Sure, adding mulch to your garden and landscape makes your plantings look terrific (and can even add a beautiful swath of color), but it also accomplishes many great things for both plants and soil. Here's why mulch could be considered a gardener's best friend:
You'll have to do less weeding. When you cover soil with mulch, sunlight can't reach weed seeds, so many won't germinate. Weeds that blow in and settle in the mulch may sprout, but they will be much easier to pull.
You won't need to water as much. A layer of garden mulch helps soil retain moisture longer, because the sun's warmth won't bake the top layers of soil. When rain comes, that same mulch layer helps slow storm water run-off, so more rain soaks into the soil. Garden mulch also helps prevent soil compaction during downpours, keeping soil light and fluffy, which is a key to healthy root systems.
Your plants get some disease-fighting help. Many plant diseases begin in the soil and spread to plants through splashing raindrops. A mulch layer acts as a buffer between soil and plant leaves to help prevent disease spread. Plus, it can keep crops like lettuce, leafy greens, and cabbage cleaner (less work for you at harvest time!).
Your plants stay warmer. In cold weather regions, garden mulch protects plants against winter chill and frost heave, which occurs when soil freezes and thaws. A frost heave can push perennial crowns out of the soil and expose them to killing temperatures.
When it comes to types of mulch, you have lots of choices. Bagged mulch, like Scotts® Nature Scapes® Triple Shred Mulch and Scotts® Nature Scapes® Color Enhanced Mulch, is convenient, easy to use, and comes in a range of colors for your landscape. (Use our handy mulch calculator to determine how much you need.) Other mulch options include wheat straw, pine straw, shredded leaves, untreated grass clippings, and even newspaper or cardboard.
How to Mulch
Apply mulch in a 2 to 3-inch-thick layer around, but not on top of, your plants. (Be sure to read the product label for detailed directions.) Use a thinner layer in colder regions and/or with heavier soil that retains moisture. Use a thicker layer in warmer regions and/or with sandy soils that dry quickly. Never pile mulch against plant stems, tree trunks, or perennial crowns, as doing so will block air circulation.
In colder regions, the best time to apply mulch is in late spring, after soil has warmed and before summer heat arrives. In late fall, after the ground freezes, apply additional mulch around plants you want to protect through winter, such as roses or tender perennials. In warmer regions, make sure to put mulch down before summer heat arrives.
It's kind of amazing, actually, that simply adding a layer of mulch can do so much for your garden—it's a pretty impressive return on investment, if you ask us!