As every gardener knows, it is difficult to wait for the frost-free date to begin the gardening season. That is why it’s good to find things that can be done any time of year. Mulching is one activity that does not depend on the weather and it provides many benefits to the gardener throughout the year. Depending on the type of garden, weed control is the most beneficial outcome of mulching. Mulch will also act as insulation to maintain temperature and moisture content of the soil. Additionally, many gardeners view mulch as the element that adds the finishing touch to the landscape.
There are many options for mulch selection and they can be generally categorized as organic or inorganic in origin. Some examples of organic mulches include grass clippings, bark mulch and wood chips while inorganic examples include landscaping rock or plastic. Each type has their benefits depending on the type of gardening. For example, plastic mulches are generally used in commercial vegetable production while grass clippings are more commonly used in the home vegetable garden. Bark mulch or wood chips are often used for shrub borders and perennial beds.
In general, mulch should be applied in even layers up to four inches deep. To read more about the benefits of mulch, as well as the common problems associated with it, see the Iowa State University publication Using Mulches in Managed Landscapes.