The Benefits of Mulching Your Veggie Garden
Spring is just around the corner and it's time to think about gardening. We know that mulch helps in so many ways in our flowerbeds, but did you know it's also really beneficial in your vegetable garden?
A Texas A & M study found that mulching a vegetable garden can increase production by 50%. 50%! That's pretty awesome! Here's what you need to know:
A 4" layer of mulch applied in the fall, keeps soil warmer during the cold winter months. When applied in the spring, it keeps plant roots cooler and conserves moisture. Mulch inhibits weed germination and if a weed does happen to begin to grow, it is easier to pull out. It keeps your precious garden soil from washing away and prevents it from splashing up on vegetables which can minimize diseases. Be sure to apply mulch early in spring, as the mulch will prevent sunlight from reaching weed seeds so they have a harder time germinating. By mulching early you can get out ahead of the weeds and prevent your garden from becoming a weedfest later on.
What types of mulch can you use in your vegetable garden?
Compost: Compost makes a great vegetable garden mulch. You can make your own or buy it at your local garden center. If you are planting plants in your garden, you can put about 4" of compost over your whole garden spot before planting and then pull the compost back, plant the plants directly in the soil below, and put the compost back in place. The beauty of this system is the excellent weed control, the ease of pulling out weeds if they do germinate and the benefits you get for your soil over time. We make a product called Loamate that works great for this.
Bark Mulch: Pine or hardwood bark mulch will provide excellent organic benefits to your plants and soil when used as a garden mulch. As it breaks down it will add organic matter to your soil and help improve it over time. Bark does require nitrogen to decompose, and will rob your plants if there isn't enough, so be sure to add enough fertilizer to compensate and prevent nitrogen draw down.
Wood Chips or Sawdust: Wood chips and sawdust are usually readily available, but require so much nitrogen to decompose that they can rob nitrogen from your plants, so I don't recommend them for a vegetable garden unless they are well aged. If you have some fresh chips or sawdust, you can put them in your compost pile to rot down and use later.
Straw, Hay and Grass Clippings: These can be used in your vegetable garden, but they can germinate a lot of weeds on their own and sometimes don't prevent weeds very well. Grass clippings are an excellent source of nitrogen and you can certainly add them to your compost pile. If you want to mulch with any of these and don't mind the weeds, mulch on.
Digger's Flower & Garden Mulch: We make a mulch that is designed for vegetable gardens and flower beds. It minimizes nitrogen draw down and results in larger, healthier plants with more blooms and fruit. In the pictures below, taken on the same day, the pansies on the left are mulched with pine bark mulch and the pansies on the right are mulched with our Digger's Flower & Garden Mulch. You can mulch your garden with it and till it in as a soil amendment at the end of the season. Ask for it at your local garden center or call us to find a retailer in your area.
If you've never mulched your garden before, this might be the year to try it. Research suggests that you will have much more yield and you'll have fewer weeds. All those benefits will add up to much more gardening fun. Isn't that what we all really want?
Dig It? It's Grow Time!