Before I became a 'real' gardener, I knew my mom used mulch and I'd seen huge piles of it at the nurseries. Even the gas stations sold it by the bag. I didn't use it though and didn't see the need for the extra expense. My bushes and trees were doing just fine, thank you, and even when I went all out and bought a couple flats of Petunias or Impatiens for planting, mulch never found its way into my car.
But now I grow things like Campanula and Baptisia and Arabis and I have seen the error of my ways. Now I can't live without my mulch and here's why:
- When I apply a couple of inches of mulch to the non-planted areas of the flower beds, I have significantly fewer weeds, because it blocks the sunlight that most weed seeds need to germinate. While I actually enjoy weeding my gardens, maybe the reason I enjoy it is because I don't have that many weeds to pull.
- Mulch is organic. I use finely ground natural tree bark. As the mulch breaks down over time, it adds nutrients to the soil.
- It helps regulate the temperature of the soil. It keeps it cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter and lessens the detrimental effects of freezing and thawing through the winter. It provides a natural insulating barrier from the sometimes brutal extremes the weather can bring.
- It is especially helpful during the hot dry days of summer when evaporation of moisture from the soil occurs at a rapid rate. It slows this down considerably, since the mulch itself holds moisture better than the topsoil.
- It just looks nice. Adding mulch as a top dressing is like framing a picture. I just love the look of a freshly mulched flower bed. It looks so neat and clean.
So, even though good mulch is not cheap, it's money well spent and after a winter like the one we had here this year, with temperature extremes being so ... well ... extreme, I'm glad I spent the time and money on mulch last year.
There's one more thing I like about mulch and it's kind of quirky. I love the smell of it, especially after it's rained. It reminds me of walking through through the woods. I love the smell of dirt, too. That conjures up a picture in my mind from way back, when I used to stay with my grandma and we'd take lunch to my grandpa out farming in the fields. The smell of a freshly plowed field makes me breathe deeply and smile. I told you it was quirky!
But anyway ... use mulch. You'll thank me later.