To Mulch or Not to Mulch?

By Steve Malsher

To mulch or not to mulch? That is the question. Us gardeners fight a constant battle against the slings and arrows of outrageous weeds and dried out flower beds. The answer to this natural onslaught lies, quite literally, in the garden itself. Leaves can be a gardener’s most useful resource when utilised correctly, turning into an organic mulch that preserves water and improves soil, all for free! This short blog tells you how you can easily make your own.

Organic mulch performs a variety of tasks in the garden:

  1. It suppresses annual weeds
  2. It stops moisture being lost through evaporation
  3. It improves the structure of the soil as it is taken down by worms
  4. It releases nutrients into the soil
  5. It improves water retention in sandy soils
  6. It improves drainage in clay soils
  7. Offers a more aesthetically pleasing appearance to a bed

Some of us during lockdown 2.0 will have a bit more time on our hands for jobs in the garden. What better way to spend it than creating your own mulch from nature’s harvest, tooling up for the never-ending battle to jeep our gardens healthy and happy.

Here are a couple of tips to get you going.

To Mulch or Not to Mulch?

My primary rule is never to use evergreen leaves. These should be avoided if at all possible as they take a lot longer to break down than deciduous ones.

Rule number two – bag up! I tend not to use ‘wire bins’ as the leaves can dry out too quickly and, therefore, break down more slowly. Old tonne bags are ideal, but you can also use old compost bags. If you decide to use old compost bags,  you should tie them up at the top and pierce them with a fork). The added bonus of using either of these is that you are recycling these bags and giving them new purpose.

To Mulch or Not to Mulch?
To Mulch or Not to Mulch?

Once you have bagged up your leaves, make sure to add a bit of water and soil before sealing them. For tonne bags, do the best you can to keep them damp and cover. You will be amazed at how much will fit in a tonne bag as long as you keep compacting it down, normally done by jumping into the bag and treading on the contents.

As for collecting the leaves, I use a garden vacuum, like the one pictured to the right. Mine is a Stihl blower with a suction attachment, fondly nicknamed the Stihl Bag Pipes. The advantage of using one of these is that it shreds the leaves somewhat so they start to breakdown quicker. Alternatively, and if the leaves are reasonably dry, one can use a lawnmower – provided it can be set to a high setting. This has the same effect as the vacuum in shredding the leaves. If you don’t have any of these tools at your disposal, you can always rely on the old fashioned method of using a spring tine rake and a pair of big hands to collect the leaves.

To Mulch or Not to Mulch?

Now that your bags are ready for their hibernation, you just need to find a nice spot for them, somewhere out of the way, until next Autumn when it’s time to mulch. The beauty is that once you have used up your supply, there will be a brand new crop of fallen leaves to start the whole process over again with! A never-ending cycle of mulch.

Get out there and do it. It’s great exercise and clears the garden, whilst providing you with an environmentally friendly and sustainable product for your garden. Not to mention, it’s FREE! If you need any help from the team here at Nicholsons, then do give us a call on 01869 340342 (option 1). Our friendly team are on hand to help with anything from stock enquiries to horticultural advice.