|Why, when and how to mulch|
|Why, when and how to mulch|
as a top dressing for lawns, to encourage thick turf; as a fine-textured bed for new seed.
To save time and labor by discouraging growth of weeds and providing a clean, porous soil surface to reduce the need for extra watering by retarding evaporation of moisture from soil below
to keep soil cool, loose and spongy, a condition which encourages:
- growth of beneficial bacteria
- activity of worms, whose castings have nutrient value
- improvement of structure and tilth of soil
- improvement in flavor of fruits and vegetables, growth in all plants to act as a barrier between ground-based infections and plants above to keep plants clear of soil splash during rains
To keep ground unfrozen for late planting of such things as lilies (so apply before freeze-up) to encourage root formation of newly planted bulbs for spring blooming
To improve tilth of soil during non-growing months of the year.to prevent deep penetration of frost and alternate thawing and freezing which can result in damaging or total heaving of plants out of the ground.
WHEN TO MULCH, HOW AND WITH WHAT
For lawns - rake, aerate, fertilize, water and then apply half inch of damp peat, fine compost or soil as a top dressing and favorable surface for new seed.
When plants are growing well and at onset of hot weather; weed, fertilize and water ornamental plants and vegetable gardens, then, on top of the soil around plants, add one of the following:
Buckwheat hulls (1-2 inches), especially good for roses, perennials (annuals usually don't need mulching), and tuberous begonias leaf mold, compost.
Pine needles (2-3 inches), especially good for wild flowers pine needles, wood chips or shredded bark (1-2 inches), especially good for rhododendrons, azaleas, but keep back from main branches at base, which may rot if continuously. Damp sawdust (1-2 inches), especially good for vegetables, put 1-inch-deep layer in 4-inch-wide bands on either side of rows, applying high-nitrogen fertilizer to the soil first tree leaves (6-9 inches), especially good for shrubs and small trees, rhubarb, sweet corn, tomatoes (apply when staking or when first blossoms appear). Ground corncobs (2-4 inches), not handsome but effective on roses hay (marsh, salt, field), eelgrass, kelp, straw (6-8 inches), especially good for sandy soil, seaside gardens and fruit trees (keep back from the trunks to discourage rodents; also set out poison bait under it, or mound gravel around the base of the trees) building paper, asphalt shingles, especially good for berry bushes if laid flat on the ground over the roots black plastic (polyethylene), available from garden suppliers, especially good for vegetables that require heat to ripen - tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash and corn. Lay on the ground before planting, then slit the plastic just enough to insert each plant. Weight the sides of the plastic with soil to keep it from blowing away. If applying after plants are in the ground, lay strips of plastic down the rows on either side of the plantings.
mulch all new bulb plantings to keep them growing as long as possible before the ground freezes deeply to prevent freezing of soil so that late delivered bulbs such as lilies can still be planted, prepare holes early in the fall, mound topsoil beside them, or better still, put it in a plastic bag or basket in your garage or in a shed where it will not freeze, then fill the hole with dry leaves (oak are good), excelsior, dry peat, hay or straw or place several thicknesses of weighted newspaper over it. When bulbs arrive, remove mulch, plant, replace topsoil, mounding it to drain well and to allow for settling, mulch again for the winter with leaves or evergreen branches.
After ground is frozen hard, topdress flower beds, vegetable garden, new tree plantings, with one or a combination of the following: manure
leaves, the best are those that do not mat (such as oak) hay, cornstalks, compost evergreen branches (cut-up Christmas trees are fine and usually available at the right time), especially good laid over or up around tender, flower-budded plants such as heather, azaleas, rhododendrons, mainly to protect them from burning by late-winter sun shavings or sphagnum moss weighted with branches.