Mulch offers many benefits to your garden. It helps to prevent soil erosion, retain soil moisture, prevent weed growth, maintain an even temperature in the soil, and keep pests away. But did you know you can make mulch yourself? You certainly can, and it may be even more effective than the kind you buy at the store.
You can make mulch from various materials you may already have at home including leaves, grass clippings, newspaper, and straw. Some equipment, such as a lawnmower, shovel, pitchfork, or chipper may also be needed, depending on the material you want to use. Leaf mulch should be placed immediately.
Let’s take a closer look at what you need to make mulch from these different materials and how to use your freshly made mulch.
What Is Mulch?
Mulch is a word you’ve probably come across if you’re into gardening or similar activities. Mulch can be described as any material that can be spread or laid over the surface of the soil to serve as a covering.
Mulch plays a vital role in retaining soil moisture, keeping the soil cool, suppressing weeds, preventing frost heaving during winter, and making the garden bed look more attractive.
There are two types of mulch: organic mulch and synthetic mulch. Each of these types of mulch has its advantages and disadvantages, so it’s best to figure out which one is best for your property and needs.
Organic mulches help to improve the structure of the soil, the drainage, and the nutrient holding capacity of the soil as it decomposes.
On the other hand, synthetic and inorganic mulches don’t add any nutrients to the soil, and they don’t decompose quickly. However, they do an amazing job of blocking weeds and holding moisture.
Can You Make Your Own Mulch?
This is a very important question most gardeners ask at some point — and the answer is yes. One of the best decisions you can make to improve the health of your garden or lawn is to make your mulch.
Homemade mulch is usually more effective than the ones purchased in stores. It’s also a very sustainable and affordable choice. That said, it requires some effort to make it work.
The equipment needed to produce your own mulch includes the following: a lawnmower (on Amazon), a rake (on Amazon), an electric chipper (on Amazon), a wheelbarrow (on Amazon), a pitchfork (on Amazon) and a shovel (on Amazon). Getting the right equipment for making your mulch will help to ease the process.
How Do You Make Mulch?
As we mentioned earlier, organic and synthetic are the two major types of mulch. Within the category of organic mulch, there are various kind, and the steps involved in making each of them are quite different.
For starters, we’ll take a look at a few popular kinds of mulch and how to make them.
Leaf mulch is an all-purpose mulch that’s very beneficial to your garden. Here are the steps involved:
Step 1: Collect Leaves
Most properties have at least some trees and plants, and their leaves serve as a good source of leaf mulch. Gather the leaves by either raking the ones that fell in autumn or collecting leaves that you prune off plants. Ensure you don’t use leaves from walnut or eucalyptus trees, as they can prevent other plants from growing.
Step 2: Rake the Leaves Into a Pile
Using a rake or leaf blower, gather your leaves into a large pile. Pile your leaves on a flat section of the lawn to prevent damage to the lawnmower blades. You can also collect all the leaves using a shovel and wheelbarrow in case you don’t have a leaf blower or rake.
Step 3: Shred the Leaves Using a Lawnmower
Shredding leaves helps them decompose in the garden, consequently providing nutrients to the soil. After pulling the leaves together in a thin layer, put on your lawnmower and mow over the pile a few times to cut the leaves into smaller pieces. Continue with this until the leaves are dime-sized.
Step 4: Use the Mulch Immediately
Make sure you use the mulch immediately and store the excess in a ventilated barrel or bag with air holes. It’s important to note that the longer the mulch sits, the more nutrients it loses. Also, mulch stored in containers without ventilation tends to ferment more easily and releases high pH toxins that can harm the plants.
For this mulch, it’s important to make sure that your grass is pesticide-free. Don’t use damp grass as it can reduce the amount of oxygen and water getting to the soil. You are advised to leave the clippings out to dry in the sun for about a week. They’ll be ready to use when they’re slightly brown.
You won’t need more than an inch-thick layer of clippings spread over your topsoil.
To get an effective mulch from newspapers, you need about six to eight sheets of newspaper to make a layer. Once you place your newspaper in the garden, rip it slightly such that the pieces can wrap around the base of your plant.
When you place the sheets on the soil, make sure you moisten them so that they stick. You can do this by running your hose or watering it over the sheets. Finally, you can top this mulch off by adding a one to three-inch layer of straw, grass clippings, compost etc., to prevent it from drying.
Make sure that you don’t use newspapers that date as far back as 1990 because they may contain harmful chemicals such as lead, chromium and cadmium. As such, they are not safe for your vegetables.
If you don’t have straw readily available for your use, you can some from a local farmer or a home and garden store nearby. So you might have to leave your home for this type mulch. It is, however, still relatively cheaper than store-purchased mulch.
Once your bale is ready, you can place it at one end of your garden and cut the ties holding it together. You can also cut the straws into pieces using a shovel.
When placing the straw on the soil, ensure you don’t have more than a three to six-inch layer in between the rows of your plants; if you’re able to see the soil, that means you don’t have enough mulch. Always keep your straw one or two inches away from any leaves or stems of plants.