Mulching the Vegetable Garden

There are lots of good reasons to mulch your vegetable garden. Covering the soil with mulch conserves moisture, suppresses weed growth and helps control soil borne diseases. Here are some tips for choosing the best mulch for the job.

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There are lots of good reasons to mulch your vegetable garden. Covering the soil with mulch conserves moisture, suppresses weed growth and helps control soil borne diseases. Here are some tips to help you choose the best mulch for the job. And for more information, read Choosing the Right Mulch for Vegetable Gardens.

  • Before covering the soil with an organic mulch such as shredded leaves or straw, apply a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. As these mulches begin to gradually decompose, nitrogen will be absorbed from the soil and if you don’t add some extra to compensate, your plants may be deprived of this essential nutrient.
  • Keep mulch at least an inch away from plant stems to avoid rot and fungus problems.
  • If you use grass clippings, let them dry in the sun for a day or so. Leave at least half your grass clippings on the lawn because they are an important source of nutrients. Do not use clippings from lawns treated with herbicides or toxic pest controls.
  • If you mulch with leaves, use only those that have been aged at least nine months. This allows the growth-inhibiting phenols to be leached out.
  • Secure plastic or paper mulch with Earth Staples. Cover the entire row before planting, and then cut planting holes as needed. You can also cut the mulch in half lengthwise, and snuggle it up near the plants from each side.

Mulch Options

Organic Mulches

  • Chopped or shredded leaves
  • Straw
  • Newspaper
  • Grass clippings (no herbicides!)
  • Compost
  • Salt hay
  • Cardboard
  • Rotted hay

Inorganic Mulches

  • Clear, black, or colored plastic
  • Polyester garden fabrics
  • Gravel or stone
  • Carpet remnants

Mulch in a Flower Garden?

Yes. Weed-blocking mulch is perfect for cutting gardens. Read Weeding With a Broom.

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