Mulching is the easiest way to protect your garden from weather extremes, pests and weeds. It also helps keep the soil moist and adds nutrients to the soil.
There are a variety of mulches available from bark chips to pine needles. Just use what is available locally, unless you are looking to make your garden more attractive with a fancy mulch. Straw, untreated sawdust, cocoa bean shells, shredded leaves and rotted hay are just some of the materials used for mulching. When organic mulches are used, the warm, moist soil underneath will begin to attract earthworms and other organisms which work to loosen the soil and improve soil richness.
Compost is still the most beneficial mulch and it costs you nothing. Even if you don't have a compost pile, using coffee grounds, grass clippings and even newspapers for mulch will help your garden soil.
How much mulch?
Mulch cannot be so thick that it blocks air circulation, moisture or the sun. Sawdust and other smaller mulches should be about a 2 or 3 inch layer. Straw or hay should be 3 to 6 inches in depth.
You will find that mulching will save a lot of weeding and cultivating time. Mulching will also keep plants cooler in the summer, while conserving moisture. In the winter garden, mulching protects your garden from cold winds and repeated freezings and thawings.
Before putting the mulch in your garden, the garden should be weeded and moist. If you plan to fertilize, this should be done before mulching. This is done midsummer when it is hot. This layer of mulch will last through the fall. After cleaning up your garden in the fall, again spread a protective layer of mulch over the plants. When spring comes, pull back the mulch and plant your seedlings and work the mulch between the plants.
After all your hard work planting your garden, mulching is the finishing touch. It will also free up more of your time for other things, for instance, relaxing and enjoying a beautiful, well-planned and tidy herb garden.