vegetable patch management
advantages and disadvantages of mulch
Mulching is the placing of organic matter such as straw or lucerne on top of your garden soil. Every gardener should mulch both their vegetable patch and their garden on a regular basis as it is a great foundation ingredient for good soil and is beneficial for almost all plants. 

But contrary to popular opinion continually mulching your garden beds can cause problems for some types of crops, especially in cooler climate and higher rainfall areas.  Knowing its shortfalls  can help you maximize the benefits that mulch gives to your garden.  Below is a comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of using mulch.

Advantages of Mulch
  • Illustration showin how mulch reduces evaporation.
    In Summer mulch can reduce evaporation rates by as much as 75%.

    Illustration showing how mulch can make the soil under it cooler than bare soil.
    Mulch retards the heating of the soil by the sun which can inhibit the germination of seeds in the cooler Spring months.
    Reduces water use by up to 75% as it protects the soil from evaporation.
  • Provides valuable nutrients as the mulch breaks down.
  • Encourages worms, which aerate the soil and provide fertiliser in the form of worm castings.
  • Reduces the amount of weeds by inhibiting the germination of weed seeds.

Disadvantages of Mulch
  • Mulch retards the heating of the soil by the sun.  In Summer this is not a problem but in early/mid Spring when you need all the warmth you can get from the sun's rays it can inhibit the germination of seeds, especially those seeds that need a higher soil temperature to germinate.  Lower soil temperature can also reduce the growth rate of seedlings.
  • Offers great cover for small slugs, which can be devastating on crops such as peas and carrots.
  • Can be unsuitable for crops that need fine sandy soil to flourish (such as carrots) or are subject to collar rot in moist conditions (such as garlic).  It doesn't mean you can't grow them in a mulched vegetable garden but you have to be more careful.
PAGE UPDATED 2015-08-06