General Question

sarahsugs's avatar

Do I need mulch in my garden? Why? What does it do? What kind should I get? How much do I need?

Asked by sarahsugs (2886 points ) July 23rd, 2008

I am in Berkeley, CA with a combination of flowers and vegetables in my smallish garden. Whenever I walk through the neighborhood I see yards where it looks like the folks know what they are doing, and there is always mulch around the base of the plants, which makes me think I should get it, but I don’t know the reasoning behind it, how to choose a mulch, or how much to get.

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12 Answers

flyawayxxballoon's avatar

For shrubs/bushes and trees, you should use mulch. For flowers and vegetables, it can be used, but isn’t neccessary.

flyawayxxballoon's avatar

Mulch helps stop erosion, holds excess moisture/water, and can just look pretty. =)

mssamayray's avatar

mulch keeps in the moisture so soil doesn’t dry out as easily. check the packages of your seed and see if much is recommended and how much moisture the plant depends on.

syz's avatar

In addition to helping to maintain soil moisture and reducing erosion, it also helps retard weed growth.

marinelife's avatar

You could use pine needles, grass clippings, hay or straw, leaves (except black walnut), peat moss, compost, hulls or corncobs. There are more details here at Vermont Extension. It tells how much of each.

gailcalled's avatar

Pine needles will acidify the soil, grass clippings might defeat the purpose of retarding weeds since grass begets grass, and corncobs will attract animals (deer, racoons and the like). I throw peanut or pistachio shells around and use compost, but often I will find accidental tomato, melon and other plants growning in it. Mulch is overused by OC gardeners who also weed with a tweezer and attack dandelions as tho they were alien invaders.

Have you thought of composting vegetative waste, coffee grounds, used tea bags without the stapler, etc? You end up with beautiful soil enrichment and a sense of environmental superiority.

Personally, I grow veggies in pots, and flowers in beds that are crowded and awash with ground cover so I have very little weeding. I can’t tell you exactly why, but I find buying and then spreading mulch annoying.

sarahsugs's avatar

I do have LOTS of compost that I add to with kitchen scraps and yard clippings regularly. I have never used it as a surface mulch because I thought that it would cause my plants to burn. I have only used it when I am planting new things, and I dig it into the soil underneath. I didn’t know I could use it around the base of already-growing plants. Do you think it matters if it still has partially composted matter in it? Should I transfer some out and wait for it to compost completely? I would love to be able to use my compost instead of getting store-bought mulch.

pathfinder's avatar

If the ground is overacid you could burn the plants. I know that from growing of plants witch I use to seed in.I can t suggest more than what has been writeen before my ansver.

gailcalled's avatar

@Sarah: Unless you are aiming to have your yard be the Cover shot of Better Homes and Gardens, toss partially composted material around helter-skelter. However, corn cobs never biodegrade. You can also crumble empty egg shells in areas where you have veggies – for the calciumm.

gooch's avatar

@ gail tomatoes love those eggshells. The extra calcium stops bottom rot.

Cat4thCB's avatar

a tip for putting down mulch: do not put mulch so that it touches the trunks of trees and bases of bushes. pull back the mulch so that there is a 6” to 8” well around the trunk and base.

gailcalled's avatar

A new issue about heavy mulching here is that it makes a perfect hiding place for Lyme ticks. I now crowd all flowers together and use various groundcovers to fill in the interstices; myrtle and violets in shade, creeping jenny, low veronica and perennial geranium sanguinium in the sun.

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