When it comes to harvesting delicious vegetables, you’ll need to use the best mulch for the vegetable garden. There are many different materials of mulch you can use. Also, another thing to think about when choosing mulch is to use organic or inorganic mulch. No matter which you choose, using mulch has its rewards.
Why Should You Use Mulch In A Vegetable Garden?
Mulch provides a lot of benefits for the vegetable and gardens alike. For the garden, it helps suppress weeds from growing, keeps the soil moist, regulates the temperature in the soil throughout the day, and makes your garden more attractive.
As for the vegetables, mulch lessens the chances of certain diseases attacking the plants, which can also spread to other plants and even damage your entire crops. Another benefit to using mulch is that it makes the plant’s roots thick and strong. Being able to grow without any diseases or pests attacking the roots, the roots can grow freely, which results in stronger and thicker root systems.
Lastly, mulch provides the needed nutrients for plants. Like any other living thing, vegetables need nutrients to grow. Using mulch such as grain and fruit byproducts and composted manure provides the needed nutrients for the vegetables to grow big and tasty.
Depending on the types of vegetables you’ll be growing, you should pick the right mulch for it. We picked the best 6 mulch that can be used to grow most vegetables in the garden.
1. Bark & Wood Chips
These are the most common types of mulch to use in a vegetable garden. The come in a variety of colors and sizes. Most people like to use bark and wood chips due to them being natural mulch. When they start to break down, the organic matter starts to mix with the soils, with the help of earthworms and insects that lives in the bark and wood chips. This enriches the soil and leads to healthier plant growth. While they make great mulch, you’ll need to replenish them often as they tend to break down fast.
Barks and wood chip mulch can easily be found around your home. If you live close to a wooded area, there should be plenty of fallen trees that you can use to make mulch. After getting a piece of tree, simply use an ax and chop them into pieces or chips. You can chop them in any size that you want. However, it’s best to chop them into smaller chips so it’s easier for them to break down into the soil. Afterward, toss the chips into the garden and make sure all the vegetables have the mulch completely around them.
On the other hand, if you rather not find woods to chop into pieces yourself, they can be found at your local nursery store or even online. Either locally or online, there are many selections of bark and wood chips to choose from. Choosing them will basically depend on your preferences on how you want your garden to look like.
Bark and wood chips usually need to be replenished in the vegetable garden periodically. For most vegetables, they only grow for 1 season. For that reason, the mulch will be needed to replenish the garden twice. However, it’s not a bad idea to add more bark and wood chips after the growing season is over. For the next growing season, you’ll have soils that are highly nutritious already. All you need to do is plant the seeds.
Compost is by far the best mulch for the vegetable garden. Why? Compost is highly rich in nutrients compared to other types of mulch. Since compost is made up of many materials such as dead leaves, leftover food, grass clippings, and rotten vegetables and fruits. Combining all of these together will provide a lot of nutrients in the compost.
To make compost that is rich in nutrients, you’ll need to gather some simple things which are probably around your home. This includes a rake, pitchfork, and of course organic matters. Once you’ve gathered all these together, find an area that provides a lot of shades. Rake in the leaves and other organic matters into a pile. Use a pitchfork and mix all the organic materials in there. To make the organic matters decompose faster, add earthworms to help break down the compost faster. All you have to do now is leave it for a week or two and you can start to use the compost in your garden. In addition, while you wait you can add other organic matters to the compost.
3. Grass Clippings
Grass clippings are another great mulch to use in a vegetable garden. This mulch provides a lot of nitrogen, which is great for growing vegetables. However, too much nitrogen can have a reverse effect. Grass clipping decomposes rapidly and you’ll need to replenish the garden every 2 weeks or so.
It’s best to add a thin layer of dry grass clippings at a time until it builds to about an inch thick. After you’ve cut the grass, put the grass in a pile and leave them to dry for a couple of days first. After they have dried, use the grass clippings from the top of the pile first. The bottom of the pile might still have wet grass. Using wet grass or grass that has just been clipped will have excessive heat and foul odors rather than decompose like other organic materials.
If you’re planning to use grass clippings, make sure the grass is free of herbicides and other lawn chemicals. This can damage the vegetables and the worst, it can destroy your entire vegetable garden.
4. Hay or Straw
Hay and straw are lightweight and clean. They provide the vegetable with the nutrients they need to grow big and full of flavor. When choosing these materials as mulch, make sure they are free of weed seeds, which can later sprout in the garden.
Hay and straw tend to decompose quickly, usually in about 6 weeks. For that reason, you should check the depth of the materials and add another 2 to 3 inches of the materials. This will help prevent the weeds from growing and keep the moisture in the soil.
Hay and straw also makes good compost as well. During the fall season, you can gather them and pile them somewhere in your backyard. In addition, you can add other items such as grass clippings, rotten vegetables and fruits, and other things in the yard. By the time spring comes along, you will have a nice amount of mulch ready for the garden.
