What is Mulching
The short and easy explanation of what we are trying to accomplish with mulching is that we’re creating a “blanket” for the soil and plants. This blanket will then keep your garden protected from numerous elements which could otherwise hurt your garden.
Okay that was the short and sweet answer, the more accurate answer is that mulching is when you cover the ground (i.e. soil) around plants, trees, shrubs, and even your grass, to create a better environment for your garden. Below I will share with you some of what mulch is made up of, but for now understand that we mulch to do things like:
- inhibits weeds (see our tips on weed control)
- reduce evaporation of soil moisture
- temperature control
- add organic matter as it breaks down
- deter erosion
- gives a clean finish
- keeps pathways (and homes) clean by limiting soil being tracked in with shoes
What Does Mulch Consist Of?
No we’re not taking out that old blanket your grandparents made for you one Christmas which stays nicely tucked away in that dark corner of your closet, we’re talking about finding things in nature which can presumably break down as time passes but for now, adds a layer of protection to your garden.
Things like wood chips and pine bark work great (shredded is best, but chips will do), however they don’t have to be limited to just wood chips or pine bark. Many materials make excellent mulch, and some are even free.
- grass clippings
- corn cobs
- leaf mold
- your neighbors lawn clippings and trimmings by the curb
When spreading mulch, aim for a 3″ layer and water it in well. Soon, your garden will reap the benefits of your work.
There are also some mulches that last for years, these are typically made with recycled rubber.
Unfortunately, these will not offer the benefit of adding organic matter to the soil. Such types of mulches are best suited for areas where only necessary, such as heavily trafficked play grounds, as they do not assist in soil health.
Some synthetic mulches might include:
- Recycled rubber from tires. Not always ideal because sometimes there can be metal shards left over from the original tire. Also, it can contain some chemicals which are harmful to your garden, so keep this in a play area.
- Plastic. Obviously plastic will not allow water to fall through, so this really should only be used if you have drought resistant plants and it’s in an area with heavy rainfall. Plastic also runs the risk of suffocating plants and also super heating the ground. If you use this method, make sure you have good plant irrigation method set up.
- Rubber mats. These are more used for playgrounds but can be used to simulate grass and other ground covers in your garden.
Typically when we talk about synthetic mulches we are talking about the tires kind because it’s shredded and used like organic mulch is used; however, I wanted to list the other two (plastic and mats) because they are used for similar reasons.
Similar reasons might include weed and temperature control.
Is Mulching Necessary in Houston Landscaping?
Landscaping in Houston (and gardening, too) can be tricky at times because typically we have a pretty stable weather pattern each year; however, at times we can have a nice range of temperature changes between summer and winter which throws a wrench in everything.
Check out our average weather temperatures here in Houston (click the image to go to the source of this information):
Not too bad, but let’s face it…
It can get butt cold in the winter time (it was once 9 degrees out in 1989) and a bit warm in the summer. Luckily, it’s not always 9 degrees in the winter. In fact, our average temperatures are pretty reasonable like the graph shows.
So is mulching necessary here in Houston?
If you ask most homeowners, I’m sure their answer would be no – because they don’t do it and their plants are fine. But if you’re a serious gardener with delicate plants which don’t always harden for the winter, then yes, mulching and finding ways to protect your plants is a must.