Mulch in flower beds is really nothing more than an a covering spread on top of the soil in your flower bed. This covering can consist of natural organic materials such as wood chips, straw, grass clippings, pine needles or leaves. Then again flower bed mulch can be synthetic such as black plastic, landscape fabrics or any other man made decorative material.
There are a few main reasons why we use mulch in the garden. It generally cuts down on weeding, conserves water and adds a decorative touch. The value you get out of mulching then depends largely on the type of mulch you choose.
What is the best mulch for flower beds?
The best gardening advice I can give is that the organic mulches are superior. Aside from less weeding and watering, natural mulches improve the structure and fertility of the soil as they naturally break down. In northern climates mulches protect your plants from heaving with the frost. Plant roots are also protected from the harsh heat of the sun and winter’s cold temperatures. Usually the garden is cleaner and flower beds look more attractive.
Why I don’t like synthetic mulches:
In contrast, the synthetic mulches attract the heat of the sun on hot days when plant roots would prefer to stay cool. The plastic does not allow for adequate air, nutrients and water to reach the plant roots. Landscape fabric is a bit better for the transmission of nutrients and water however to look decent they must also be covered with some sort of decorative material. Weeds that do germinate in the mulch are more difficult to extract because the fabric creates a barrier to their roots. Both plastic and fabrics do not break down and are therefore unfriendly to the environment.
How to mulch flower beds?
First decide on your mulch material. Your criteria will be overall appearance, cost and difficulty in obtaining and spreading. You can mulch at any time but spring and fall work well. Before you mulch flower beds, do a complete weeding of the area, then water the flower bed well. Do not over mulch, a few inches is fine. That extra thick layer will deprive your soil of water and air necessary for root growth. Keep the mulch away from the crowns of your plants and the trunks of your trees. Too much mulch too close can increase rodent and disease damage. If you have soil that drains very poorly, a mulch may not be the best idea. This type of soil will then stay constantly wet which most flowering plants dislike.
Some excellent natural mulches are bark chips, cocoa hulls, compost, straw, shredded leaves, pine needles, seaweed, stones or gravel. Decide which you prefer, check out the costs, find a source and get mulching.
(some photos are compliments of Pixabay)
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