5. Tree Leaves
This type of mulch are easily found and make great mulch for the vegetable garden. Leaves decompose quickly and release nutrients during the decomposing process. When choosing leaves, use those that are run over by a lawnmower or are broken into pieces already. Shredded leaves tend to remain in places longer than a whole leaf would. In addition, shredded leaves are easier for insects and earthworms to break them down into the soil.
During the fall season when the leaves start to fall, this would make a great time to gather and store the leaves. Instead of raking them to the front of the house for trash pickup or hauling them away, pile them up and use them as compost in the spring. During the winter months, the leaves will start to decompose slowly due to the snow melting into the leaves. By spring, you should have a pile of natural compost ready to be used in your vegetable garden.
6. Pine Needles
This type of mulch is great for a garden that needs to raise acid levels. Pine needles are easily found in the northern hemisphere and provide protection for the garden from pests and the weather. Out of all the other types of mulch, pine needles decompose the slowest. This makes them great for mixing with other different organic matters.
Pine needles are great for vegetables that are grown on a sloping garden. Pine needles will help prevent the soil from washing away when it rains or when you water them. Just be sure not to pile pine needles taller than 3 inches. By doing that, you’ll trap too much heat in the soil and that can cause root damage. It’s better to add an inch of pine needles every month or when the pine needles decompose too quickly.
Inorganic Mulch For Vegetable Garden
While most gardeners will probably use organic mulch for their garden, there’s another mulch that you can use- inorganic mulch. Inorganic mulch is a simple mulch that is man-made materials. Yes, you can use them in your vegetable garden or any other type of garden for that matter.
This material is great for weed management. You can use anything from straws to plastic bags. Over time, the straws will break down into small pieces so you’ll need to replace it. With black plastics mulch, most gardeners add another layer of organic mulch. This is to prevent the soil from absorbing too much heat which can destroy the roots of the plants.
This is another great inorganic mulch to help prevent weeds from growing. They decompose after one season and keep the roots of the plants from encroaching on other areas of the garden. Like black plastics, organic mulch such as grass clippings and leaves will need to be added to the newspaper.
Natural Mulch For Vegetable Garden
When it comes to healthy delicious vegetables, there isn’t anything better than using natural mulch or going organic. By using natural mulch, everything in the garden to grow vegetables needs to be chemical-free. This means the soils are not contaminated with any chemicals, nor using any pesticides that contain chemicals and growing the vegetables the natural way.
Advantages of Using Natural Mulch
There are many advantages to growing a vegetable garden using organic mulch. One of the advantages is healthy chemical-free food going into your body. By eating organic vegetables, you’ll have a lesser chance of developing health issues and the best part of all, you’ll live a lot longer.
Another advantage is the impact on the environment. By not using any chemicals in your vegetable garden, you’ll be helping the environment a lot. Most people don’t realize the chemicals from pesticides and fertilizers seeps into the ground and contaminate the groundwater. If your home uses a well for water, the water from the well will definitely have chemicals in them, and this is the water that will be going into your body. If you live nearby a river or stream, you’ll contaminate that as well.
So by going organic or natural, you’ll not only be helping yourself and your family lives a healthier life, but also help the environment.
Disadvantages of Using Natural Mulch
If you use natural organic mulch, you’ll also have some disadvantages. One of the disadvantages is the time it takes to harvest the vegetables from the garden. Vegetables that are not exposed to chemicals tend to take longer to grow. The time is usually a couple of weeks extra to an extra month.
Using Pesticides With Mulch
Most people are tempted to use pesticides to prevent insects and pests from destroying vegetables. Once pests start invading the garden, they can be sometimes hard to get rid of. There are many different types of pests that can destroy vegetables. Some pests attack the plants from above ground and some from below ground. For this reason, most people will use pesticides to protect their vegetables in the garden.
Pesticides contain chemicals, which are harmful and these can end up in your body via the vegetables you eat. Not only that, but it can destroy the nutrients in your mulch. Using too many pesticides in your garden can deplete all the nutrients in the mulch that the vegetables depend on.
Instead of using regular pesticides, you can opt for organic pesticides. What makes organic pesticides great is that they don’t contain any harmful ingredients. Most ingredients in an organic pesticide are naturally plant-based, which can be found in and around your home. Ingredients from citrus oil, onion, garlic, and salt can be used to make organic pesticides. If you rather not make them yourself, they can be found at your local nursery or online.
By using organic pesticides, you will help increase nutrients in the mulch. The more the mulch is rich in nutrients, the bigger and more flavorful your vegetables will be.
When it comes to the best mulch for the vegetable garden, compost is the way to go, especially natural organic compost. They provide the most nutrients for your vegetables. However, the rest of the mulch in this article is still good to use, but it won’t have as many nutrients in them as compost will. Now that you know which mulch is best to use, planting your next vegetable garden will definitely yield big and delicious vegetables!