What is mulch?
A mulch is simply a covering of material over the soil and mulching is considered to be one of the most essential and easy garden job.
When talking about Mulching most people mean well rotted farmyard manure or bark chippings.
The best all round mulch is well rotted farmyard manure. It helps the soil to retain water without becoming waterlogged, so plants are less likely to dry out and become stressed or die. It is hugely nutritious, so you get really strong plants that grow fast and are more resistant to pests and disease. It can also help smother weeds as long as you put down a good thick 2-3inch layer of the manure - this will be thick enough to stop light reaching the soil surface and so prevent weed seeds germinating. Take care not to pile it up against stems as it can scorch. Be aware: manure does smell when you first put it down!
When to mulch?
In Spring and Autumn.
It is important to mulch when the soil is moist, so after its been raining for a few days or water well beforehand. This means the moisture is then locked in the soil. If you apply mulch on soil that is dry it will actually stop any new moisture getting to the plants. Also, beware: slugs and snails can make a home in the mulch. If newly mulched plants start to get attacked, scrape off the mulch and reapply when the weather gets warmer.
You can also mulch to keep out weeds.
The best mulches for this are 'sheet mulches' like polythene, old carpet, old newspaper or gravel. There are also special weed supression fabrics available to buy. These are very effective and easy to use. Good for large areas and path ways where you can put down the fabric and then cover with gravel. Sheet mulches work by cutting out light which stops new seeds germinating and smothering the weeds that are already there. For more information click here