds can also be a disadvantage in very heavy, loamy soils if you’d like to loosen them up but the mulch layer has already been applied. Therefore, be sure to loosen any soil well before mulching and amend with compost if needed. Consistent mulching can turn even a hard clay soil or nutrient-poor sandy soil into loose humus over time.
In spring, plants and soil organisms look forward to the first rays of sunshine warming up the soil. However, a layer of mulch often doesn’t let this tender warmth through. If you want to sow or plant something, you should therefore push the mulch layer aside in the appropriate places a few days beforehand.
Unfortunately, a layer of mulch can also attract slugs and voles. On the balcony this is probably not a problem, but in the bed you should rather spread thinner mulch layers in case of doubt. These dry faster and are not an attractive hiding place for voles.
So how and with what you mulch often depends on the location, but also on the plant itself. Some plants don’t like too thick a layer of mulch: drought-loving Mediterranean herbs or citrus trees. For them, it quickly becomes too moist under too much mulch.
I have 30 years of experience and i started this website to see if i could try and share my knowledge to help you.
With a degree a Horticulture BSc (Hons)
I have worked as a horticulture specialist lead gardener, garden landscaper, and of course i am a hobby gardener at home in my own garden.
Please if you have any questions leave them on the article and i will get back to you personally.