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Mulch, the Great Cover Story

by Malachy - Horticulturist CountryLife Dungarvan | Oct 24, 2017
Mulch - the great cover story

As long as there have been trees growing in forests, there has been mulch on the ground beneath them, which in turn provides nutrients for the trees to grow and continuing its life cycle. Gardens also prove to have benefits from using mulch like forests do as we are about to discuss. But first we need to know what mulch is? Mulch is any material that is spread or laid over the surface of the soil to retain moisture, to suppress weeds and even make the garden look more attractive. Mulches can be split into two categories, biodegradable and non-biodegradable. These two categories have both pros and cons and its best to ask a CountryLife horticulturist before investing your money on which one is best suited for your garden.

The most popular types of biodegradable mulches are compost and bark chippings. Bark chippings are capable of performing all of the functions that a garden mulch requires, one of which is perhaps the most important when it comes to saving the gardener a great deal of time by suppressing weeds and saving time watering during the summer months. Bark mulch will also make your flower beds more attractive by the contrast of dark coloured bark mulch against lush green plants. The soil also benefits greatly as the bark mulch breaks down releasing nutrients and providing organic matter that will encourage living organisms to inhabit the soil such as worms which in turn give benefits to the soil quality and structure.

Unfortunately non-biodegradable mulches do not improve the fertility of the soil and certain mulches like plastics can affect the soil structure by not letting enough air pass through to the soil which will eventually smother living organisms. On the other hand non-biodegradable mulches are the best at doing their job, suppressing weeds; conserving moisture and long lasting. If you are worried about your soil structure and the living organisms in the soil you can use a groundcover material that is available in CountryLife garden centres called ‘Hipex’. It comes in a roll that can be cut to the length required. Hipex is fully breathable which means that water and air can pass through the porous woven fabric keeping the soil condition underneath healthy. Many gardeners have the option to camouflage the Hipex weed barrier by using decorative gravel, stone chippings, pebbles, broken slate or even bark mulch or wood chips.

In my garden I use both, biodegradable and non-biodegradable mulches for certain areas. In one of my beds there are mostly low maintenance shrubs and I tend to do very little work in that bed so it makes sense for me to use a more permanent ground cover like Hipex. On the other hand in my herbaceous beds and borders I use bark mulch or wood chips. The herbaceous beds are where I would do most of my gardening for example plant division, transplanting, and dead heading. Having wood chips or bark mulch suits the herbaceous bed rather than using plastic or fabric material as I need to dig the odd hole here and there and disturbing the ground is not a problem.

Overall using natural mulches prove to more beneficial to the garden, little or no watering and fertilising to be done and it also provides a warm home for beneficial insects and plant friendly bacteria and fungi that help plants absorb nutrients. A big seller in CountryLife at the moment is our Second Harvest Mulch which comes in a cubic meter bag and is now on offer for €75. It will cover 150 square feet when covered at a depth of two to three inches it will ensure little water is evaporated and most weeds will be supressed saving you time to do other jobs. The Second Harvest Mulch is made from recycled wood and lasts a lot longer than bark mulch and may only have to be replenished once every two years, saving on your pocket.

Written by Malachy

Here to help! - remember if you have any questions feel free to pop into one of our garden centres or you can contact us on our Facebook and Twitter pages and email us at: hello@countrylife.ie

Malachy's Bio 
I have been gardening since I was 5 years old when my mother gave me a part of our garden as my own. I have studied horticulture in the National Botanical Gardens in Glasnevin and was a winner in the young horticulturist of the year competition. I have worked in Several plant nurseries and garden centers such as Mount Congreve in Co. Waterford. My special interests are plant propagation and Cacti!

We were shortlisted for Best Lifestyle Blog in the Littlewoods Ireland Blog Awards 2016 Company Category.