What is Mulching ?
It’s a process in which we cover the surface of plant around its stem with mulch material like wheat straw, pea straw, or non-plant-based mulch materials like stones or gravel, etc. To control weed, soil erosion, and water retention in crops, orchards, and garden & potted plants.
Benefits of Mulching practice
Loose the soil compaction
Provide good oxygen to the plant root system.
Best for weed control.
Increases soil organisms which help the soil viability for plant growth
Helps in the prevention of soil erosion as it prevents rain to not hitting hard the soil directly. First raindrops get in touch with mulch before hitting the soil directly. This helps the soil from direct erosion and water gets absorbed slowly in a useful way to plant root systems.
Mulching adds nutritional value to the soil. Nutrients in the mulch get released slowly and plant roots use them. It’s a cost-effective way instead of the use of chemical fertilizers.
Improves soil structure-
Stopping soil erosion by adding the organism to the soil helps to increase the water retention capacity of the soil.
Mulching can attract mice, slugs, and harmful insects. But in the long term good soil structure improvement. These disadvantages can be ignored.
Ideal material for Mulching
The material you can use for mulching is crop stems, stalks, dry grass, sawdust, leaves, crop residues, and dry garden biomass.
Before using it for open gardens or pots you should make it a little bit smaller for use. For use in potted plants and garden plants
Pro TIP- In a time of summer when you usually water your plants you can see weeds around that plant use can leave it as it is. It helps water retention. A natural mulching system. When weed grows over height from expected. then you can remove it. This is the best practice for open sky garden plants and potted plants. Not good for indoor gardening
Mulching for plants in pots
If the weather is cold or warm it benefits plants’ growth as nutrients add to plants and does weed control.
There is a small layer of mulching that happens as the natural falling of leaves of plants in the garden but it’s not possible in the case of potted plants.
So we need to do mulching in potted plants
For any mulch material, you can do at least a 1 to 1.5-inch thick mulch layer for potted plants. Do water properly before starting the mulching.
In India wheat straws ( PARAL/PARALI ) we usually use as mulch in common, they should be at least 3-4 inch long cut straws for pot mulching. Leave some parts free around the stem, don’t do thick mulching, and leave some space for aeration.
Pea straw ( C: N ratio -29:1) is the best practice mulching for plants in pots and gardens, You can buy ready-made coir mulch for your plant also in India.
How to do Mulching for your plant pots and Garden
For Potted plants –
First, select the plant you want to do mulching with.
It’s not necessary but good if you do repotting or replacement of plant soil mixture. It will be good.
If you don’t want to change and let the plant soil as it is then remove weeds in the soil completely.
Whatever mulch material you use just to make a small part of it 3-4 inches long. It’s for potted plants not necessary for plants in open soil in the garden.
Now spread all around the plant stem, but keep in mind not to spread near the plant stem.
At least in a radius of 4-5 inches starting from the stem to be avoided when mulching.
Spray some neem oil as a precaution to avoid insect and pest generation just before spreading mulch in the pot. Because mulching provides a good shelter for them.
Always do shallow watering in a plant pot, because overwatering can overflow mulch out of the pot.
For plants in the garden
It’s exactly the same process as per potted plant.
All the steps above, but the only thing that differs is you do not specifically need to cut the mulch material into small parts before spreading it around the plant.
Because in open garden plants, we usually make big basins around them. They are at least 1.5-2.5 feet in radius.
In garden plants, you can try more mulch materials better than pots also.
Other mulching materials you can use
There is also a not plant-based mulching practice you can do. In which you can use small gravel and stones. If stones-Gravels are light in color they make the plant soil cool whereas dark colored stones-Gravels make the plant soil warm
Time to change mulching
They’re no actually defined timetable for changing the mulching.
But you can define the time when it starts decolorization, and decomposition and you see some soil erosion.
You should not get late to change or replace it. Because decomposition can generate some insects and fungus around the plant. It can be harmful to plant health.
A carbon-to-nitrogen ratio (C/N ratio or C:N ratio) is a ratio of the mass of carbon to the mass of nitrogen in a substance. When composting, microbial activity utilizes a C/N ratio of 30-35:1 and a higher ratio will result in slower composting rates. However, this assumes that carbon is completely consumed, which is often not the case. Thus, for practical agricultural purposes, a compost should have an initial C/N ratio of 20-30:1 (source: Wikipedia )
Here’s a list of C:N ratios of crop residues and other organic materials. These can aid you in approaching the optimum 24:1 C:N ratio.
- Rye Straw 82:1
- Wheat Straw: 80:1
- Oat Straw: 70:1
- Corn Stover: 57:1
- Rye Cover Crop (Flowering) 37:1
- Pea Straw: 29:1
- Rye Cover Crop (Vegetative) 26:1
- Mature Alfalfa Hay 25:1
- Ideal Microbial Diet: 24:1
- Rotted Barnyard Manure: 20:1
- Legume Hay 17:1
- Beef Manure 17:1
- Young Alfalfa Hay: 13:1
- Hairy Vetch Cover Crop: 11:1 (Source : C:N ratios– www.agriculture.com)
So mulching is a very good practice to enrich plants, control weeds, stop soil erosion, make soil cool around plant and overall plants. And it’s a practice we can follow in all weather.
Hope you understood well how to do mulching of your plants in pots and garden.
Do you go to try it for your plants? Do comment