Mulch is an important part of an herb garden. Learn how to apply mulch correctly to your herbs, and your garden will thrive. Mulching provides an insulating layer to keep moisture in, excessive heat out, and provides weed control.
Mulch also keeps a more even temperature in the soil, reducing stress on the plants and allowing them to grow more evenly. Think of mulch as a blanket of protection from insects and rodents as well. Provided that the mulch is applied correctly, it can deter both, by making your herbs less appealing as a food source or home. As it breaks down, mulch provides much needed organic material for the soil and nutrients for your herbs. Add mulch when you first place the herbs in the bed, then again midway during your garden season, to keep the nutritional benefit going.
Can Mulch Hurt My Herbs
Although the benefits are many, improperly applied mulch can cause problems. Some ways that mulch can be detrimental to the herbs, is if it is placed too close to plant stems. Mulch applied in this way, can offer a home for bugs and rodents to live comfortably and eat your plants. It can also allow dampness to thrive and promote molds and mildews that kill the plant. Applying mulch too early, can also cause problems by prolonging the cold temperatures of winter soil, keeping your herbs from starting to grow. If you have mulch in an established bed, the mulch can become matted over time, causing water to run off and not be absorbed by the herb roots. Before you become discouraged, each of these issues is easy to remedy.
How To Mulch Correctly
In northern climates, pull mulch back once the warm spring sun arrives. This allows the sun's warmth to reach the cold soil. Go out early in the spring, usually after a day or two of warm spring weather, and pull back your mulch from established beds. This is a good chore for your spring maintenance list. Pulling the mulch off in this way, allows the sun to warm the herb and stimulate it to start growing. It also allows gentle spring rains to provide much needed moisture. You can always tuck the mulch closer, once the herb gets growing well.
Once the beds have warmed up, and you are applying the mulch layer, keep the mulch at least 2 inches away from stems of plants. This keeps a safe space so insects and rodents can't damage herb stems unnoticed. When mulching for the first time, or reapplying fresh mulch in an established bed, provide at least a 3 inch deep layer. This keeps weed seeds from germinating and helps keep the moisture in the soil. Work the mulch in lightly around the herbs, and allow for the natural compaction that will occur due to rain. You can lose up to an inch worth of depth, so add a little more than you want to have when the bed is finished.
The Bottom Line About Mulch
Mulch should be considered much more than a decorative touch in the garden. If you want to cut your weeding down to almost nothing, apply mulch. If you want to conserve water, lay a soaker hose around your herbs before you mulch, and the added layer will keep the water from evaporating. If you have problems with poor soil, or not enough soil, mulching is the perfect way to build up a healthy layer of organic matter that will benefit any future gardening you do in the area. Mulch well and mulch often. Your garden will only improve, and the work you have to do to keep the garden looking it's best, will decrease.