What is Mulch?

What is Mulch?

Before considering when to mulch a garden, it’s important to understand what mulch is, and why gardeners use it in the first place. This makes it easier to understand which type of mulch is most appropriate to use alongside your plants.

Garden Mulch
Garden Mulch

Mulch is a top-layer gardening material that is spread over the ground surrounding plants. Depending on the type of mulch used various levels of water, light, and nutrients are filtered through the earth to the plants’ roots. Mulch also traps moisture in the soil, and can act as a sort of shield against environmental hazards to plants. These hazards include direct sunlight, harsh winds, and frost.

An additional benefit of knowing when to mulch a garden is providing a potentially chemical free solution to suppressing weed growth. Although, this depends on the mulch being made of non-pollutants. Like organic mulch made by Man Coed’s tree and other plant matter waste, for example.

This environmental outlook is more important now than it has ever been. Especially considering the causal effects found between the use of pesticides/ herbicides and the declining populations of our pollinating insects; such as honeybees. Not to mention how these chemicals bleed into the soil, which makes future plant growing more difficult. Over time this can even affect the overall quality of the earth in your garden.

mulch for sale
mulching a hedge

What Is Mulch Made Of?

Mulch is made of both organic and inorganic materials. Some examples of organic matter used as mulches include:

  • wood chips;
  • leaf mold,
  • well-rotted horse manure (or other herbivore waste),
  • homemade compost;
  • tree bark,
  • and other naturally decaying forms of bio matter.

Organic Mulch

Organic mulch also attracts insects important to the overall ecosystem of a garden, as it breaks down and decays. They provide food for the birds and other animals that may have otherwise snacked on your vegetation.

Burrowing creatures such as beetles and worms also drag individual pieces of the mulch into the earth as they bore in the ground, burying them. This mulch displacement – combined with natural decay – clears old mulch away, ready for when you mulch your garden. It also improves the drainage and water retention of the soil, meaning less watering from you. Not to mention organic mulches’ additional benefit of fertilizing the ground as this matter breaks down and rots.


organic mulch
inorganic mulches

Inorganic mulches

Inorganic mulches, on the other hand, are typically man-made from less environmentally friendly materials such as:

  • plastic;
  • rubber;
  • synthetic cloth;
  • woven mesh;
  • polyethylene

This means they may potentially release harmful microplastics and chemicals into the surrounding environment. This includes your garden, local community, and potentially even your body itself – if you are eating what you grow.

However, not all non-biodegradable mulches are pollutants, things such as:

  • small stones;
  • crushed slate;
  • gravel;
  • sea shells;
  • sea (or otherwise polished) glass; can be gathered or bought and used as mulch.

These mulches do not release nutrients like their organic counterparts, although they are vastly slower to break down. As such, natural inorganic mulches are considered more suitable if you’re looking for a long-term solution to pesky weeds.

crushed slate
inorganic mulches

When To Mulch a Garden?

Mulching is commonly performed during the spring or autumn, when gardeners are already busy at work.

Spring is the perfect time to take advantage of desired plant growth before any annual weeds begin to thrive. On the other hand, mulching your garden in autumn means plants are beginning to wilt.

Mulching in autumn allows a thick layer to protect your plants from frost; whereas mulching in the spring protects the roots from direct sunlight. Knowing when to mulch a garden may also depend on the types of plants you’re growing, as well as the mulches used. If you’re using the aforementioned inorganic mulch then mulching is required less often.

Organic mulches are applied more often and in much thicker layers, meaning you may want to wait until plants have sprouted to mulch your garden. For example, in the case of bulbs which could be damaged or fail to penetrate the mulch layer at all.

As important as knowing when to mulch a garden may be, understanding what’s best for your plants is the most important aspect. So it’s vital you are aware of what your garden needs and how to mulch a garden.

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what is mulch

How To Mulch a Garden

As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to know your main mulching goals when adding mulch to a garden. Is your main aim raising water retention and the

  1. nutrient value of the soil? Is it more to stop the growth of weeds and other wild plants? Research the vegetation you’re growing, what their needs are, and which substances may potentially damage the growth of your plants.
  2. How to mulch a bed for flowers or vegetables;
  3. Ready the soil. Remove any weeds and water the soil (on the condition the earth isn’t already frozen). You can choose to rake the earth flat, although be careful not to damage your plants.
    Avoid the stems. Woody plants such as trees and shrubs may become damp and develop diseases when covered in organic mulch. Whereas smaller plants can have their stems damaged or be smothered entirely.
    Lay the mulch. For organic mulch apply a layer at least 5CMs thick. A thicker layer provides better insulation and water retention. Just be aware plants that have yet to sprout may find breaching the mulch troublesome.

How to mulch hedges

  1. Mulch your hedges. Although hedges are hardy they still benefit from an annual biodegradable mulch. You may want to trim around the roots first.
  2. Ready the soil. If the soil isn’t already wet then water beneath the hedges; to lock in moisture when you add the mulch.

Inorganic mulch doesn’t need to be applied as often as organic mulch, since it breaks down much slower. This means knowing how to mulch a garden with them is a little different.

  • Weed mats or sheets for flower beds are best applied when the beds have just been made.
  • Decorative stones, shingle, etc, mulches are applied during the spring or autumn and can then be refreshed less often. It’s easy to spot when you may want to add more as their striking appearance will be less visible.

When you mulch a garden just be aware that the colour of the material has an affect on the temperature. Dark colours attract more sunlight and heat up the soil around your plants; potentially scorching them. Whilst lightered coloured stones reflect the sun’s rays and are resistant to gathering heat. This means you can use different coloured mulches to help with temperature control.

mulching a hedge
premium woodchip and premium woodshavings

Man Coed and Mulch

At Man Coed, we sell mulch made of the tree and plant matter waste generated during our tree surgery work. Afterall, mulch is a natural resource born from the waste materials of plants and animals. One that more often than not goes to waste when it could be reused.

In our effort to reduce waste and emissions, we’re recycling materials that would generally be otherwise discarded. This means when you buy our mulch for the care and growth of your plants, you are also doing your part for the care and growth of our planet.

Our online shop features general garden mulch, woodchips, and even whole tree mulch.  Available in quantities that can satisfy any need; be it for a vegetable patch or for much larger commercial gardening purposes.

So, now you know how to mulch a garden, know that Man Coed has you covered for environmentally responsible, high-quality mulch!