Green Patch: Mulching Tips

Our garden expert explains the benefits of mulching.

| June/July 2010

• Sidebar: 2 Basic Types of Mulch 

• Online Exclusive: The Benefits of Cornmeal 

Q. I have a new kitchen garden that will feature vegetables, culinary herbs and edible flowers. Should I mulch after planting?

A. Yes! Mulch is the finishing decorative touch for a new garden, creating a visual contrast between the beds and the rest of the landscape. Mulching is also a conservation technique.

Applying plant-based materials such as straw, pine needles, tree bark and shredded tree leaves around annual flowers, herbs and vegetables does many good things at once.

When using plant-based mulch, be sure to sprinkle a nitrogen source, such as agricultural cornmeal, before mulching to help the plant-based mulch break down. Otherwise, the carbon in this type of mulch (such as sawdust, bark and leaves) will rob nitrogen from the soil and stunt the garden’s plants. For decomposition, the ideal proportion of carbon to nitrogen (called the C/N ratio) is 25 to 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen.

5/11/2015 4:33:35 PM

I never realized that mulch actually preserves topsoil as well. That's good to know! I live in a windy climate and we almost always loose topsoil during the windy season. This many be a good solution! Thanks for sharing these tips with us!

8/20/2014 9:59:22 AM

Thanks for the great mulching tips! I think most people think you can just throw anything down in the garden for mulch and it all works the same. For some of my gardens, mulch isn’t very practical (they’re just too large), but for others it works well. I find that the type of mulch to best use depends upon the plants I have there—again, something most people don’t really seem to think about. Thanks for the timely and practical article. Richard

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