Mulch your borders to protect plants
Summer is around the corner and it’s time to think about nurturing plants to get the very best display from them.
The one thing that plants need more than anything else at this time of year, is water. Fortunately for gardeners in Scotland, Mother Nature is a pretty good provider. Unfortunately, where soils are sandy, stony or on a hill, water tends to either drain away or evaporate quite quickly.
Mulching will improve the water holding capacity of your soil AND help keep weeds at bay.
What is Mulching?
Mulching is applying a layer of material to the surface of cultivated soil. It could be compost, manure, bark, sheets of newspaper, pebbles or even seaweed.
Depending on the type of mulch, it has a range of benefits including:
- Help soils retain moisture in summer
- Suppress weeds
- Improve soil texture
- Deter some pests
- Protect plant roots from extreme temperatures
- Encourage beneficial soil organisms
- Provide a barrier for edible crops coming into contact with soil
- Give a decorative finish
How to use bark for mulching
Bark mulch is economic to buy, convenient to use, versatile and attractive. I my own garden I use it to mulch around perennial plants, shrubs, trees and fruit bushes. I also use it to make paths between my raised beds (It’s cheaper than paving and if I want to change the layout of that bit of the garden, I can just rotovate it in. Easy.)
Bark mulch is pretty good for putting at the bottom of the chicken pen too. They love to scratch around in it and it looks so much fresher than mud.
Choose a grade of bark that best matches the application.
For example, for my paths, I use ornamental bark http://www.stewartsturf.com/soil-top-dressing-bark/ornamental-bark/. It’s economic and the larger pieces take longer to decompose, so I know it will last for years. (I normally need to top up the paths every 2-3 years)
This is also the same bark I prefer to use around trees and shrubs. http://www.stewartsturf.com/soil-top-dressing-bark/ornamental-bark/
For smaller plants – the ones that I don’t want to be overwhelmed by the mulch – I use a more decorative mulch – one with finer particles. http://www.stewartsturf.com/soil-top-dressing-bark/decorative-fines-bark/
It looks neat and does a great job of keeping the weeds at bay. Any weeds that do have the audacity to germinate in it are easy to whip out before they get established.
Water the soil
Always apply bark mulch to wet soil – it will create a gentle seal so that ground water doesn’t evaporate away in warm weather.
Use your hands, a rake or whatever you find easiest to distribute the mulch on top of the soil and around the plants. Leave a gap around plant stems, they need good ventilation.
For paths, shrubberies and around trees I apply a layer of mulch that’s between 10 and 15 cm deep (4 – 6 inches)
Around the more delicate perennial plants and on top of containers, it’s more like 5-8 cm (2 – 3 inches)
Use your judgement. You don’t want to bury the plants but on the other hand, if the mulch layer isn’t thick enough it won’t do its job properly.
Where to buy bark for mulching
You can buy mulch from most garden centres. It usually comes in small bags that are relatively easy to lift in and out of your car and then carry to where you need them. You will end up with a heap of plastic wrapping that needs to be disposed of responsibly.
If you need lots of bark mulch, buying a dumpy bag full and having it delivered to your door offers good value and is super-convenient.
When it’s in the bag, it’s neat and tidy and you can use it as and when you want to. I tend to spread my mulching over the course of two or three weekends. So as not to conserve energy for the things I don’t like – housework, laundry, shopping – that sort of thing.
Stewarts Turf offer sustainably sourced bark mulches for you to order online. The order process is simple, logical and secure and you’re not tied to office hours.
Click on the links below to find out more