The term mulching refers to the operation of covering the ground with inert material; this operation is performed for some main reasons, the main one being to avoid the growth of weeds, in the flowerbeds and in the vegetable garden. But mulching can also be done to keep the soil moist near plants that are particularly demanding in terms of water, or to keep the substrate cool, or even to prevent the winter frost from penetrating too deeply, damaging the root system of the plants more delicate. Also in areas with very hot and dry climate, the layer of mulching it allows moisture to be maintained longer in the surface layers of the soil, with consequent benefit for the plants, and less need for watering.

Vegetable garden

The mulch most often found in the garden is carried out in the flowerbed of perennial or annual flowering plants; it is a layer of inert material to be placed between the plants, in this way we avoid the overgrowth of weeds, as the underlying soil is not exposed to sunlight, with a consequent diminished germination capacity of the seeds fallen on the substrate; moreover, the roots of any pests are more difficult to anchor firmly to the ground, so they can be eradicated with great ease.
In addition to this purpose, with mulching we also obtain a fresh and moist area on the surface of the growing substrate, so as to avoid it completely dying during the summer period; this effect is particularly interesting when we grow plants that like to have "the cool foot", such as clematis, or some perennials: these plants suffer when the soil dries completely in the summer and gets hot, due to the action of the sun and drought .
During the winter then the mulch layer shelters from the cold all those perennials, or small shrubs, which are not really suitable to be cultivated in areas with prolonged frosts; in fact the mulching layer removes the root system from the frost, preventing it from penetrating deeply.

Covering techniques

In amateur gardens mulching is frequently prepared for plants such as strawberries, which remain for a long time in the plot; lately, mulching is more and more often carried out also in the cultivated fields with salad.
In the garden, mulching is usually more complex than in the garden, the soil is cleaned from all the weeds, then it is covered with a layer of dark plastic sheet, or with a mulch fabric, a fabric made of plastic material. sturdy and durable.
Then the holes in which the plants to be cultivated will be placed in the cloth, which will remain so well spaced and free of weeds. This type of mulching is sometimes also used in the garden, for beds of small shrubs or perennials; after having covered the ground with the plastic material in this case it is covered with bark or lapillus, to mask the presence of the mulch below.
Surely this type of mulching is very durable, but it also has a strong visual impact; on the market there are also mulch sheets produced with biodegradable materials, derived from corn: this type of mulching sheet has a short duration, and is reabsorbed by the soil over 12-18 months.

Materials to use

To practice long-lasting mulch, as we have seen above, we use plastic or fabric sheets; in the flowerbeds of the garden, instead, materials with a more pleasant appearance are used, such as pieces of pine bark, lapillus, dry leaves, straw; these are completely natural materials, which over time decompose or are absorbed by the ground; for this reason, every year it is advisable to place fresh material on the mulch layer, so as to keep the mulch layer always constant.
Lately as a mulching material it is possible to find "alternative" products such as shredded coconut fiber or cocoa shells, these are waste materials that, when positioned, give an effect very similar to un mulched soil. For a more witty and cheerful garden we can find mulch material of various kinds, from colored glass stones to hard stones, in the most supplied nurseries.

Mulching with mulching cloth

One of the most widely used methods in ornamental green is mulching with mulching cloth. This technique consists in spreading a dark colored cloth over the area that we want to mulch. After spreading the cloth, holes must be made in correspondence with the plants that we want to get out of the cloth while the rest of the cloth must be left intact. Later we will have to fix the sheet temporarily with pegs or stones after which we will spread some material over the mulching sheet.
The material we spread will be bark, volcanic lapillus, pebbles or stones of different types depending on our taste. The mulching sheet must be chosen in TNT, or non-woven fabric, a breathable material that can therefore let the soil breathe without creating stagnations or asphyxiated areas. This cloth is the best type of mulching cloth because it covers the ground, prevents the sun's rays from reaching the seeds of the herbs present in the soil and therefore avoids weed germination while allowing the soil to breathe.

Biodegradable mulch

Biodegradable mulching is one of the most interesting techniques of recent years, thanks also to the growing interest in organic cultivation and an agronomic model oriented towards agriculture and less invasive and more environmentally friendly green management. Biodegradable mulching is nothing but a normal mulch made with natural and biodegradable materials.
All natural materials are biodegradable, some very quickly and quickly, others more slowly. For mulching, depending on the purpose, both materials can be used, both those with rapid degradation and those with slow degradation.
Some solutions, such as mulching with straw, is a solution that degrades quickly and is extremely ecological. There mulch with straw it is used to cover the ground, to create a layer that gives moisture and freshness to the soil but is able at the same time to pass some nutrients, and in particular phosphorus and potassium of which the leaves are rich. It is used to protect seeding in the first few weeks and is generally a type of mulch that quickly depletes its effects. A bit due to biodegradation, a little because it is a material that is quickly removed with the weather, the mulch with straw does not last long but is useful in these specific cases just seen.
On the other hand, the bark, which can be of French pine or normal pine, is biodegradable and environmentally friendly. The size of the bark can vary and usually goes from the smallest that is a 5/15 to a 15/30 up to a 15/40 or 20/40. The most sold types of mulching bark are the national bark, the French pine bark, the larch bark and the Portuguese bark.
Another biodegradable and recovered material that can be used for mulch are the coffee grounds. The funds are spread on the surface of the areas to be mulch and perform their mulching function discreetly.