Answer: Mulching is simply using material (usually organic) to cover soil.
It is good to use throughout the year to conserve water, reduce weed infestations, reduce erosion, provide a natural look, keep soil cooler and protect it from drying in the direct sun.
If you use a mulch that “breaks down” or decomposes quickly, it will also add nutrients for your garden plants.
In the fall, mulch protects roots of perennials because it reduces frost heaving and helps soil warm in the spring.
When the mulch breaks down (depending on what kind of mulch), it provides organic fibre and nutrients to the soil.
If the mulch is not well-integrated into the soil, remove it before the winter because it might get moldy.
Mulch is also useful in the fall to keep delicate squash and pumpkins off the cold, damp ground.
There is a variety of material you can use for mulch such as grass clippings, peat, leaf litter, shredded paper, manure, compost and straw. The two most common types of mulch are garden compost and bark chips.
Things to consider when choosing your mulch
If you are using grass clippings, make sure you take them from a lawn that has not been treated with herbicides. Lawn herbicides, even environmentally safe kinds, may affect your garden plants since they are meant to kill anything that is not grass.
Apply grass clippings in shallow layers to allow them to dry out and to avoid clumping.
Sawdust, wood chips and bark chips do not provide as much nutrients as grass clippings, but do not break down or decompose as quickly. They are high in carbon and require nitrogen from other sources to help bacteria complete decomposition.
Mulch does not have to be expensive; in fact, it may be free. Grass clippings, wood chips, shredded newspaper, compost and old straw may be readily available from local businesses, from neighbours or from your own backyard.
Thanks to EarthCare Sudbury partners, the City of Greater Sudbury and the Foodshed Project for assistance in responding to this question.
EarthCare Sudbury is a network of more than 140 local businesses, organizations, and agencies committed to helping Greater Sudbury become greener, cleaner, healthier and more sustainable.
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