Debbie Roland, Master Gardener
Chances are you have already planted vegetables, flowers and other plants in your yard and garden. Now it is time to add mulch. The advantages are numerous, including huge benefits to the environment. Mulch is a layer of nonliving material covering the soil surface around plants. It can be organic like the ones discussed below, or inorganic such as lava rock.
It helps prevent evaporation from the soil, which means less watering. The sun and wind make the soil dry out faster and the mulch will help protect your soil and plants from that.
Mulch will also prevent weeds by blocking light from the soil prohibiting weed germination, it prevents compaction of the soil and helps to moderate the temperature of the soil for better root growth.
Apply to the soil around all landscape plants, vegetables, flowerbeds and newly planted trees. Four inches of mulch should be maintained year round. Replenish when the mulch layer decomposes by half.
Organic mulch will break down over time, which increases your soils fertility and structure. Mulch can be bought in large bags and is inexpensive. Here are some types you might want to try in your yard.
Compost looks just like soil only it is richer and darker in color. This mulch breaks down the quickest so your soil gets the benefits faster. It is also the cheapest.
Shredded bark is fairly common and really sets off the color of your plants. This mulch breaks down more slowly. They are usually byproducts from other industries so using them keeps them out of the landfill and is considered environmentally friendly. During decomposition shredded bark can use some of the nitrogen in your soil so adding organic fertilizer will help keep your plants healthy.
Straw can be used as well and is slow to break down. It is typically used under strawberry plants and in vegetable gardens.
Bark nuggets are slow to break down but if you get a heavy rain, they tend to float and can be washed away. They come in different sizes and of course the larger they are the longer they last.
Organic mulches are preferred since they serve as a slow release fertilizer by gradually decomposing into rich humus, which will be worked into the upper soil level by the worms in your yard or garden.
Please contact the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information.