The 10 Best Mulchers
This wiki has been updated 28 times since it was first published in April of 2015. Facing a pile of leaves in your backyard? No problem. You can easily turn them into useful plant bedding with one of these garden mulchers, shredders, and chippers. We've included some affordable models with lower capacities that are great for smaller yards, as well as heftier machines that can destroy branches up to 3 inches thick. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best mulcher on Amazon.
The Benefits Of Using a Mulcher
This creates heavy wood chips in addition to lighter ground foliage, which can be very beneficial to the garden.
Even weeds that successfully seed have very weak root systems, and are easily pulled up.
Mulches are typically layers of loose material or coverings that are placed over the top of cultivated soil. Mulch is not a requirement of gardening, but it is highly advantageous at every stage. There are many benefits of creating your own mulch using a mulcher. Using a mulcher reduces the cost of mulch, and drastically simplifies the process of yard work.
There is also a sharp decrease in yard waste when using a mulcher. Cleaning fallen leaves from trees can be an annual nuisance. Alternatively, many people choose to turn those fallen leaves into beneficial soil amendments by putting them through a mulcher to create ground cover. Twigs, sticks, and small branches from trimmed trees can also be added to many mulchers. This creates heavy wood chips in addition to lighter ground foliage, which can be very beneficial to the garden. Tree-based mulches such as these create healthy soil and encourage plant growth in many ways.
Most people who use mulchers notice an immediate increase in the health of their yard. Mulch also saves time spent pulling weeds, as weeds have a more difficult time seeding in loose, rough foliage. Even weeds that successfully seed have very weak root systems, and are easily pulled up. A healthy layer of mulch will also reduce water bills in the summer, as soil loses much less waterthrough evaporation when it is covered by mulch.
Mulch will also improve the texture of the soil. Soil which loses water rapidly tends to compact, making it very hard for roots to break through. This can inhibit the growth of many plants. Keeping a layer of mulch on top of the soil around plants keeps the underlying soil fluffy and moist. This allows roots to easily spread out, and directly translates to happier, healthier plants.
The Basics Of Using Mulch
Once all the yard waste has been turned into mulch, it is important to understand how to use that mulch to provide the most benefit to the yard. It is vital not to place mulch directly against tree bases or plants. If mulch is placed directly on a plant or tree, it promotes water retention, which can be problematic. Excess moisture from mulch can be the perfect breeding ground for crown rot and other types of wood decay. Mulch piled around plants can also serve as the perfect place for nesting rodents who feed on stems and roots from these plants.
Once all the yard waste has been turned into mulch, it is important to understand how to use that mulch to provide the most benefit to the yard.
It is also important to understand mulch thickness. A layer of mulch that is too thin will not provide adequate protection, and will dry out too fast to provide the soil much benefit. Mulch that is applied to thickly can be a problem as well. A wood derived mulch may provide the natural habitat for certain fungi to thrive, which will dry out the wood and keep it from retaining moisture. This thick layer of mulch also damages the soil by keeping it too moist. Soil which is consistently moist and is never allowed to dry out is prone to create root rot in many species. A mulcher can easily create a layer of mulch one to three inches thick in any yard, which is the ideal depth.
Understanding soil microorganisms is also important when first using a mulcher. Before adding a heavily wood-based mulch to the top of the soil, consider adding a source of nitrogen. It is as simple as running grass clippings through a mulcher and distributing them evenly throughout the yard. The microorganisms which help decompose wood based mulches also consume a lot of nitrogen, which plants need to grow. This can cause nitrogen deficiencies if left unchecked.
Organic Mulch Versus Inorganic Mulch
There are two different types of mulch, organic and inorganic. Organic mulch is derived from natural materials like grass clippings, fallen leaves, twigs, and other plant matter. These mulches break down over time. As organic mulches decompose, they add valuable nutrients to the soil around them. They also add microorganisms to the soil, which greatly benefit the health of both the plant and soil. Nitrifying bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi are two examples which can only be provided by the addition of organic materials to the soil. As the levels of these beneficial microbes rise, those that cause plant disease are inhibited.
Inorganic mulches usually take more time to install and require extra irrigation, as water is not absorbed by any inorganic mulch.
A well-mulched garden is the perfect home for earthworms as well. Earthworms are one of the more important factors in plant health. They digest organic matter and create nitrogen in the soil. Their movements also help aerate the soil and keep it moist. Earthworms only exist in organic soils, and their presence increases plant production over time.
Inorganic mulches include things like chunks of rubber, stones, landscaping fabrics, and plastic particles. They can be purchased from any hardware store, and can be painted any color to match the desired landscape. Inorganic mulches usually take more time to install and require extra irrigation, as water is not absorbed by any inorganic mulch. Some inorganic mulches are designed to confuse bugs or simply keep the soil from heating up and help with evaporation. They provide little benefit to the soil or plants otherwise.
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