While gardening can be fun and therapeutic, there is nothing fun about pulling weeds. The best way to keep your garden from becoming infested with weeds is to take a proactive approach right after planting – by mulching. By doing the mulching early in the season, you save yourself from having to pull weeds all the time later on.
Universities and horticulturalists began to promote mulching back in the 80’s and 90’s as a way to conserve moisture in the soil. Mulching effectively helps to regulate soil temperature and replenishes the soil as it biodegrades and turns back into organic matter. Of course, mulching acts as a weed barrier, too. So, there are multiple benefits to mulching – the key is to not overdo it.
The first thing you’ll want to grab is some old newspaper – a cheap, but effective base for your mulching. Avoid using the shiny, colored sections of the paper – they don’t break down as well. Lay down your newspaper in the empty space between plants, leaving space immediately next to the plants. Then, take your mulch and pile it directly on the newspaper. Avoid piling your mulch against the plant, sort of like a volcano. Experts do not recommend doing this because it can suffocate the plant. Cover the paper evenly with about 2-3 inches of mulch.
Around tomatoes, you may want to consider using pine needles for your mulch. Pine needles are acidic and tomatoes tend to enjoy that. You can also use grass clippings on your garden, just avoid using them if you’ve sprayed any herbicides on your lawn. One note about grass clippings – they tend to decay much faster than a wood-based mulch.
You should now be all set for the rest of the growing season. You may have to fill in some thin spots from time to time, but otherwise, if you’ve mulched correctly, it should last the whole season.
For more gardening pointers, check out the latest Home Horticulture Newsletter.
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