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Jun 1, 2017
The benefits of mulch
Burpee  Edible Gardening Team Members

We get this question a lot during the growing season: What’s the best way to keep weeds out of my vegetable garden? Without a doubt, after all the digging and planting to start your garden, tackling weeds will be ongoing – no matter what size of garden you grow.

One of our go-to tricks for keeping weeds at bay (or small enough to nip in the bud) is to use a layer of shredded wood mulch. Mulching is such a beneficial step to being a green-thumb gardener. Not only does it help control weeds, it’s a great way to conserve moisture for your vegetables, herbs and flowers. Retaining moisture puts less stress on your plants and avoids the extremes of drought vs. saturation, which can affect fruiting, flowering and growth.

Many times when plants experience obstacles it’s because the plant has irregular watering. It’s tough being a busy gardener – we know watering daily is sometimes not possible. So, give yourself a hand by layering this organic material around the base of your plants – whether growing in the ground or in a container. (Listen to more advice in our "Mulch is a must" podcast.)

Aim for 2 inches / 5 cm of mulch. Any less and it could wash away during a heavy rain, and weeds will think they have a chance. But don’t go too deep either. You don’t want to restrict airflow, and too much moisture at the stem could form rot or mold.

The ideal mulch is long-lasting and not easily loosened by rain or watering. Peat moss, compost, aged straw and bark chips are the most common. But you can also recycle newspapers as mulch, too. The one caveat is to make sure the printer used soy ink (many news outlets are going this route these days to be nicer to the environment). Lay out three or four layers of newspaper over the soil, and then top with some grass clippings to weigh it down. It is an inexpensive way to help your garden thrive.

At the end of the season you’ll experience the third benefit to using mulch: Adding organics back into your soil! This aids soil consistency, breaks up dense areas or clay, and gives next year’s plants a boost of nutrition as helpful bacteria and insects worm their way through from Fall to Spring.

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