Mulching is one of the best things you can do for your garden. A mulch is simply a layer of goodness spread on top of the soil and offers lots of benefits.

Mulching should be done when the soil is warm and moist, before the first frosts (spring and autumn are perfect). Don’t mulch cold, wet ground. If you don’t get time to mulch in autumn before the frosts set in, don’t despair — you can still do it in spring once the ground has warmed up.

It feeds the soil and improves its structure, keeps plant roots protected when the weather turns icy, and helps to suppress all those weeds waiting to spring into action when spring returns.

Mulching The Soil

How to mulch…

Make sure the soil is moist and weed-free, then spread a layer of mulch, ideally at least 5cm (2 in) thick, across beds and around trees and shrubs. Take care not to mulch right up against woody stems and trunks, and don’t smother low-growing ground cover plants. When mulching around trees, mulch the whole area under the tree’s canopy.

Which mulch to choose…

There are lots of different mulches to choose from, all giving great benefits and making your beds look neat and well-tended as well.

These mulches work wonders for shrubs and perennials:

  • Leaf mould.
  • Garden compost.
  • Straw
  • Well rotted farmyard manure
  • Spent mushroom compost. A word of warning — don’t use spent mushroom compost around acid-loving plants like azaleas, camellias and Japanese maples, as it contains lime, which makes the soil alkaline

And for shrubs and trees:

  • Woodchip. This is exceptionally good at suppressing weeds, but it does use up nitrogen from the top layer of soil as it breaks down, which is why it’s best used around shrubs and trees, which have deep roots.