Should you put mulch down before or after planting flowers?
Mulching can be considered a critical component to a mindful gardener. By mindful, we mean a gardener who is intentional in their actions. When we think about gardening, we want to think about the value of each action we take and what its ultimate purpose serves.
Many people think of mulching as cosmetic only, or for appearance. Mulching is valuable to a garden and to a gardener in that it can serve to protect the moisture levels of the soil, which is important in the increasing heat of the summer. Mulching can serve to protect the roots of the plant through moisture and temperature insulation. Mulching, also aesthetically will make your garden look better by keeping the weeds away.
Specifically, we advocate for putting down mulch before planting in order to prepare the area for the introduction of the plants and their root system. Allow for the soil environment to be protected and insulated by proper mulching prior to introducing the plants of your choice. A word of caution however is that when adding too much year after year, mulch can actually harm your plants by creating a layer that doesn’t decompose and doesn’t allow root growth to occur.
What is the best mulch for gardens?
This question is often asked of us – what is the best mulch for gardens? The answer to this question is that it is completely up to you and not a one size fits all. We go back to the concept of mindful gardening – what is your intention. Before making a quick decision on your mulch, step back and look at the different types of plants or vegetables in your garden. Let’s remember what we said about the value of mulching in order to protect the moisture level of the soil. Essentially, you want to match the mulch to the soil, the weather and the specific selection or crop in your garden. When we think about the specific crop, we need to take into account what the plant type needs in heat and in its environment to thrive and give you the best yield. A lot of this can be trial and error on your part but knowing the difference and the benefits of organic mulch compare to inorganic mulch is a great first step.
Most gardeners select from two types of mulch: organic and inorganic.
Organic mulch such as softwood and hardwood chips, bark, newspaper, grass clippings, leaves, compost mix, cardboard, straw and other plant byproducts consist of materials that allow for decomposing over time. This helps with soil fertility, aeration and drainage as they decompose. Because organic mulch decomposes over time it must be replenished on a regular basis. Even though you might do a little more work, most gardeners prefer organic mulch over inorganic because you get a better quality soil.
Inorganic mulch, on the other hand uses other materials that do not decompose like rocks, stones, dust, rubber and other man-made objects. Inorganic mulch is more for decoration and preventing weeds from coming up from under the soil. Because rocks and stones absorb heat well it will keep the plants warm during early spring by heating up the soil however it can be harmful later in the summer when it gets extremely hot out there especially if you are growing fruits and vegetables.