How to Mulch: Proper Mulching Techniques with Synthetic & Organic Mulch

Learning the proper mulching techniques for both synthetic and organic mulch will keep your plants and soil healthy and the weeds at bay. Doing it improperly or choosing the wrong type will make it more difficult for your plants to thrive.

Benefits of Proper Mulching

Regardless of what you’re trying to grow, applying mulch will help in a number of ways:

  • Keep garden weeds at bay
  • Help ground hold in moisture by slowing evaporation
  • Depending on the mulch types you choose, it will either help to keep ground temperature more consistent, warm the soil in the colder months or cool the soil in the hotter months
  • Add nutrients to the soil (organic mulch) leading to fuller plants and fruits and a healthier harvest
  • The moist and warm conditions it fosters keeps the earthworms happy which also leads to healthier soil
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Proper Mulching with Organic Mulch

When mulching a garden with organic mulch, apply in the fall or early spring when the soil temperature is not too cold or overly wet or dry. Organic mulch added to your garden in the fall has the added benefit of keeping your garden soil warmer during the winter and gives it the time to decompose and improve your soil's quality before your spring planting begins.

Organic mulch should be applied as follows:

  1. Pull all weeds
  2. Loosely apply a healthy layer of mulch using a shovel – 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) in sunny spots and 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.6 cm) where your bed receives partial shade (doesn't apply to cocoa bean mulch of which you only need about an inch/2.5 cm). The mulch should be loose enough to allow moisture to pass through, so do not pack it down when applying or when weeding (in other words, try not to lean or step on it after it’s applied).
  3. Be sure to leave a couple of inches (5 cm) open around the stems of each of your plants and at least a foot (30 cm) around your trees and shrubs since moist mulch can encourage rot, pests and disease.
  4. Loosely level out the organic mulch using a rake.

Click here for a review all types of organic mulch.

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Proper Mulching with Synthetic Mulch

Synthetic mulch should be applied in the spring before you plant and is laid down in long continuous sheets...

  1. Measure your bed. The synthetic mulch will be stretched taught over the entire bed, so you’ll need slightly longer and wider mulch (at least 6 inches/15cm) than the size of the bed.
  2. Stretch the mulch over your bed before planting. It should be pulled tight over the entire bed so that there are no folds or loose spots that could be caught by the wind.
  3. To keep the mulch in place, use landscape pins on the corners, bury the corners, push them in with a spade or weigh them down with rocks.
  4. Punch holes (or cut an ‘X’) through the plastic where your plants will grow.
    If you do not have a soaker hose or drip irrigation system in place, punch small holes throughout the mulch to allow air and water in.

Click here for a review all types of synthetic mulch.

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