Mulch-needed boost

Pro­tect­ing your soil isn’t just a win­ter task, says Bob

Amateur Gardening - - Your Gardening Week -

IT’S com­monly ad­vised to lay mulch af­ter the heavy rains of win­ter in or­der to re­tain mois­ture and sup­press weeds. How­ever, late spring is also an ex­cel­lent time to ap­ply loose mulch un­der and be­tween most crops, as the grow­ing plants are in need of ex­tra nu­tri­ents.

Of course it’s still best to do so af­ter heavy rain, or af­ter heavy wa­ter­ing, as it gives you the best chance of re­tain­ing some of that es­sen­tial mois­ture. More than that, though, mulch stops the top layer of soil dry­ing out, thus ef­fec­tively in­creas­ing the vol­ume avail­able to roots through­out sum­mer droughts.

Es­tab­lished weeds should be erad­i­cated be­fore you mulch. Once a thick layer has been ap­plied it will pre­vent new weeds ger­mi­nat­ing, re­duc­ing time spent weed­ing. Mulch also seals the soil, pre­vent­ing splash­ing when wa­ter­ing, which can re­sult in rot and mould spores land­ing on plants. This is vi­tal for French beans and the squash fam­ily – you should never wet the flow­ers of th­ese.

Potatoes ben­e­fit hugely from mulch. It ‘earths’ them up (do your ac­tual earth­ing up be­fore mulching), then keeps their root run cooler and moister, which they pre­fer. A fre­quent but un­no­ticed ben­e­fit of mulch is the re­duc­tion of pests. Ob­vi­ously some are hin­dered, find­ing mulches dif­fi­cult to

Grass cut­tings make an ef­fec­tive – and free – mulching ma­te­rial Lay­ing a thick layer of mulch will pre­vent weeds, re­tain mois­ture and hin­der pests

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