Any gardener knows that keeping your garden healthy and happy takes lots of time, hard work, and investment before you will see the rewards of your labor. A big part of keeping your garden in good shape is making sure that it is properly protected from the elements, with mulch that will let the plants breathe and provide adequate protection. New technology and innovations have made this task easier. A combination of the new and the old will guarantee a thriving garden.
Rubber mulch is produced by recycling old tires that would otherwise take up costly space in landfills, without benefiting the environment at all. The tires are ground into small chips, and are then subject to a powerful magnet that extracts any scrap metal left in the mix. This innovative gardening material is excellent for permanent walkways, driveways, and playground surfaces. It is used in place of wood chips for garden mulch, as it does not have to be replaced annually like wood, and allows more rainwater to get to plants due to the rubber’s non-porous nature. There are many opinions regarding the use of rubber mulch around plants, but its many uses greatly benefit the environment. It also comes in many colors to suit various designs, and stands up well to weathering.
Wood and bark chips is another older, common form of garden mulch that is often used on top of a layer of compost, and is great for decorative purposes, as well as a covering for soil. Wood breaks down with time, and weathers to a grayish color, so it must be replenished annually. Bark does not break down as quickly, but it is recommended to use all forms of wood chips around mature plants.
In recent years, black plastic as a soil covering has been replaced by landscape fabric. Traditional black plastic that is laid down under the mulch adequately suppressed weeds, but it also deprived the soil of sunlight, and roots died. Also, the slippery surface allowed mulch to slide off, and the weeds were allowed back in once the plastic was weathered and shredded. Fabric is a lot more durable, and allows rain water and sunlight to reach the soil. Gardeners should keep in mind however, that neither plastic nor fabric add any nutrients to the soil.
One of the oldest and most successful forms of garden mulch is grass clippings from a weed free lawn. They are best when used in combination with other organic matter, such as leaves, but it is important to ensure that all the components are healthy and weed free. Grass clippings should be lightly sprinkled around the desired area for best results.
Change is always hard to adjust to, and with each new innovation, seasoned gardeners question the advancements and compare them to the old. It is true that while new forms of mulch and gardening equipment bring many benefits, sometimes the tried and true methods still work best. A mix of classic methods and innovative ideas will bring forth the best results.