September 18, 2023 – There are all sorts of mulches available for your garden, but wood mulch is often called a gardener’s best friend. The object is to cover the soil and protect the vegetable plants by keeping sunlight off the soil, thus lowering soil temperature, while helping to retain moisture, suppress weeds, and slowly increase available nutrients.
Newspapers and cardboard are often used and work very well, but they tend to rot way to fast. One can find mulches of pine needles, compost, hardwood bark, pecan shells and more, but it’s best to be picky! Wood compost excellently fills the bill, but it tends to be black, which means severe heat buildup in the summer sun.
Pine needles make an excellent mulch covering and cardboard, tend to rot pretty fast. Also, if your soil is heavily acidic, pine needles should be avoided. Also, avoid decorative pine bark mulch, plastic sheets and sawdust. I’d also recommend not using cedar and cypress. They work very well, but they don’t rot fast enough!!!
Wood chips for a sawmill, nursery, or hardware store will pay benefits in your garden, and at the end of the gardening year can be raked into the soil for some of next year’s nutrition. You need look no further than shredded organic material, as nothing can beat it.
Mulching should be done after planting is completed. Recommendations vary, but a rule of thumb is to use not less than one inch nor more than 3 inches. Three inches and up tend to keep moisture from penetrating the soil and smother plant roots.
My personal favorite is shredded leaves, particularly shredded oak leaves. There’s an abundance available in the fall. Finely shredded leaves provide nutrients faster than wood chips, provide magnificent cooling, keep the soil moist, prevent weed build up, and are free!!!