How To Apply Mulch To The Vegetable Garden

How To Apply Mulch To The Vegetable Garden

This is the third article in a series about mulching the vegetable garden. The first two, The Benefits of Mulch and Types of Mulch, are excellent introductions to the topic and we highly recommend reading them in addition to this to choose the best mulch for your vegetable garden.

There are many methods for applying mulch, but there is one that stands out above the others in terms of effectiveness at controlling weeds, retaining water, and protecting the soil. This mulching method, commonly referred to as Lasagna mulching, employs the use of layers to create a multi-functional foundation.

Lasagna Mulching For Beginners

As the name suggests, the success of lasagna mulching is the layers. Each layer adds extra protection to your soil and acts as an increased barrier against weeds.

What you'll need: Primary mulch of your choice (straw, leaves, grass clippings), wood chips, lots of newspaper and/or broken down cardboard boxes, water

  1. Around the plants, lay newspaper 2-3 layers thick. You can either soak the newspaper before applying it, or lay it all out and then water it. We find soaking it first usually works best. Don't skimp with the newspaper.
  2. Lay your leaves, straw, wood chips, or grass clippings on top of the newspaper 2-3 inches thick. The key to effective mulching is making it thick enough to prevent weeds but not so thick that it suffocates the plants.
  3. Do not let the mulch touch the plant stems. Mulch applied too thickly prevents air flow, a necessity for healthy plants. Leave 2-3 inches open around the base of each plant.
  4. Add a thin layer of wood chips on top of the mulch. For leaf clippings, this is a necessity because the wind is liable to blow them everywhere if they aren't somewhat weighted down. For grass and straw mulch, the woodchips are a nice complement and add extra nutrients into the soil when they break down.
  5. For rows and paths, lay down broken down cardboard boxes.
  6. Add 2-3 inches of woodchips on top of the cardboard.
  7. We use cardboard and woodchips on the paths because it is thicker and will withstand more trampling from foot traffic.

When Is The Best Time To Apply Mulch?

It's best to apply mulch to the garden in spring, before too many weeds sprout up. Some people like to wait until their seeds are a few inches tall, then mulch around the plants. For others, it's easier to mulch the entire garden, then dig little holes through the layers plant the seeds. The second method is easier to do if you're transplanting seedling starts since you don't have to worry about losing them in the layers.

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