The 5 best types of mulch for your garden and the key time to apply it

If you aren’t using mulch in your garden yet – why not? Mulch is an open secret of many top gardeners as it makes your borders look neater and helps soil retain moisture for longer, amongst many other benefits. Here’s everything you need to know about mulch.

Mulch is the name given to any covering spread on top of soil, giving your plants many benefits as well as cutting the amount of time you’ll need to spend watering, weeding and tidying your beds.

Popular biodegradable mulches include bark, wood chips and grass cuttings, but some people prefer the look of non-biodegradable substances like pebbles, gravel and slate.

This top layer can protect your flower beds while keeping all the goodness in the soil where it needs to be.

Mulch also prevents the sun reaching the soil around your plants, which prevents weeds from growing.

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In the winter, mulch can also prevent frost heaving which can be fatal to your plants, as cracks in the soil from ice leave the roots exposed to the elements.

The best type of mulch for your garden depends on where you’ll be laying it, as different mulches can benefit different plants.

Mulches are best applied to existing plants in the spring and the autumn, but if you’re planting new ones, you can add a layer of mulch as you plant.

These are five of the best mulches – and where to use them.

1- Wood chips

Decorative wood chips are often used as mulch or to create garden paths.

These will look best in a flower bed, shrub area or pathway, and as the chips break down they give their nutrients to the soil beneath.

However, for a vegetable patch or annual flowers you re-plant each year, wood chips can get in the way when it comes to planting.

2 – Straw

Straw is recommended as a mulch for vegetables and especially for strawberry plants.

This mulch helps your soil retain moisture, and adds nutrients to the soil as it breaks down.

Weed and seed-free hays are recommended as they’re less likely to cause weeds.

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3 – Black plastic

Black plastic film is recommended as a mulch layer for your vegetable and fruit patches.

The material helps to trap the heat of the sun for the soil beneath, while preventing weeds from growing and keeping the soil moist.

You can even splash out for sophisticated infrared transmitting plastics, which promise even better yields.

Plastic shouldn’t be used around shrubs, however, as it can suffocate their shallow roots which lie close to the surface of the soil.

4 – Lawn cuttings

If you save your grass clippings from when you mow your lawn, you’ve got a mulch ready to go.

Your lawn cuttings are rich in nitrogen, making them extra-beneficial for your vegetable patch.

5 – Gravel

Gravel is a great mulch for areas of your garden that benefit from extra drainage.

A Mediterranean herb garden is a perfect spot for a layer of gravel as mulch.

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