Once you’ve improved your border soil, added some beautiful new plants, and stepped back to admire the view, it’s job done – isn’t it? There is one more thing you need to do and that is mulching.

What is a mulch and why should we use it?

A mulch is a topping for the soil. It can be inorganic – such as slate chippings, or organic – such as bark chippings, composted straw or garden compost from your compost bin or your garden centre. You will find that mulching helps set off your new plants to their best advantage, as well as reducing dirt splashing onto their leaves.

But the main reason you should spend money on mulching are very practical:

  • Mulching reduces weed germination – so there’s less weeding to do
  • Mulching conserves moisture in the soil – so there’s less watering to do
  • Organic mulches also help improve the soil structure as they break down into the soil, which in turn increases the micro-organism levels in the soil

Applying a mulch

Mulch should be applied immediately after planting a new border, but can be applied at any time to weed-free ground. Many people like to add fresh mulch in mid-spring once their borders have been tidied and weeded. This helps prevent new weeds germinating right from the beginning of the growing season, and means you’re not caught out if there’s a spring drought.

To be effective a mulch needs to be applied around 5cm deep around your plants. If you can still see patches of bare soil its definitely not deep enough. A sack of garden centre compost will probably cover about 2m squared.

On sloping ground mulch application is tricky as there will obviously be a tendency for the mulch to slip downslope over time. In this situation a non-slippery mulch works best (ie not slate chippings or gravel). Watering organic mulch well after applying will help ensure it doesn’t move too much. If you don’t have your own garden compost, mulching can look expensive. But you will save hours of time weeding and watering. It’s worth it!