Want gorgeous, fuss-free flowerbeds this spring?  Mulching is the way to go, conferring numerous advantages to your plants all while looking fantastic.  Check out the top six reasons you should mulch this year!

1) Mulch retains moisture.

Since mulch is more absorbent than bare soil alone, you conserve water and time, and your plants will be better protected during warm and dry weather.

2) Mulch prevents the spread of weeds.

Mulching can also prevent the spread of undesirable plants.  By blocking soil from the light, mulching prevents the germination of undesirable seeds, and by serving as a barrier between the soil and the air, mulching prevents airborne seeds from taking root.  All this translates to less time spent pulling weeds for you!

3) Mulch is an insulator.

An advantage that many don’t consider is mulch’s insulating properties.  Spreading mulch creates layers of plant material interspersed with pockets of air, which makes mulch an excellent insulator.  This means that your plants experience fewer scorching highs and freezing lows than their unmulched brethren.  If you live in a very cool area, you may want to consider black plastic sheeting under your mulch, which can raise the temperature of your soil a few full degrees higher than mulching alone.

4) Mulch contains important soil nutrients.

Your mulch releases important plant nutrients as it breaks down, improving soil quality.  Mulch works so well as a natural fertilizer because it breaks down gradually, releasing nutrients into the soil slowly over time.  Water-soluble chemical fertilizers have great effects in the short term, but they have to be used again and again, because they leach out of the soil so easily.

5) Some mulches are antimicrobial.

If your mulch contains bark from trees in the pine family, or pine needles, it will help inhibit the growth of certain pests and pathogens.  Some mulches that are labeled as antimicrobial have a synthetic antimicrobial substance added, like the neurotoxin copper naphthenate.  Be sure to read labels so you are always aware of what you are putting in your soil!

6) Your mulch will look amazing.

It’s not just that mulch prevents weeds from growing up between your petunias — mulch makes your garden look neat and well-tended and pleasing to the eye.

A few final mulch protips:

  1. If you need a cheap alternative to plastic sheeting, or simply don’t want to heat up your soil too much, try laying down newsprint, instead.
  2. Remember that your mulch should only be a few inches deep, and you should not pile it up around the base of trees or shrubs — this tactic can backfire by creating a very moist area around the trunk of the tree and encouraging rot.
  3. Let’s say you’ve already planted and you’re worried mulching around every delicate frond may be logistically impossible.  Don’t worry!  Take a few plastic buckets or plant containers and invert them over your plants, pressing into the soil a little to ensure that they stay in place.  Distribute your mulch with the buckets in place; then, remove the buckets.  This technique can be used before you plant as well: dig holes for your plants first, then use the bucket method to cover those holes while you mulch.
  4. If you are planting in a warm climate, don’t go for darker-dyed mulches; darker colors can absorb heat, so this can cook your plants!  In a very cool climate, on the other hand, the darker the mulch, the better.

Good luck, and happy gardening!