Mulch is on my mind today. There are so many different types of mulch—all of which supply unique benefits to the garden. One could almost think of them as “flavors” for plants. What flavors of mulch do you use for your garden?
Lately I’ve been reading—through blogs, master gardener sites, and other sources—about the benefits of using leaf mulch on the garden. Years ago, our family was meticulous about clearing away all the leaves from our lawn and most of the leaves from around perennials and shrubs. We’d replace the piles of leaves with piles of shredded bark mulch.
We’ve changed our strategy a bit in recent years—partly because of age, wisdom, and laziness, and partly because the experts are recommending recycling leaves on the yard and garden. Actually, it makes sense—why bag and cart away your leaves when they make excellent protective mulch and return precious nutrients back to the soil? With that said, we do rake most of the Oak leaves away because they decompose very slowly. And, of course, we don’t want the wind to blow the bulk of them into the storm gutters and the neighbors’ yards. We drag most of them into the woods to compost.
But if a few leaves remain, we mow them into the turf. And we retain the accumulated Oak leaves around shrubs and perennials until spring, when we rake them off to allow the sun to warm the wakening plants.
Here are excellent sources on the topic of garden mulch:
- An article from Scotts about the benefits of using your own leaves for mulch;
- A recommended leaf management plan from Texas A&M; and
- An extensive article about various types of mulch from the American Rose Society.
On my small vegetable/cut flower plot, I’ve usually covered the entirety with Marsh Hay, year-round. It decomposes quickly, and planting under and through it is pretty easy. Marsh Hay, unlike Straw and Field Hay is usually weed-free.
But that means paying for and carting in a bale—not a huge deal, although why go outside the yard for mulching materials when we can use what we have here?
This year, I’m trying something new for the veggie/cut flower bed: Honey Locust leaves. We have two large Honey Locust trees in our front yard. I know some people find them bothersome and invasive, but I’m a fan. I’ll save listing the reasons why for another post.
The leaves of the Honey Locust are small and light, and they break down in one season.
This year, we mowed most of the Honey Locust leaves that fell on the grass back into the lawn. We also gathered a large pile to use as mulch on the veggie/flower garden. I'm thinking they'll be the perfect mulch to protect perennials, reduce weeds, and prepare the soil for next year’s Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Zinnias, Cosmos, and other lovelies.
I’ll let you know next growing season how it all turns out.