Seven common mulch mistakes – The Standard


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A farm attendant at a cabbage farm in Kisumu county on July 25, 2020. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Mulching has many benefits to crops. It stops weeds from growing in, nourishes the soil, protects your plants from extreme temperatures and keep pests away. With these many benefits, it’s no wonder many progressive farmers are incorporating it in their gardening. Unfortunately, many are mulching the wrong way. Here are common mistakes.
Not mulching

Mulching insulates the soil by providing a buffer from heat and cold temperatures, retains water to keep the roots moist, keeps out weeds, prevents soil compaction and reduces lawnmower damage. By not mulching you’re passing up a simple opportunity to improve the health and overall appeal of your landscape.
Do not mix mulch with soil
Let mulch lie on the surface of the soil. Mixing the mulch into the soil would interfere with nutrient balance and cause difficulties in digging and weeding. Also, avoid using woody mulch as a soil amendment because it binds up available nutrients as it starts to decay.
Do not use fresh weeds
Fresh weeds may contain weed seeds and could have herbicide residuals that may be harmful to plants. Allow the mulch some time to leach out the herbicide residue and the weed seeds to sprout and die off.
Remove the weeds before mulching
While a good layer of mulch can smother small, young weeds, don’t expect it to mystically eliminate already established weeds. Remove any big weeds and patches of weeds before mulching over them, or they’ll pop right through or some may keep on spreading under your mulch.
Thick layer is not healthy
Very deep layer of mulch can limit the supply of oxygen to the roots. Also, an excessive thick layer can also harbour fungi which can affect the plants. When mulching around tree crops, rolling it up against the trunk is not advisable. This is because it can keep the tree’s root collar too damp and cause it to rot. Also, it can encourage insects to bore into the trunk and weaken it. Leave a little space between your mulch and the trunk. Do not pile mulch right up against other plants like shrubs and perennials.
Too little mulch
If you don’t add enough mulch, it won’t keep weeds from pushing their way through. It won’t also keep your soil moist and help you conserve water. Mulch is organic, so as time passes, it will settle and look thin. That means it’s breaking down, enriching your soil, and making it more fertile. But when it’s thin, it doesn’t look so great anymore. So don’t try to stretch your hard-working mulch an extra season. Replace it every season.
Wrong type of mulch
Always check out what specific type of mulch is best for your plants before you make your purchase. Remember that organic mulch breaks down and adds certain nutrients to the soil over time. If those nutrients aren’t beneficial to your plants, you could be doing more harm than good. All mulch is not the same, so make sure you research before you make any final decision. Many farmers have been taught to lay down plastic or fabric tarps before mulching to keep weeds away. However, these don’t work and can even have negative side effects. These weed barriers can end up strangling plants and shrubs as they try to grow and negating the aeration benefit of mulch that reduces soil compaction.

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