Tuesday, July 28, 2009 3:36 PM EDT
Question: "I want to cut down on the amount of weeding I have to do in my garden. I have heard mulching is the best way to do that and the suggestion has been to lay down newspaper first and then put a bark mulch on top. Is this the most efficient mulching method and will the bark affect the plants when it decomposes?"
Answer: Mulching the garden is an excellent way to suppress weeds. It helps conserve moisture in the soil by reducing evaporation. It also moderates soil temperatures by keeping it cooler in the summer and helps to reduce the risk of damage to plant roots in winter. Organic mulch adds humus to the soil as it decomposes and keeps the top layer of soil loose and airy. There are many different types of material that make good mulch and newspaper is one of them. Use a layer of newspaper about a quarter-inch thick. Only use black and white pages because some coloured inks may be harmful to your plants.
Though newspaper is biodegradable, it decomposes slowly and doesn’t look all that attractive in the garden. And, it can blow away. So it’s a good idea to cover the newspaper with an attractive mulch such as bark. When bark breaks down the nutrients go into the soil and help to feed your plants. However, the “chunkier” the bark, the longer it takes to break down; shredded bark usually decomposes in one season. Compost or shredded leaves are also excellent types of mulch for gardens because they add nutrients to the soil as they break down. After the leaves decompose, dig them into the soil and add a new layer on top. A 5 cm (2 inch) layer of pine needles makes great mulch, especially for acid-loving trees and shrubs. Whatever mulch you use, make sure it does not have any chemicals in it.
This column was originally posted on the Foodtv.ca Eating Well site.
Gardening Advice is featured on Style Sheet on Tuesdays.