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What is mulch and what does it do?
A thick layer of organic matter (called a mulch or bark) left on the surface will help to retain soil moisture, suppress weeds and insulate plant roots. The best mulch for the garden should be attractive too.
Spring and Autumn both provide a great opportunity to improve the soil by mulching. In the spring mulching will help trap in the moisture from the wet weather and ensure beds don't dry out too quickly in the summer. In the autumn a ring of mulch around newly planted trees, shrubs or herbaceous perennials will help protect roots and the crown of the plant from frost.
How to mulch
- Before mulching, make sure the site is clear of weeds and the soil is moist - water if necessary as it's difficult to wet dry soil through a layer of mulch.
- Remove annual and perennial leaves and tidy up any debris.
- Fill up a wheelbarrow with your chosen mulch and spread a 5cm (2in) layer around plants or across the soil with a spade, leaving a little gap around the stems of plants.
- Rake to a level finish.
Bark chippings make an excellent improver for heavy soils. Add 5-7 cm of mulch onto the soil or as much as you can. Bark chippings, leafmould, or piles of recently fallen autumn leaves are the best, but don’t use compost or manure until early spring, because you’ll waste the nutrients as they’re likely to get washed away by the winter rain. In early winter, tender plants like dahlias will benefit from a thick mulch.