Mulching your garden can have several benefits, from healthier soil to better moisture retention. There are many kinds of mulch, including organic options like straw, sawdust, and wood chips, and inorganic ones like plastic or geotextile. Today we will be talking about mulching with organic materials you may have in your yards and gardens already.
You may not be able to find enough organic material in your yard to mulch with so a combination of a nutrient-rich organic mulch like Gromulch 2-in-1 Planting Mix and Mulch and organic matter from your landscape can help keep you covered.
If you have some time before you need to mulch, and you want a healthy, organic mulch option for your garden, here is a guide to DIY making mulch.
DIY Mulch from Leaves
You can use fallen leaves from around your home for mulch for your garden.
- First, you will need to collect all the leaves that are around the base of your trees or that you prune from your plants.
- Next, rake the leaves into a mile on your lawn. Try to find a flat section to place them on. Then spread them out so they are about 2 inches thick. Use your lawnmower to shred the leaves. You may need to go over them a few times to shred them until they are about the size of a dime. This will help the leaves to decompose in your garden, releasing nutrients to the soil.
- After the leaves are shredded, you can use them immediately to mulch your garden. If you have leftover leaves, store them in a large bag with holes to use as needed (just be aware that the nutrients will be lost over time, even sitting in a bag).
Pro Tip: Don’t use leaves from walnut or eucalyptus trees. These can prevent other plants for growing in.
DIY Mulch from Yard and Home Waste
If you have more than just leaves that you want to use up from your yard trimmings, you can use everything to create a mulch. This could include the leaves, but also bark, tree trimmings, and branches that have been chopped up. This is more of a DIY wood chip mulch, which is great for established plants and gardens.
- First, you will want to chop up all the trimmings you have collected. Rent a wood chipper, borrow one from a neighbor, or use your own if you have it. Put all the yard clippings into it. (Don’t forget to use safety glasses!)
- Then, if you have recently mowed your lawn, add the grass clippings to the chopped up wood, bark, and twigs. Mix them together. This gives your mulch some added nutrients wood alone wouldn’t have.
- Add other items you have: pine needles, shredded paper, old newspapers. Combine with the wood and grass clippings.
- Then you can mulch your garden with your yard waste, so you are reusing items that can have added value to your garden!
Pro Tip: Wood mulch decomposes more slowly than mulch made from leaves or compost, so this is a great longer-term solution.
DIY Compost Mulch
This one will take the longest to make yourself, but it can bring many benefits to your garden in the form of necessary nutrients. Made of discarded yard and kitchen waste, compost as a mulch adds even more nutrients than other DIY organic mulches. Nitrogen and carbon are often found in composts, which can help your plants continue to grow healthy.
If you already have a compost bin going, this is a way to use up some extra compost. Just use the compost as a mulch on your garden. It’s as easy as that!
If you don’t already compost, it’s not that hard to get started. With “hot composting,” you will have compost mulch in just a few months of warm weather. With “cold composting,” it may take up to a year. No matter which method you choose, the same materials can be used to start a compost pile or bin:
- Fruit and vegetable peels
- Coffee grounds
- Grass or plant clippings
- Dry leaves
- Chopped wood and bark
- Shredded newspaper
Be careful to not compost things that contain meat, oil, or grease; diseased plants, sawdust or chips; weeds with seeds; and dairy products.
How to Compost
In order to create a DIY mulch from compost, you will need to mix both brown and green materials. Brown materials are dried plants, leaves, and newspaper. Green materials are those from the kitchen, fresh grass trimmings, and coffee grounds.
You will want to sprinkle water over the pile regularly, but don’t overwater it or it may rot instead of compost. The compost pile should feel warm and like a damp sponge, but not waterlogged. Stir up your pile about once a week. It helps to compost quicker.
Once the pile becomes dry, brown, and crumbles, and is no longer giving off heat, you are ready to use it as a mulch for your garden!
Pro Tip: Chop up your materials for compost to help it compost quicker.