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Everything About Mulching

Mulch refers to a layer of material added to the soil surface. Mulch is typical, though not entirely, organic. It can be temporary, like bark chips, or permanent such as plastic sheeting. It can be placed around plants or bare soil. Thanks to soil organisms and worms ‘ activity, mulches of compost, manure, or compost are naturally mixed into the soil.

This same process applies to gardening and commercial crop production. If applied well, it can boost soil productivity dramatically. Several types of material are ideal for mulching. They help regulate soil, suppress weed, retain moisture and enhance aesthetics.

 They are applied to the soil surface around plants (and over the root zones of trees) to prevent rain from directly impacting the soil, evaporating, and causing erosion.

This article will look at how to determine the amount of mulch you need for your landscape and why mulching matters.

How to Use Mulch Calculator

You can use the mulch calculator to determine how much mulch you need for your landscape beds. A mulch calculator is a great tool, which works in the same way as all other calculators. It just needs some basic information from you to calculate the amount of mulch required to cover your garden.

Mulch calculator is based on simple formula that equals to:

Length (ft) x Width (ft) = Area (sq ft)

Area (sq ft) / 324 = Area (cubic yds)

If you have a rectangular or square flower bed and know its length and width, simply enter the measurements into the calculator and click the ‘calculate’ button to get the result. If you have a circular or irregular-shaped flower bed, measure it and divide it into smaller rectangular or square parts to find out the area. You can also use a tape measure to measure your garden and calculate the area manually.

Types of Mulching

Mulches can be either organic or inorganic.

Organic Mulches

Organic mulches are made from plant materials, such as bark chips, cocoa hulls, straws, and pine needles. They decompose over time, adding nutrients to the soil. Organic mulches may also contain weed seeds. The best way to avoid this problem is to purchase them from a reputable dealer or make your own from shredded leaves or grass clippings.

Regular applications of organic mulch help improve soil tilth by increasing its water-holding capacity and providing slow-release nutrients as it decomposes. Some gardeners prefer to use a layer of plastic between the soil and the organic mulch to prevent weed growth and reduce decomposition.

Inorganic Mulches

Inorganic mulches include landscape fabrics, plastic sheeting, and gravel. These barriers are often used when planting shrubs or trees because they allow air, water, and fertilizer to reach plant roots while preventing weed growth around them.

What are the Benefits of Mulching?

Conserves moisture– Mulching conserves moisture, which can be a very important benefit in drought-prone areas. Since mulch is placed around plants to protect and insulate the soil, it helps prevent water loss from the soil caused by evaporation. This reduces the need for frequent watering of plants.

When organic mulches decompose, they increase the amount of water that the soil can hold. In addition, a layer of organic mulch helps suppress weed growth and therefore prevents competition with desirable plants for water and nutrients.

Maintains even soil temperatures– Mulches help maintain even soil temperatures. This is very important in controlling the germination and growth of plants. A mulch placed on the soil’s surface early in the spring will delay the warming of the soil by the sun and thus delay the growth of annual weeds and crop plants. In the fall, a mulch will protect a crop from early fall frosts.

Prevents weed growth– Mulch is the ultimate weed control. Mulch suppresses or eliminates weeds by blocking the light needed for photosynthesis. Different types of mulch can also make it harder to germinate new weed seeds.

Mulching can also save you time and money on pulling and spraying weeds. Mulching your garden and flower beds once every season for three years in succession will significantly reduce the need for full-scale weeding.

Reduce water loss through evaporation-Reducing water loss from soil by evaporation. This is especially true for organic mulches like shredded bark or compost, significantly reducing irrigation frequency during hot summer weather.

Mulch moderates soil temperature extremes– During hot weather, mulch keeps the soil cooler, allowing plants to take up more water through their roots, thereby reducing the need for frequent watering. During cold weather, mulch insulates the soil. It maintains warmer temperatures, encouraging plant roots to grow longer and deeper into the soil instead of growing close to the surface where freezing conditions may damage them.

Reduces lawn mowing– As the mulch breaks down, it adds organic matter to the soil, improving the soil structure and allowing water and air to pass more easily through. This stimulates the growth of earthworms and other micro-organisms in the soil, helping to improve root growth and ultimately leading to a thicker and more robust turf.

Improves water quality – Excess fertilizer and pesticides will be trapped by the mulch layer instead of washing into storm drains or surface waters, improving both water quality and aquatic life.

Enhances beauty – A deep mulch layer has a clean, manicured, healthy look that enhances all commercial and residential landscapes. The smell of fresh-cut grass can also be an added bonus.

Improves soil structure as it breaks down– Most organic mulches eventually decompose, adding valuable organic matter to the soil and improving its structure (tilth). Finer mulches with a higher proportion of fine particles generally break down faster than coarser ones with more large pieces in them.

Bottom Line

Mulches vary in their ability to control weeds and retain moisture, depending on how coarse or fine they are and how well they decompose. The best weed-control mulches for vegetable gardens are coarse ones that decompose slowly–for example, straw, hay, leaves (shredded), bark chips, pine needles, and shredded newspaper covered with a layer of grass clippings or compost.

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