Mulch or mulching are protective covers that extend over the ground to modify mainly the effects of the weather, usually at the beginning of each vegetative season. There are a variety of materials depending on the effect you want to achieve.
Mulch is a very beneficial technique that we should not stop practicing in our garden or organic garden . Mulching has a multitude of important functions, such as maintaining soil moisture, reducing the sudden changes in temperature that affect the roots, favoring microbial activity and other highly beneficial living beings such as earthworms, increasing the fertility of the earth, etc.
The mulch is applied around the stem of the plant or tree, leaving a distance between them of about 15 cm, it should be avoided that the mulch has direct contact with the stem or branches. If you use drip irrigation, first place the irrigation systems and then place the mulch on top.
In general, with a layer of about 3 to 6 cm of padding is enough to get to take advantage of all its benefits. The quilting with loose materials such as straw or hay can be slightly deeper, up to about 8 cm, or can also be added successively during the life of the plant.
Keep in mind that during the spring, excess moisture and keeping the soil cooler can reduce the chances of germination of the seeds, so it is usually not advisable to use mulch until the seedling measures about 15 cm.
Wood-based mulches such as sawdust or chips once decomposing can interfere with nutrients causing plants with more discrete growth than usual. To avoid this, you only have to add nitrogen previously to the soil or plant nitrogen plants .
Other materials that we can use for mulch or mulch are food shells, branches and leaves and even algae.
Advantages of mulching
Protect from frost
Mulch protects plants against frost and extreme temperatures in winter. The plants are very sensitive to cold, so when the frost starts a good mulch can prevent the roots from freezing and dying.
Padding reduces evaporation of water in summer. It retains the humidity of the soil accumulated during the spring rains that help to hydrate the plant. In this way we will not need to water them so much.
Avoid the proliferation of weeds, since it prevents the passage of light.
It serves as fertilizer.
If organic materials are used, they nourish the soil little by little while they decompose.
Protects from erosion
Protects the soil from erosion by rain and wind while maintaining the soil structure.
Less probability of rotting of aerial fruits when not being in contact with soil moisture
Less soil compaction
Roots develop more laterally and superficially on land taking advantage of all the space they have in the soil
Roots are more numerous by the microclimate generated under the padding
More effectiveness and safety in the use of fungicides, fertilizers or other products either natural or chemicals , but that is placed on the ground. This is in case of PLASTIC padding
Saving water Less water evaporation so we don’t need to water more regularly
Provides organic matter when the material of the mulch is integrated into the soil. In the case of leaf mulch, straw,
Eliminates the risk of cracking or breaking the soil (which damages the roots) ….. in all types of mulch
Disadvantages of mulching
Cost of mulching depend on the method you use can be costly.
You need to know the correct use of the padding according to the purpose you want to achieve
Attraction of some types of pests, according to the type of padding . The one that attracted the most was dry twigs and straw .
The mulching of dry leaves, can facilitate the presence of spiders and mites.
Disappearance of beneficial plants such as trebol , especially in the case of plastic mulch.
In the case of straw mulch : It cannot be stacked, nor can it be known in the case of drip irrigation, when some of the irrigation outlets do not work
In the pumpkins and zucchini, the hot humidity creates under the propitious plastic padding powdery mildew
In some types of mulch, such as that of straw, when it is fresh, it can germinate its seeds and become weeds
The mulch of herbs, leaves, or straw can attract rodents.
In the case of dry leaf mulch, the wind can cause great loss of the material, when this is not well settled.
Advantages and disadvantages of some materials for mulch or mulch
Advantages can be very cheap or free, it is very good for vegetables because it retains moisture superbly, biodegrades quickly improving soil structure, helps stop some pests and serves as a habitat for beneficial insects.
Disadvantages> can kill nitrogen and may contain seeds of unwanted plants. It usually attracts snails and rodents.
Gravel and small stones
Advantages> is an inert material that lasts for a long time. It can be very good in gardens and orchards because we can combine the different colors and textures that there are. It is a good choice for perennials.
Disadvantages> is not a good option for plants that need more acidic soils, in addition, during the hot months it can reflect sunlight and cause temperature increase.
Advantages> are free, they put about 5 or 6 sheets under another layer of padding of another material.
Disadvantages> aesthetically they are not very attractive and ink can be a problem
Advantages> are free, rich in nitrogen and they look pretty good.
Disadvantages> may contain seeds of unwanted plants, waste, residues of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, etc.
Advantages> another free or very cheap option with easy access. They keep the humidity of the soil very well and avoid the appearance of spontaneous or uncultivated plants.
Disadvantages> It decomposes quickly if it compacts it can hinder the absorption of water, it can compromise the nitrogen reserves of the earth and acidifies the soil.
Advantage> is the best to avoid the appearance of unwanted or adventitious spontaneous plants (formerly called weeds).
Disadvantage> should not contain ink, staples or plastics attached. It can be unsophisticated.
Pieces of bark
Advantages> they integrate very well aesthetically both in gardens and in the garden. There are many different sizes to choose from, with the largest pieces being the ones that take the longest time to decompose and need to be replaced every many months.
Disadvantages> if you can not access the bark it can cost a lot, floats with abundant rains and can be transported to other areas, to prevent unwanted plants from growing, it is necessary to put another layer of mulch under the bark.
Advantages> are easily found, are free, attract earthworms and give a very beautiful appearance in orchards and gardens.
Disadvantages> are extremely light, so they are not a good option in areas with constant wind because they fly easily.
Advantage> can be easily obtained in forests, avoids the appearance of spontaneous herbs, lasts for a long time and aesthetically fits in gardens and orchards.
Disadvantage> if you can not get it from a nearby pine forest, buying it can be expensive and a lot of it is necessary to create a good mulch.
Advantages> can be obtained for free or very cheap and its duration is quite long.
Disadvantages> Some shavings may contain toxic chemicals that have been used to treat wood. If you notice a sour smell it is because the chips are decomposing anaerobically and produce alcohols that can harm the plants.
Advantages> is easy to handle, it looks great, adds more nutrients to the soil, improves moisture retention and can help prevent soil diseases to the plant.
Disadvantages> it is better to use it in small strategic areas or by applying only a thin layer under some other padding material.
Crushed tree bark
Advantages> this material lasts long, aesthetically it is good to use in vegetables, ornamental plants, shrubs, and trees.
Disadvantages> it is expensive and in the market, there are many imitations of wood stained with unhealthy chemicals.